ICOA/OSA seminar by Sheen Levine

What Directs Search? Multi-site Experimental Evidence on Exploration - Exploitation

2019.04.11 | Merete Elmann

Date Tue 07 May
Time 10:00 11:30
Location Room 2628-M303, Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University


On 7 May at 10:00 in room M303, Sheen Levine from University of Texas at Dallas will give a seminar entitled

What Directs Search? Multi-site Experimental Evidence on Exploration - Exploitation

Search is fundamental to managers and organizations, a cornerstone of the behavioral theory of the firm. And although individuals are featured in theory and evidence, their search behavior — how they reason and decide on each step in the process — is often presumed, rarely systematically examined. Here we explore the micro-processes of search by individual decision-makers. To do that, we designed an experimental task that embodies a canonical search task, introduced resource constraints, manipulated conditions, and offered incentives for performance. Theory predicts that exploratory search is reactive: When current performance trails aspirations, exploration increases (problemistic search). We find strong support for this prediction, but also document three cases in which exploration is preemptive: One, an increase in problem complexity (landscape ruggedness) increases exploration (“If complex, explore”). Two, as performance stabilizes, exploration increases (“If stuck, explore”). Three, when stable performance is struck by a drop below aspirations, exploration jumps (“when shocked, explore”). A comparison of actual behavior with a simulated search by AI agents suggests that searchers benefit from early preemptive search. The results, highly powered and replicated in four populations, provide evidence that complements qualitative and smaller experimental accounts. Broad evidence of preemptive search suggests that decision-makers  search not only randomly or in response to failure — but employ experience to test and refine a mental model, which affects subsequent search.

Sheen S. Levine studies how people behave and how they impact others, organizations and markets. His research spans disciplines: How knowledge sharing affects performance, when open collaboration facilitates innovation, and how strategic intelligence enhances performance. He currently studies why diversity improves error detection and when decision makers opt for the familiar versus the promising. He has led research teams to publications in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. Top executives in organizations such as BlackRock and The City of New York said Levine’s research changed the way they manage. The findings have been reported by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Forbes, Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, and others. They have been cited by scholars in business, sociology, psychology, economics, law, and computer science. Levine, who earned his doctorate at the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania), is a special issue co-editor of Organization Science and deputy editor-in-chief of Management and Organization Review. He taught global strategic management, organizational theory, entrepreneurship and innovation to students and executives in the US, Europe and Asia. He is an op-ed contributor to the New York Times and engages tens of thousands on social media.

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