Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2007

Coupled Search Processes: Why Is it so Difficult to Find that Organizational Design Matters?

by Nicolaj Siggelkow and Jan Rivkin

Abstract

Organizational design affects performance via coupled search processes. At low frequency, managers search for appropriate organizational designs. At higher frequency, managers use designs to search for high-performing operational choices. The two searches are coupled: organizational design molds the choice among operational alternatives, and performance feedback from operational choices shapes design. Our simulation model shows how coupled search processes can dramatically obscure the true impact of design on performance, confounding empirical research. We identify research strategies for tackling this difficulty; discuss populationlevel advantages of coupled search processes; and highlight implications for analogous coupled search processes that shape networks, cognition, and capabilities.

Keywords: Competency and Skills; Operations; Organizational Design; Performance; Networks; Research; Cognition and Thinking; Strategy;

Citation:

Siggelkow, Nicolaj, and Jan Rivkin. "Coupled Search Processes: Why Is it so Difficult to Find that Organizational Design Matters?" Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 07-106, June 2007.