Research Summary


by Ethan S. Bernstein


Professor Bernstein’s research is currently focused on the relationship between transparency and productivity in organizations. He seeks to understand how observability affects learning, innovation, and performance—for both the observer and the observed.

In the name of collaboration, organizations have striven for transparency in the workplace, literally tearing down walls in an effort to let managers and employees observe each other. Despite transparency’s broad appeal (at least to the observer), we know very little about how transparent observation—by managers, peers, subordinates, customers, the public—impacts performance.

What if there’s a downside to all of this transparent observation? For example, when observed, we tend to put pressure on ourselves to meet the expectations of our observers—something we can do in a multitude of ways with different consequences for productivity.

Drawing on field experiments, laboratory experiments, and qualitative field work, this developing body of research, representing collaborations across faculties and institutions, is increasingly finding a home in the organically emerging HBS “Transparency Lab.” Below are selected contributions by Professor Bernstein (past and forthcoming) to that growing body of research.

Keywords: privacy; transparency; Field Experiments; Lab Experiments; China; manufacturing; organizational learning; Operational Control; Chinese Manufacturing; Interpersonal Communication; Design; Governance; Governance Controls; Government Administration; Innovation and Invention; Law; Management; Organizations; Organizational Design; Organizational Culture; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Performance; Groups and Teams; Networks; Social and Collaborative Networks; Strategy; Theory; Manufacturing Industry; Technology Industry; Service Industry; Consulting Industry; Financial Services Industry; Banking Industry; Bicycle Industry; Consumer Products Industry; Electronics Industry; Industrial Products Industry; Video Game Industry; Retail Industry; Legal Services Industry; Biotechnology Industry; United States; China; Japan; Taiwan; Korean Peninsula; Europe;