Teddy DeWitt


Research Overview

My research interests arose from lived experience as a management student and a Standard and Poor’s credit analyst during the 2008-09 Financial Crisis. Seeing scholars who could lay out in gruesome detail what was transpiring and then watching an organization react to a post-crisis world provided the motivation and foundation for my three streams of research: 1) financialization and organizational design, 2) sensemaking amidst uncertainty, and 3) technology and work design. First, because the Financial Crisis and ensuing Great Recession stemmed from problems with financialization, I wanted to know how financialization could impact the structure of organizations. Second, my own employer, Standard and Poor’s was devastated by both the scope of the crisis and its speed. In rapidly changing environments, our mental models may struggle to keep pace with events as they unfold. This led me to wonder what process organizations can take in order to make sense of and react to highly dynamic situations. Finally, the financial innovations at the core of the crisis were, in part, technological innovations. Rising power and declining cost in computing systems made it possible to run the Monte Carlo simulations and Gaussian copula formulas needed to evaluate and structure large pools of risk. Technological advances also changed both the type of work and the kind of worker needed in investment banks. Physicists and computer scientists all of a sudden had the ideal skills to work in finance. This led me to wonder how technological advances intersect with job and work design. My dissertation is part of this third research stream.

Dissertation Summary

My dissertation lies at the intersection among job and work design, entrepreneurship and technology. As technological shifts happen with greater speed and frequency, technology may potentially require the evolution and redesign of existing jobs. While we know that the design of jobs matters for organizational outcomes, we have incomplete knowledge of the process of how jobs are constructed out of organizational tasks, and know even less about how technology affects that process. To examine these topics, my dissertation consists of two studies. Study 1, a macro study, focuses on how the migration of tasks between jobs can drive similarity in jobs over time. Using job transition data gleaned from a unique proprietary dataset of 14 million resumes from a Michigan-based staffing services company, combined with semantic similarity measures between job descriptions derived using text analysis, I examine whether the migration of workers between jobs increases the similarities between those jobs over time. In effect, I use these data sources to construct “topographical maps” to show how employees may act as task carriers between jobs.

In Study 2, a micro study, I perform field research in a start-up commercial cleaning services company whose workers use custom software on tablet computers in their daily work practices. I have been in the field collecting data with the founding team for over a year to date. The analysis of this data to should reveal how entrepreneurs convert organizational objectives paired with novel technology into tangible organizational tasks, which are then bundled into jobs that people perform. Further, I expect to see how workers respond to technological incursion in their daily work. These data will be augmented by interviews with current or former founders of new organizations to be collected over the next six months. This second study will show how organizational tasks are converted into actual jobs by examining how entrepreneurs use technology to deliver new services to market.


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