Just Diverse Among Themselves: How Does Negative Performance Feedback Affect Boards’ Expertise vs. Ascriptive Diversity?
Organization Science, Forthcoming (with Yonghoon G. Lee and Sun Hyun Park)
We investigate how negative performance feedback affects board diversity, which is instrumental in shaping a firm’s strategic change. When a firm underperforms compared with its aspiration, its board is motivated to promptly address the underperformance. The board needs to not only help search for strategic alternatives but also quickly build consensus around its strategic reorientation. These two motivations lead the board to value two dimensions of diversity among its members differently. On the one hand, to understand the problem of underperformance and find a solution, the board is motivated to seek new expertise, avoiding redundancy in the pool of expertise already represented in the boardroom. This results in a higher level of diversity in director expertise. On the other hand, the urgent need to build consensus prompts the board to value trust and solidarity and to avoid potential conflict among directors. Because people perceive others with similar ascriptive backgrounds as trustworthy, changes in the board of an underperforming firm are likely to yield a lower level of diversity in its members’ ascriptive backgrounds. These changes in board are affected by the committee chairs of the board whose power and influence are significant in the boardroom. Analyses of the boards of 733 U.S. listed manufacturing firms show that when a firm underperforms compared with its aspirations, it increases the board expertise diversity, but decreases the board ascriptive diversity. When chairs on the board are gender or racial minorities, the negative association between underperformance and the board ascriptive diversity is weakened.
Anchored Differentiation: The Role of Temporal Distance in the Comparison and Evaluation of New Product Designs
Organization Science 32(6), 2021 (with Tian Heong Chan and Yonghoon G. Lee)
A new design can be compared with its contemporaries or older designs. In this study, we argue that the temporal distance between the new design and its comparison play an important role in understanding how a new design’s similarity with other designs contributes to its valuation. Construing the value of designs as a combination of their informational value and their expressive value, we propose the “anchored differentiation” hypothesis. Specifically, we argue that expressive value (which is enhanced by how much the new design appears different from others) is emphasized more than informational value (which is enhanced by how much the new design appears similar to others) compared with contemporary designs. Informational value, however, is emphasized more than expressive value when compared against designs from the past. Therefore, both difference from other contemporary designs (contemporary differentiation) and similarity to other past designs (past anchoring) help increase the value of a new design. We find consistent evidence for our theory across both a field study and an experimental study. Furthermore, we show that this is because temporal distance changes the relative emphasis on expressive and informational values. We discuss our contribution to the growing literature on optimal distinctiveness and design innovation by offering a dynamic perspective that helps resolve the tension between similarities and differences in evaluating new designs.
Academy of Management Journal 60(1), 2017 (with Balagopal Vissa and Michael Pich)
How do founding team members allocate task positions when launching new ventures? Answering this question is important because prior work shows both that founding team members often have correlated expertise, thus making task position allocation problematic; and initial occupants of task positions exert a lingering effect on venture outcomes. We draw on status characteristics theory to derive predictions on how co-founders’ specific expertise cues and diffuse status cues drive initial task position allocation. We also examine the performance consequences of mismatches between the task position and position occupant. Qualitative fieldwork, combined with a quasi-experimental simulation game and an experiment, provides causal tests of the conceptual framework. We find that co-founders whose diffuse status cues of gender (male), ethnicity (white), or achievement (occupational prestige or academic honors) indicated general ability were typical occupants of higher-ranked positions, such as chief executive officer role, within the founding team. In addition, specific expertise cues that indicated relevant ability predicted task position allocation. Founding teams created more financially valuable ventures when task position occupants’ diffuse status cues were typical for the position; nonetheless position occupants with high diffuse status cues also appropriated more of the created value. Our results inform both entrepreneurship and status characteristics literature.