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Organization Design and Open Collaborations

The rise of the internet popularized new forms of work based on distributed collaboration and open participation. These new arrangements rely mostly on volunteer participants who are willing to participate, produce, and bear private costs in order to provide a public good. However, our theoretical understanding of the drivers of sustained engagement in such novel work arrangements is still limited. In this project, we focus on open collaborations (e.g., Open Source Software and Wikipedia) as a growing form of these novel work arrangements. How are these arrangements possible? How may they be sustained in a world of elaborate hierarchical organizations? One way to address these questions is to look at how open collaborations solve problems that are common to all production organizations such as, for example, problems in the division of labor, allocation of tasks, collaboration, coordination, and maintaining balance between inducements and contributions. In particular, our goal is to investigate the organizational design features (e.g., authority/delegation, modularity, task/job design) that help to explain how open collaborations try to stabilize, coordinate and incentivize contributions of their participants.

Related literature

Klapper, H., & Reitzig, M. (2018). On the effects of authority on peer motivation: Learning from Wikipedia. Strategic Management Journal, 39(8), 2178-2203.


Mair, P., Hofmann, E., Gruber, K., Hatzinger, R., Zeileis, A., & Hornik, K. (2015). Motivation, values, and work design as drivers of participation in the R open source project for statistical computing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(48), 14788-14792.

Levine, S. S., & Prietula, M. J. (2013). Open collaboration for innovation: Principles and performance. Organization Science, 25(5), 1414-1433.

Lakhani, K. R., Lifshitz-Assaf, H., & Tushman, M. (2013). Open innovation and organizational boundaries: task decomposition, knowledge distribution and the locus of innovation. Handbook of economic organization: Integrating economic and organizational theory, 355-382.

Dahlander, L., & O'Mahony, S. (2011). Progressing to the center: Coordinating project work. Organization Science, 22(4), 961-979.