Call for Proposals

Strategic decisions are fraught with uncertainty. In a changing world, prior knowledge and experience offer incomplete and unreliable guidance. Although uncertainty about the attractiveness of strategic choices typically resolves over time, it is time that decision makers can ill afford, lest competitors take a punt before them. Thus, necessarily imperfect decisions create flops as well as hits. And what firms decide not to do might equally range from clever to costly. Our special conference is a first to concentrate on the firm-performance consequences of strategic decisions under uncertainty. It showcases firms’ ability to manage hits and misses.

Paper presentations will be grouped into one of the four subject-area theme tracks elaborated below. The tracks take an interest in a variety of decisions from innovation to corporate strategy, covering both the individual and firm level. All of them share an interest in the decision-making tensions commonly experienced under uncertainty, such as those between resource allocation commitment and flexibility, exploration and exploitation, comprehensiveness and speed, making errors of omission versus commission, and between ignoring and learning from small-sample experiences.

We are open to any theoretical perspective and methodological approach. While most of us are rooted in the typical strategy schools of thought, we also encourage discipline-boundary spanning submissions, including but not limited to those drawing on behavioral decision making and cognitive psychology, optimization and signal detection models, or the philosophy of reasoning and inference, for example. We solicit theoretical and empirical contributions to facilitate conversation and scholarly debate, informing thought and practice. We hope the conference will provide an international platform for cross-fertilization of ideas, collectively strengthening this important area of strategy research.

Plenaries and tracks will be led and facilitated by internationally recognized scholars in diverse areas of strategic decision making under uncertainty. Interspersed are special forum talks as well as practitioner contributions. The latter includes contributions from executives from resident financial and professional institutions. Our evening program feature social activities in Germany’s commercial capital. The conference will be preceded by a doctoral and paper development workshop.

Theme Tracks

Track Chairs:
Daniella Laureiro-Martínez, ETH Zurich
Libby Weber, University of California, Irvine

Some decision makers are much more effective at managing uncertainty in than others. While some individuals are occasionally lucky in their strategic decisions, others seem to hit the jackpot much more consistently. But what distinguishes the consistent winners from their occasionally lucky counterparts? Specifically, why are some individuals better at minimizing uncertainty? Even when uncertainty is irreducible, what individual factors trump pure luck? What biological, psychological and or social influences impact decision-makers perceptions of uncertainty, problem representation, decision-making and ability to lead change? How do decision-makers learn in a world with unreliable feedback? We value cross-disciplinary theoretical pieces and empirical studies.

Track Chairs:
J.P. Eggers, New York University
Anu Wadhwa, Imperial College London

Innovating is about speculating on the potential future uses of knowledge and technology, meaning that uncertainty is at the very heart of innovation. This uncertainty manifests itself in different ways, all of which provide viable avenues for research. How do firms and managers allocate resources when faced with the uncertainty of innovation? How do firms seek to minimize the uncertainty associated with attempts at innovation, or their commercialization? How do firms handle uncertainty that arises due to different opinions from different managers within the firm? We welcome all research proposals that look at the underlying uncertainty of innovation across a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives.

Track Chairs:
Vibha Gaba, INSEAD
John Joseph, University of California, Irvine

We invite submissions that examine how firms adapt and learn in uncertain and ambiguous environments. We welcome papers that look at both internal sources of ambiguity such as goals, preferences, feedback and learning and external sources of uncertainty such as digital disruptions, regulatory, or other macroeconomic shocks. Questions can include (but are not limited to): How do firms purse and achieve multiple goals? How do decision-makers interpret performance feedback and how does this influence change and risk taking? What are the performance implications of learning in an uncertain environment? What factors are critical for adaptation amidst weak, conflicting or ambiguous signals? How does organizational structure enable or constrain learning in dynamic environments? We welcome diverse methodologies – from in-depth case studies to those that use big data and/or machine learning tools.

Track Chairs:
Emilie Feldman, University of Pennsylvania
Aseem Kaul, University of Minnesota

In response to accelerating product and factor markets, companies must utilize an array of powerful but often risky corporate strategies--such as M&A, alliances, licensing, corporate venturing, and divestitures--to renew and redeploy their capabilities. They must fundamentally rethink their organizational structures and supply chains so as to enable internal arbitrage while remaining responsive to external changes. And they must design incentive and governance systems that guide managerial risk-taking and decision-making, while remaining focused on sustainable, long-term profitability. This track welcomes submissions related to these broad themes, exploring decisions, implementation, and outcomes of firms' corporate strategies under uncertainty.