The Value of Moderate Obsession: Insights from a New Model of Organizational Search

Organization Science, Vol. 18, No. 3, May–June 2007, pp. 403–419

Posted: 26 Jun 2016

See all articles by Sidney G. Winter

Sidney G. Winter

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department

Gino Cattani

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business; New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior

Alex Dorsch

Equity Derivatives, Bear Stearns & Company

Date Written: June 1, 2007

Abstract

Teometry rather than the now-familiar NK-modeling technique. In our simulations, firms search locally in a two-dimensional fitness landscape, choosing moves in a way that responds both to local payoff considerations and to a more global sense of opportunity represented by a firm-specific preferred direction. The latter concept provides a simple device for introducing cognitive or motivational considerations into the formal account of search behavior, alongside payoff considerations. After describing the objectives and the structure of the model, we report a first experiment that explores how the ruggedness of the landscape affects the interplay of local payoff and cognitive considerations (preferred direction) in search. We show that an intermediate search strategy, combining the guidance of local search with a moderate level of nonlocal obsession, is distinctly advantageous in searching a rugged landscape. We also explore the effects of other considerations, including the objective validity of the preferred direction and the degree of dispersion of firm strategies. We conclude by noting available features of the model that are not exercised in this experiment. Given the inherent flexibility of the model, the range of questions that might potentially be explored is extremely large.

Keywords: rugged landscapes, local search, cognition, direction, fractal geometry

Suggested Citation

Winter, Sidney G. and Cattani, Gino and Dorsch, Alex, The Value of Moderate Obsession: Insights from a New Model of Organizational Search (June 1, 2007). Organization Science, Vol. 18, No. 3, May–June 2007, pp. 403–419. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2800343

Sidney G. Winter

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

Gino Cattani (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business ( email )

44 West 4th Street
Suite 9-160
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior ( email )

44 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Alex Dorsch

Equity Derivatives, Bear Stearns & Company ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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