Autocrats in the Lab

24 June 2013 at 2:13 pm 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

We noted before the Taylorite quality of many great restaurant kitchens. From Pierre Azoulay we learn that scientific laboratories are also sometimes organized as rigid hierarchies, presided over by an autocratic PI. (The key references is Pasteur.) Pierre suggests a sorting between PI and researcher characteristics so that labs run by autocrats are about as productive as labs run by softies. Probably the same is true in many groups. This reminds us that the Demsetz-Lehn critique applies to lots of work in management. If there is competition among organizational forms, and heterogeneity among individuals, then we shouldn’t expect one form to outperform the others, on average — a lesson often forgotten in empirical management research.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

The Pace of Modern Life Mokyr on Cultural Entrepreneurship

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe Champion  |  25 June 2013 at 5:05 am

    Pasteur was a very special researcher, not like the bureaucrats who run Big Science funded by Big Government. Were there other scientists in his lab or just technicians? Pierre Duhem interviewed his chief technician and used Pasteur as an example of “good sense” in scientific research. There are a couple of paras about this in my thesis on The Duhem Problem, now an ebook. If you only have 3.99 to spend I suggest you don’t purchase the Duhem Problem but instead snap up Making Research Pay which has a lot of material about what makes for good scientific research and also research that pays off in practical terms. You can read the Introduction free of charge to get the feel of the contents.

  • 2. Aidan Walsh  |  25 June 2013 at 2:27 pm

    As Hayek pointed out there is a problem with the extended market order: the rules of the order must be common throughout and those rules must be ‘of a somewhat smaller content than one applied to a small group’ (Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol II, 1976, page 89).

    Individuals make decisions by following rules and make coordinated decisions by following common rules. Therefore, the extended market order throws up a problem-solving problem – there are only a limited number of ways to solve problems.

    And so the market order solves that problem by created sub-orders within it – firms. These firms, each with a unique culture, allow groups of individuals to come together to solve problems in a coordinated way using different or, possibly, larger content rules. An infinite number of potential firms allows for an infinite number of different ways of solving problems within one extended market order.

    The whole point of having firms is their heterogeneity?

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