August 2020: Prof. Dr. Anja Schöttner

Anja Schöttner, Professor for Management at Humboldt University of Berlin, is principle investigator of the project A02 “Transparency Effects of Organizational Innovations”. In her project she investigates how organizational innovations affect transparency within and between firms.

 

“Yes” to applied research

I find it appealing to deal intensively and scientifically with questions to which there are no simple answers. That is why I decided early on that a scientific career was just the right choice for me. Choosing a field to focus my research on was a much greater challenge. During my studies of business mathematics, I contemplated my research focus:  should I pursue a doctorate in mathematics or in economics? The decisive factor was the opportunity to work on applied questions with high social relevance. That is why I chose economics – especially personnel and organizational economics. I find it incredibly exciting to explore how people make decisions and how decision-making can be steered in the right direction through appropriate organizational structures.

I find it incredibly exciting to explore how people make decisions and how decision-making can be steered in the right direction through appropriate
organizational structures.

Focussing on self-organized teamwork

In recent years, we have observed that there is an increasing trend towards teamwork in companies. Less work is done individually, more work is done in teams. Moreover, these teams are increasingly self-organized. This means that the people within the teams are entrusted with decisions that may previously have been taken by a supervisor at a higher hierarchical level. In project A02 we want to explain under which circumstances self-organized teamwork emerge and how organizational structures must be changed in order to optimally support self-organized teamwork.

Preliminary results show that self-organized teamwork is more prevalent when changes in the corporate environment lead to more uncertainty. For example, uncertainty about the problems the company has to cope with in the near future or uncertainty about the needs of the customers. In these cases, a self-organized team appears to offer greater flexibility. We observed that self-organized teams are particularly advantageous when it is necessary to react to unforeseen changes in the firm’s environment as quickly as possible.  A pandemic, although a rather extreme example, is able to trigger such changes – like the current Corona crisis. A more prevalent example is the adoption of regulatory procedures, market changes, or the availability of new technologies.

The broad networking and regular exchange give us new impulses for our research and the opportunity to initiate research projects that would most likely not exist without the TRR 266.

New impulses for research

In our project we take a multitude of aspects into consideration. We are currently investigating how knowledge transfer works in teams and which organizational structures favor effective knowledge transfer. In the future, we would like to examine the effects of taxation on organizational structures in companies. The research network of the TRR 266 is advantageous to us in this respect, as it enables an intensive exchange with experts from other research fields. The tax experts of the TRR 266 can support us very well in our project. This is exactly what I appreciate about our research network: The broad networking and regular exchange give us new impulses for our research and the opportunity to initiate research projects that would most likely not exist without the TRR 266.


Leaving the ivory tower

Theoretical research is often accused of never leaving the ivory tower. Or of building models that have only limited practical relevance. Our team would like to counter these prejudices. Our goal is to develop models that can be tested empirically and that help understand phenomena we observe in practice. We want to help companies make the right decisions and help them successfully implement self-organized teamwork. To do so, we will offer scientific insights into how they need to adapt their information flow and incentive systems. We are currently not there yet, but this is our goal.

I also see our work within the TRR 266 as an opportunity to increase public trust in science – countering a social development that
is currently emerging

More trust through transparency

I believe that the transparency research that is conducted within the TRR 266 can make an important overall contribution to practice and society. Especially when it comes to understanding in which particular cases transparency it is of real importance, how to implement it optimally – and when it becomes counterproductive (e.g. too much information to process it properly). This allows us to provide important guidance to regulatory authorities and political decision makers.

I also see our work within the TRR 266 as an opportunity to increase public trust in science – countering a social development that is currently emerging. At present, both populists who control information hit the headlines as do people who have lost overall trust in science and its findings. A phenomenon that has also become visible in the Corona crisis. I hope that our efforts will help to counter this trend.

Researcher of the Month July

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, European School of Management and Technology in Berlin and Goethe University Frankfurt who share the same research agenda.