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How to get what you want when you do not know what you want. A model of incentives, organizational structure and learning

  • Luigi Marengo
  • Corrado Pasquali

In this paper we present a model of the interplay between learning, incentives and the allocation of decision rights in the context of a generalized agency problem. Within this context, not only actors face conflicting interests but diverging cognitive ?visions? of the right course of action as well. We show that a principal may obtain the implementation of desired organizational policies by means of appropriate incentives or by means of appropriate design of the allocation of decisions, when the latter is cheaper but more complex. We also show that when the principal is uncertain about which course of action is more appropriate and wants to learn it from the environment, organizational structure and incentives interact in non-trivial ways and must be carefully tuned. When learning is not at stake, incentives and organizational structure are substitutes. When instead learning is at stake, organizational structure and incentives may complement each other and have to be fine tuned according to the complexity of the learning process and the competitive pressure which is put on fast or slow learning.

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Paper provided by Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy in its series LEM Papers Series with number 2010/08.

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Date of creation: 25 May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ssa:lemwps:2010/08
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  1. Bester, Helmut, 2005. "Externalities, communication and the allocation of decision rights," Discussion Papers 2005/21, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  2. Giovanni Dosi & Daniel A. Levinthal & Luigi Marengo, 2003. "Bridging contested terrain: linking incentive-based and learning perspectives on organizational evolution," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 413-436, April.
  3. Bernholz, Peter, 1997. "Property rights, contracts, cyclical social preferences and the Coase theorem: A synthesis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 419-442, September.
  4. Richard N. Langlois & Nicolai J. Foss, 1997. "Capabilities and Governance the Rebirth of Production in the Theory of Economic Organization," DRUID Working Papers 97-2, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Do Incentive Contracts Crowd out Voluntary Cooperation?," IEW - Working Papers 034, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Marengo, Luigi & Dosi, Giovanni, 2005. "Division of labor, organizational coordination and market mechanisms in collective problem-solving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 303-326, October.
  7. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  8. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-58, December.
  9. Giovanni Dosi & Marco Faillo & Luigi Marengo, 2003. "Organizational Capabilities, Patterns of Knowledge Accumulation and Governance Structures in Business Firms. An Introduction," LEM Papers Series 2003/11, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  10. Fama, Eugene F, 1980. "Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 288-307, April.
  11. Radner, Roy, 1993. "The Organization of Decentralized Information Processing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1109-46, September.
  12. Luigi Marengo & Simona Settepanella, 2010. "Social choice among complex objects," LEM Papers Series 2010/02, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  13. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "Power In A Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 387-432, May.
  14. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
  15. Rebecca Henderson & Sarah Kaplan, 2005. "Inertia and Incentives: Bridging Organizational Economics and Organizational Theory," NBER Working Papers 11849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Sah, Raaj Kumar & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1986. "The Architecture of Economic Systems: Hierarchies and Polyarchies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 716-27, September.
  17. Scott E. Page, 1996. "Two measures of difficulty (*)," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 321-346.
  18. Page, Scott E, 1996. "Two Measures of Difficulty," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 321-46, August.
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