Vaughn Tan bio|advisory|research|contact

Uncertainty and open-ended organization.


I study how open-ended organization allows groups and communities to monitor and adapt to changes in their environments. Such adaptability is especially important and difficult when the external environment is uncertain. My research shows how groups can become more adaptable by increasing ambiguity in their internal structures and processes.
Recently published work:

Tan, Vaughn. "Using negotiated joining to construct and fill open-ended roles in elite culinary groups." Administrative Science Quarterly 60(1), p103-132. DOI: 10.1177/0001839214557638. [Open access CC BY]
This research offers strategic and tactical recommendations about open-ended organization for practitioners designing and managing innovative and adaptable teams and companies.

My current work focuses on adaptability and innovation in groups working in uncertain environments. I use interviews with high-end culinary workers and ethnographies of nine internationally renowned culinary R&D teams to explain how—contrary to previous research—ambiguous group goals and member roles enhance a group's adaptability and ability to innovate.

Work now in progress includes theorizing about typologies of tacit knowledge, field experiments in the transmission of non-explicit knowledge, and formal modelling of agent decisions under conditions of external uncertainty. I am also developing a field experiment in a major US city to examine the relationship between urban structure and urban adaptability.


Curriculum Vitae [PDF]