Seminar on Organization Design

Prof. Børge Obel, Aarhus University.

Børge Obel, Aarhus University (Coordinator), Charles Snow, Penn State University, Dorthe Døjbak Håkonsson, Aarhus University.

Time and place
29 February – 3 March 2016 (cancelled).
Dept. of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 10, DK-8000 Aarhus C.

Teaching language

Credits: 5 ECTS

No later than 1 February 2016 to Lisbeth Widahl, Dept. of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 10, DK-8000 Aarhus C (preferably by email). Application form can be downloaded here.
Please note: Registration is binding.

External participants (from outside Aarhus University) will be charged a fee of approx. 1100 DKK (covers lunches and refreshments). 
Participants are required to find their own accommodation.

Organizations exist because they are a better means of allocating resources than a pure market system. Business entrepreneurs learned more than a century ago that it is preferable to hold resources in the form of a firm than it is to obtain them repeatedly from markets. Doing so allows for more control and predictability, and it gives entrepreneurs time to obtain returns on their investments. Holding resources in organizations allows entrepreneurs to take collective action, and over the years business empires have been built in railroads, steel, automobiles, banks, social media, and information search engines. Today, organizations are used in every sector because they are the most effective means of taking collective action.

The essence of organizing is the ability of individuals, groups, and larger collectives to process information in order to make decisions. Organizations that cannot process information effectively cannot learn and adapt. The field of organization design was born when entrepreneurs, managers, military commanders, and other leaders focused their attention on how to arrange resources inside their organizations. This seminar will examine how and why organizational designs have evolved over time, and it will describe how the process of designing organizations has expanded as knowledge about organizations and management has accumulated. A particular emphasis will be placed on theories and perspectives that lead to practical designs.

You are asked to read all of the readings before coming to the seminar so that you are prepared to participate actively in the discussions. In addition, please skim through several issues of the Journal of Organization Design ( to see the various types of articles that have been published and the kinds of topics that are covered.   

NOTE: Final readings and literature will be available one month before the seminar. The size of the afternoon group presentations will be adjusted to fit the number of participants.

After the seminar, students will have an assignment that has to be approved to obtain the 5 ECTS points. The assignment can be related to a theoretical or methodological problem. The report from the assignment should be between 10 and 15 pages and will be evaluated as pass or no pass.   

Learning objectives
This seminar gives the participant a thorough understanding of the concepts and theories in the field of organization design, including its theoretical foundation and future directions. Students will gain an understanding of the relationship between organization theory and organization design, with an emphasis on theories that have practical applications. Further, students will obtain a thorough understanding of the differences and similarities of traditional and modern organizational designs, particularly collaborative communities and the digital enterprise. The most recent development in the field, design thinking, will be examined using an experiential exercise.

Each module in the seminar is explored from both a theoretical and methodological perspective. In this way, students will learn how to do research in the field of organization design. The strengths and limitations of each methodology will be highlighted as we discuss interviews and surveys, case methods, laboratory experiments, and simulations. Further, students will learn how to choose the appropriate methodology for a particular study using a triangulation perspective.

Schedule and readings (pdf)

Further information
Børge Obel or Lisbeth Widahl