Hi! My name is Ekin Ilseven and I am a Ph.D. Candidate at INSEAD's Strategy department. My research revolves around organizational resilience, where I aim to identify the sources of resilience and the trade-offs encountered in its pursuit. Some questions guiding my research are:

  • Can organizations mitigate the impact of a shock and adapt to the post-shock world equally well?

  • What are the consequences of building resilient organizations for its members and for the communities it belongs to?

  • What holds back the decision-makers from implementing more resilience-enhancing practices?

I approach such questions from a Complex Adaptive System perspective, building multi-level dynamic models of organizations, to generate precise actionable insights into such questions that matter for organizational design and strategic management.


My research is driven by my background in physics where I was passionate about aggregation processes and I am inspired by the works of many thinkers such as Harrison White, Douglas Hofstadter, Noam Chomsky, Simone de Beauvoir, who have shed light on self-referential nature of people, societies, and generally complex systems.

My recent notes

Resilience is inherently neutral. At first sight, the ability to overcome unexpected disruptions and, if possible, to capitalize on them seems something desirable, something that should be sought after. Yet the question remains: Is resilience always desirable at all levels of a social organization?

In this reflective essay, inspired by my observations of recent mucilage disaster at the Marmara Sea and the extensive forest fires in the Aegean region of Turkey, I discuss how self-organized resilience may come with costs to people and whether this is really what we should be seeking for, whether it is the established system's responsibility to buffer and protect its own members.

Thinking big and small are part of our everyday lives. When a pandemic hits the world, we worry about macroeconomic factors and how they might affect our livelihoods and those of others. However, when we wake up, we not only go through morning routines but also start thinking about what’s going to happen next. What to wear today? Is there traffic on the way to work? How creative do we become in our responses to these questions?

How we think about these things depends on how abstractly or concretely we think. In this post, I refer to a simple mathematical model which demonstrates how mental coarse-graining impacts models we build to describe the world around us. Relations to strategy-making and implementation and conntections to other disciplines are discussed.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a worldwide phenomenon that can be observed and studied in so many different ways. We have seen many opinions and analyses on its economic impact, its biological properties, its impact on digitization, and even on the future of society given the technological developments enabling political actions once considered to be illegitimate.

In this series of posts, I want to highlight some of the questions or remarks that I had in mind while watching the rise of this pandemic, and listening to people around me and on the internet. Clearly, this pandemic induces much to worry about our family, friends, and all other individuals (e.g. ranging from potential loss of a job to death). Without implying any underestimation of these considerations, I would like to use this platform to elaborate on some other technical and scientific questions which arise from our situation.

In a recent conversation with two cryptocurrency traders, I asked how they figure out which Initial Coin Offering (ICO) makes sense. Their answer came without hesitation: “You don’t know.” As it is not a satisfying answer, I further asked how they decide in which ICO to invest. Next to the fact that it is more or less a “hit or miss”, for them one of the most important factors was the affiliations of the start-up founders. In an online article[1], Bernard Moon, co-founder and partner at SparkLabs, states that “early-stage startup investing hasn’t changed. Investment approach and what active angels and venture capitalists look for in startups haven’t changed, so why should it change for cryptocurrency investors?” While the author says that it’s the “target audience of investors” that has changed, a closer look into academic research in management and behavioral finance might uncover some other intricacies of ICOs. This essay uncovers some social and organizational mechanisms in the venture capital world. As we will see, even though finance is theoretically all about numbers, in reality, the survival of the entrepreneurs, angels, and investors in general are inseparable from social dynamics, if not dependent on it.


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/sparklabs/2017/12/05/dont-be-dumb-money-how-to-invest-in-icos-and-blockchain-startups/#3d1009627c74

My publications

Ekin Ilseven and Phanish Puranam (JOD, 2021)

Accurate measurement of resilience is a critical stepping stone to building it. As the pandemic has convinced many decision-makers of the importance of building resilience, both in public and private organizations, explicating underlying assumptions in resilience measurement and offering guidance on their applicability carry great value.

In this article, we point at the diversity of approaches to measuring resilience as a performance outcome, highlight the role of two major assumptions concerning the choice of performance counterfactuals (absolute/relative) and time windows (rule-based/variable), and delineate when some approaches might be suitable over the others. We underline that one-shot measurement of resilience through a single adverse event may be misleading; it will be more meaningful when a consistent pattern can be identified.

Haoyu Guo, Ekin Ilseven, Gregory Falkovich,
Leonid S. Levitov (PNAS, 2018)

Hydrodynamics frameworks allow us to describe the collective behaviors of particles independent of their microscopic properties. A fluid consisting of electrons can be described with this framework, just like the flow of water and many other fluids can be described without a detailed deeper understanding of the underlying interactions. However, this framework has its limitations and for electrons, it is the point where the quantum effects start to become effective and the interaction between the electrons becomes rare; a point which we call the transition from hydrodynamic to ballistic flow. While ballistic flow was shown to be the ultimate highest conductivity that electrons can achieve in a material by avoiding collisions with each other, we show in this work that hydrodynamic conductivity  achieves even higher values due to the "cooperative" nature emerging through interactions. 

Ekin Ilseven and Miller Mendoza (PRE, 2016)

In this work, we bring Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and General Relativity (GR) together. In a certain form, the equations that describe gravity are conservation equations, which are the fundamentals of fluid dynamics. While in fluid dynamics the conserved quantities are real (such as particles, momentum, and energy), the conservation equations found in GR are completely abstract and do not necessarily imply that the fundamentals of GR is lying in fluid dynamics. However, this mathematical similarity allows us to use a numerical technique developed in CFD, namely Lattice Boltzmann, to solve the equations governing the nature of gravity, describing gravitational phenomena such as gravitational waves, gravity fields of neutron stars, and black holes dynamics.