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Hi! My name is Ekin Ilseven and I am joining Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics as an Assistant Professor of Strategy. 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

(Short version at INSEAD, Knowledge)

The resilience of an organisation cannot be measured in advance. Crises, by definition, emerge not only from unfamiliar, disruptive and unexpected events but also from the fact that the immediate consequences of such events get entangled and intertwined with the complex dynamics of the organisation. Specifically, the complexity of organizations leads to individuals, even directors and CEOs, having a patchy and blurry image of it, all the gaps remaining to be filled by unspoken assumptions and beliefs. This "decoupling" phenomenon is inevitable, yet possible to mitigate. Having a strong clear organization-wide shared and agreed strategy before, throughout, and after a crisis is one effective approach. When this fails, managers need to enhance the awareness of their employees, both of themselves, their collaborators, and of the business environment. Finally, they have the responsibility to build in enough slack for individuals to thrive, not break: Setting aside resilience budgets and building trusting collaborative partnership inside and across the organizational borders are necessary for long-term viability of individuals and organizations.

Ekin Ilseven and Yves Doz
(INSEAD, Knowledge)

There is no doubt that LLMs are impacting the world of knowledge workers, introducing a form of hyper-efficiency and serving as all-knowing oracles that describe the past, present and future of a given business environment. While those who know how to use LLMs can reap the most benefits, the efficiency boost LLMs provide is not exclusive or unattainable. It is available to all, and, over time, it will become familiar to all.

LLMs are sources of diverse information, knowledge and perspectives. Asking LLMs the “wrong” questions can diversify and broaden a strategist’s thinking. Free from social constraints, LLMs can also mercilessly challenge organisational beliefs. Those who master the art of using them to disrupt the status quo, almost in a jester-like fashion, are likely to develop successful strategies that provide a competitive advantage to their organisations.

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.

My publications

Eucman Lee, Ekin Ilseven and Phanish Puranam
(SMJ, 2023)

Managing without an extensive hierarchy can be attractive for a variety of reasons, but under what conditions is it possible in large scale organizations? We build on the premise that the managerial hierarchy of authority serves to resolve conflicts that employees cannot resolve peer-to-peer (i.e., there are limits to scaling groups that manage themselves consensually). We develop a formal theory that predicts that there are three levers that can slow down the growth of managerial hierarchy even as the organization scales: investing in the technology and culture needed to a) expand managerial capacity particularly toward the apex of the hierarchy b) create “self-managed” teams that produce few conflicts in need of managerial resolution and c) create “self-contained” teams that generate few conflicts between them that need escalation up the hierarchy for resolution. The third is likely to be the most effective lever as organizations grow.

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. 

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.

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