hero image
Özgecan Koçak - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Özgecan Koçak Özgecan Koçak

Associate Professor of Organization & Management | Emory University, Goizueta Business School




Özgecan Koçak (pronounced as ohz-gay-john ko-chuck) is associate professor of Organization & Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. She holds a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Prior to joining the faculty at Emory in 2017, Koçak held positions at Columbia Business School and Sabanci University (in Istanbul, Turkey). She does research in the fields of organization theory and strategy, focusing on how shared understandings (such as communication codes, categorization systems, and identity schema) emerge and shape behavior in organizations and markets. Her work has been published in journals such as Organization Science, Management Science, Strategic Management Journal, Strategy and Organization, and Journal of Organization Design. She serves on the board of Organization Design Community and on the editorial review boards of Corporate Reputation Review, Industrial and Corporate Change, Journal of Organization Design, and Organization Science.

Education (3)

Graduate School of Business, Stanford University: PhD, Organizational Behavior 2003

Dissertation: Social Orders of Exchange: Effects and Origins of Social Order in Exchange Markets.

Stanford University: MA, Sociology 2001

Boğaziçi University: BA, Economics & Sociology 1998

Areas of Expertise (2)

Organizational Design

Organizational Identity

Publications (3)

Separated by a Common Language: How the Nature of Code Differences Shapes Communication Success and Code Convergence

Management Science

2022 Coordinated action within and beween organizations is easier when individuals share communication codes—mappings between stimuli and labels. Because codes are specific to the groups within which they arise as conventions, collaboration across organizational units that have developed their own distinctive codes is often difficult. However, not all code differences are equal in their implications for communication difficulty and the capacity of individuals starting out with different codes to develop a shared code. Using computational models, we develop a theory about the nature of differences in initial communication codes and how they impact convergence on a common code. Our results show that the difficulty of code convergence lies not as much in learning new codes as in unlearning existing ones. The most severe challenges to communication stem from “code clashes” where codes contain different mappings between the same labels and stimuli. Furthermore, clashes that arise when agents have developed their individual codes in different task environments but draw on a common set of labels are likely to be the hardest to recover from, reflecting the perils of being “separated by a common language.”

view more

Positioning new identities for appeal: Configurations of optimal distinctiveness amid ancestral identities

Strategic Organization

2021 The theory of strategic balance argues that organizations that are neither too similar to nor too distinct from their rivals will be best positioned to meet competing demands for legitimacy and competition. This is because a similar identity to other organizations signals conformity, thus generating legitimacy, while adopting a distinctive identity through differentiation provides competitive advantage. Recent studies have noted that various combinations of conformity and differentiation tactics can achieve “optimal distinctiveness,” which, depending on the particular competitive landscape, may be low, moderate, or high. This study disentangles the effect of distinctiveness in a landscape from the effects of conformity to and differentiation from ancestral identities that serve as templates for new identities. Taking a configurational approach, we explore whether distinctiveness, proximity to an ancestral identity, hybridization of multiple ancestral identities, and vertical or horizontal differentiation are necessary or sufficient, alone or in combination, to generate appeal for new identities.

view more

When three’s a crowd: how relational structure and social history shape organizational codes in triads

Journal of Organization Design

2020 When members of an organization share communication codes, coordination across subunits is easier. But if groups interact separately, they will each develop a specialized code. This paper asks: Can organizations shape how people interact in order to create shared communication codes? What kinds of design interventions in communication structures and systems are useful? In laboratory experiments on triads composed of dyads that solve distributed coordination problems, we examine the effect of three factors: transparency of communication (versus privacy), role differentiation, and the subjects’ social history. We find that these factors impact the harmonization of dyadic codes into triadic codes, shaping the likelihood that groups develop group-level codes, converge on a single group-level code, and compress the group-level code into a single word. Groups with transparent communication develop more effective codes, while acyclic triads composed of strangers are more likely to use multiple dyadic codes, which are less efficient than group-level codes. Groups of strangers put into acyclic configurations appear to have more difficulty establishing “ground rules”—that is, the “behavioral common ground” necessary to navigate acyclic structures. These coordination problems are transient—groups of different structures end up with the same average communication performance if given sufficient time. However, lasting differences in the code that is generated remain.

view more