Damon J. Phillips

Damon J. Phillips
  • Robert Steinberg Professor
  • Professor of Management

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2016 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: entrepreneurship, innovation and change, labor markets, management, social enterprise, social networks

Links: CV


Damon J. Phillips is a Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Wharton, he was the Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise at Columbia University Business School. He received his PhD from Stanford University. Before joining Columbia in 2011, he was on the faculty of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (from 1998-2011). During the 2010-2011 academic year he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Professor Phillips has expertise in social structural approaches to labor and product markets, entrepreneurship, innovation, organizational change, strategy and structure, as well as social network theory and analysis. His industry specialties are markets for professional services (law, consulting, investment banking) and culture (music industry). His 2013 acclaimed book, “Shaping Jazz,” is an innovative study of the emergence and evolution of the market for recorded jazz. In addition to publishing in top journals within management and sociology, Professor Phillips is an Associate Editor at the Administrative Science Quarterly, a Consulting Editor at Sociological Science, a former Associate Editor with Management Science, and former Consulting Editor at the American Journal of Sociology. Professor Phillips is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Morehouse College majoring in physics. He earned his first master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT. He earned a second master’s degree in sociology from Stanford University. Before pursuing his PhD at Stanford, he worked as an engineer and researcher affiliated with the U.S. Air Force (Lincoln Labs, MA) and was an executive in a family-owned electronics manufacturing business. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, and listening to music.

Areas of Expertise: Entrepreneurship; Labor Markets and Professional Careers; Social Networks; Leading and Managing Change; Social Networks.

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  • J. Merluzzi and Damon Phillips (2016), The Specialist Discount: Negative Returns for MBAs with Focused Profiles in Investment Banking, Administrative Science Quarterly.

    Abstract: When is being specialized detrimental? Leveraging scholarship that links the sociological notion of identity to the advantages of labor market specialization, we provide arguments and evidence to understand when labor market specialization disadvantages job candidates. Specifically, we formulate three conditions under which specialization becomes disadvantageous, and then test this in a context that exemplifies these conditions: the market for graduating MBAs. Using rich data on two graduating cohorts in 2008 and 2009 from a top-tier U.S. business school graduate program, we show that "focused" MBA graduates with profiles of being specialists with respect to their activities prior to, during, and after matriculation, receive fewer job offers and earn lower starting bonus compensation than those graduates who did not focus. Specifically, our models show that candidates focused in investment banking were less than half as likely to receive multiple offers and earned over $20,000 less in starting bonus compensation than equivalent, but unfocused candidates entering the field. Our theory and findings contribute to the literature on market identities; with implications for the design of current MBA curricula and advisory activities.

  • Damon Phillips, “Creating Reality: How Seemingly Small Changes in Subjective Mindset Produce Objective Changes in Health, Performance, and Behavior”. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn, (Hoboken: Wiley, 2015)

    Abstract: In this essay, we pull together foundational research from the psychological, sociological, and medical sciences to illuminate the undeniable influence of the psychosocial context in constructing objective reality. From psychology, we review the growing body of research on how beliefs and expectations about common experiences (e.g., nutrition, stress, and aging) can fundamentally alter the impact of those experiences. From sociology, we review the role of social influence in constructing the quality and impact of cultural products and experiences. And from medicine, we review the neurological and physiological underpinnings of the placebo effect, a powerful demonstration of expectation and social context to produce physiological changes in the body. As we align evidence from these related—although currently disconnected—fields, we uncover important limitations from within each field of study and portray how an integrative approach can offer a more rich and comprehensive understanding of the phenomena underlying the social–psychological creation of reality. Combining foundational research with the interdisciplinary findings from our laboratory, we explore how psychological and social contexts can fundamentally alter the psychological, behavioral, and physiological effects of one of the most common human experiences: drinking water. To conclude, we present a series of questions and suggestions to assist and inspire further interdisciplinary collaboration. We offer a pathway for researchers to more frequently acknowledge, more thoroughly understand, and more effectively utilize the power of psychosocial influence to effect positive change in a number of disciplines including marketing, medicine, and public health.

  • Damon Phillips, “Self-Fulfilling Prophesies, Placebo Effects, and the Social-Psychological Creation of Reality”. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn, (Hoboken: Wiley, 2015)

  • Damon Phillips, Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013)

    Abstract: There are over a million jazz recordings, but only a few hundred tunes have been recorded repeatedly. Why did a minority of songs become jazz standards? Why do some songs — and not others — get rerecorded by many musicians? Shaping Jazz answers this question and more, exploring the underappreciated yet crucial roles played by initial production and markets — in particular, organizations and geography — in the development of early twentieth-century jazz. Damon Phillips considers why places like New York played more important roles as engines of diffusion than as the sources of standards. He demonstrates why and when certain geographical references in tune and group titles were considered more desirable. He also explains why a place like Berlin, which produced jazz abundantly from the 1920s to early 1930s, is now on jazz's historical sidelines. Phillips shows the key influences of firms in the recording industry, including how record companies and their executives affected what music was recorded, and why major companies would rerelease recordings under artistic pseudonyms. He indicates how a recording's appeal was related to the narrative around its creation, and how the identities of its firm and musicians influenced the tune's long-run popularity. Applying fascinating ideas about market emergence to a music's commercialization, Shaping Jazz offers a unique look at the origins of a groundbreaking art form.

  • Damon Phillips, C. J. Turco, Ezra Zuckerman (2013), Betrayal as Market Barrier: Identity-Based Limits to Diversification among High-Status Corporate Law Firms, American Journal of Sociology .

    Abstract: Why are some diversified market identities problematic but others are not? We examine this question in the context of high-status corporate law firms, which often diversify into one low-status area of work—family law (FL)—but face a barrier (strong disapproval from existing clients) that prevents diversification into another such area—plaintiffs’ personal injury law (PIL). Drawing on a qualitative study of the Boston legal market, we argue that this barrier reflects a situation where loyalty norms have been violated, and it surfaces because service to individual plaintiffs is tantamount to betraying the interests of corporate clients. Our analysis clarifies identity-based limits to diversification, indicating that they are rooted in concerns about the firm’s commitments as well as its capabilities, and suggests a more general refinement of theory on status and conformity.

  • Damon Phillips and E. Troy Higgins (Working), It’s Just Water? The Effect of Mindset and Shared Reality on the Physical, Psychological and Performance Effects of Water.

  • Damon Phillips, “Orphaned Jazz: Short-Lived Startups and the Long-Run Success of Depression-Era Cultural Products”. In History and Strategy, vol. 29 of Advances in Strategic Management, edited by S. J. Kahl, B. S. Silverman, and M. A. Cusumano, (Bingley: Emerald, 2012), pp. 315-350

    Abstract: Purpose: This study is intended to extend scholarship on the management of organizations by examining the long-term performance of orphaned products. Design/methodology/approach: This study uses the historical context of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression to examine the long-run appeal (performance) of orphaned products — products from start-ups that fail soon after production. I use this setting to determine how factors within the purview of management, as well as the role of changing tastes, affect the appeal of music from short-lived start-ups founded in 1929 and 1933. Findings/originality/value: I find that while the evolution of tastes has a substantial effect beyond the control of a firm's managers, a start-up's decision-makers were able to positively influence the long-run appeal of music when they (a) recorded tunes with new artists and (b) were able to create an early big hit with the tune. These results demonstrate how and why, even with cultural producers in one of the greatest economic disasters in U.S. history, managerial decisions were meaningful for product performance. Finally, I show that the effect of being a start-up on the long-run appeal of a tune is time-varying such that being a start-up in 1929 or 1933 does not harm a tune's appeal until after World War II. These final analyses point to further ways in which strategy, history, and sociology might combine to further scholarship on the management of organizations.

  • Damon Phillips (2011), Jazz and the Disconnected: City Structural Disconnectedness and the Emergence of a Jazz Canon, 1897–1933, American Journal of Sociology.

    Abstract: The study of organizations and markets suffers from the underdevelopment of disconnected producers. This article emphasizes the imputed identities of sources to argue that difficult-to-categorize outputs were appealing when associated with a source high in disconnectedness. Worldwide data on recordings and mobility with detailed data on Midwest recordings provide evidence that jazz from cities high in disconnectedness was rerecorded more often by musicians over time. Moreover, recordings with difficult-to-categorize elements were more likely to be rerecorded when coming from cities high in disconnectedness, despite evidence that original music was paradoxically less likely to come from these cities.

  • Damon Phillips and Jesper Sorensen (2011), Competence and commitment: Employer size and entrepreneurial endurance In Industrial and Corporate Change, Industrial and Corporate Change .

    Abstract: We develop and test a theory of entrepreneurial endurance, or the likelihood that an entrepreneur will continue an entrepreneurial venture from one period to the next. Conceptualizing entrepreneurial endurance as a function of the entrepreneur's competence in and commitment to the entrepreneurial role, we argue that both factors should be shaped by the entrepreneur's prior employment. We focus on the effects of employer size on the prospective entrepreneur, and argue that employer size has a negative effect on both entrepreneurial competence and commitment. This implies that entrepreneurs from small firms should have superior economic performance and, for a given level of performance, be less likely to exit entrepreneurship. We find support for these predictions in analyses of entrepreneurs in a unique dataset characterizing the Danish labor market.

  • Steven Kahl, Young-Kyu Kim, Damon Phillips (2010), Identity sequences and the early adoption pattern of a jazz canon, 1920–1929, Research in the Sociology of Organizations.

    Abstract: We explore how the long-run success of cultural products is affected by the identities of the product's originators and early adopters. Using U.S. jazz recordings from 1920–1929, we found that songs were more likely to be later covered from 1944 to 2004 if they followed a pattern of having black originators and white early adopters. Moreover, we provide evidence that this pattern is independent of a song's commercial success, resources available to a song's originators, and group level indicators such as size and experience. We conclude that late movers (musicians after WW II) were attracted to songs that followed a narrative of both "lowbrow" origins and early adoption by those considered "highbrow" with respect to jazz. The findings also support a new means for considering the role of identities as the building blocks of genres, in particular, and categories more generally.


Current Courses


This course focuses on the nature and process of organization change, and how to be successful as a leader, implementer, and recipient of change. It emphasizes the forces for change, the change implementation process, the skills of successful change leaders, and the behavioral theories and management practices of how individuals and organizations change. All of this will help you to better diagnose, orchestrate, and implement the change agendas of organizations. After the initial session that introduces many of the topics and discussions of the course, Module I presents the foundations of successful transformations. The goal here is for you to get an understanding for how these major types of transformations unfold, how the motivation for change affects the type of transformation, how well the changes were instituted, sources of resistance, and how leaders are involved in the whole endeavor. Module II focuses on applications to learn the ingredients for successful change management and implement concepts from Module I. We will start with a merger integration implementation. Next, you will make a series of decisions to manage recipients of change by focusing on downsizing and privatization. Finally, you will test your implementation acumen in a real world-based simulation. Module III has two parts. The first is designed to expand your insights and apply them to the experiences of early career professionals who initiate, drive, and experience change as members of larger organizations or as startup founders. The course ends on how to build organizations that have the capacity to successfully change. To teach this course I use cases, simulations, and readings that integrate findings from academic research with practitioner experiences and insights. Importantly, the value of the class is maximized when you integrate your own experiences, and I am excited in anticipation of the discussions and debates we will have.

Awards and Honors

  • Distinguished Educator Award, Academy of Management OMT Division, 2021 Description

    The Distinguished Educator Award highlights the importance of good teaching in OMT and is intended to stimulate discussion on how to improve our impact on business students. This biennial award honors an OMT Division member who has made exceptional contributions to organization and management theory education. The purpose of the award is not to recognize excellent teaching, per se. It is rather intended as a tribute to individuals who have positively influenced educational practices within the broader OMT field. This influence may take many different forms, including the design of new OMT-related courses, the authorship of widely used books or cases, the creation of new conceptual frameworks, and/or the development of innovative and widely-used educational techniques (e.g. management simulations).

  • Fellow: The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, 2010-2011
  • Elected to Economic Sociology Executive Council of the ASA, 2008-2011
  • Elected as Representative-at-Large for the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management, 2008-2011


Latest Research

J. Merluzzi and Damon Phillips (2016), The Specialist Discount: Negative Returns for MBAs with Focused Profiles in Investment Banking, Administrative Science Quarterly.
All Research

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Life After Prison: Why Returning Citizens Become Entrepreneurs

Research from Wharton’s Damon J. Phillips finds that people who have been incarcerated, especially Black men, seek entrepreneurship as an alternative to low wages and a lack of opportunity in traditional employment.Read More

Knowledge at Wharton - 4/1/2024
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