Research Interests: Decision-making and innovation management in fragmented systems
Natalya Vinokurova is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated cum laude from Harvard College, where she studied Psychology, and she received her MPhil and PhD in Business Administration from the NYU Stern School. Her dissertation won the first prize from the Industry Studies Association, an honorable mention for the Grigor McLelland Award from the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies, and was a finalist for the Wiley-Blackwell Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Academy of Management.
Professor Vinokurova’s research focuses on the evolution of decision-making processes in fragmented systems at the intersection of the domains of business history and strategy. Her research has been published in top academic journals, including Business History, Enterprise and Society, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. She has received numerous scholarly awards, including the Philip B. Scranton Prize for Best Article in Enterprise and Society and Most Novel Research Award from the Behavioral Strategy Division of the Strategic Management Society.
Professor Vinokurova currently serves as an editorial board member for Business History and Organization Science, a reviewer for Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal and Strategic Management Journal as well as a chair of the Philip B. Scranton Prize Committee at the Business History Conference and as a member of the New Members Committee for the Management History Division of the Academy of Management.
Professor Vinokurova teaches strategy in the core MBA program and a workshop on analyzing business cases for the MBA and Executive MBA students at Wharton. She received numerous teaching awards including the designation of Top 40 Business Professors under 40 by Poets and Quants, the “Tough but we’ll thank you in five years” core curriculum teaching award as well as two “Goes above and beyond the call of duty” core curriculum teaching awards.
Natalya Vinokurova, “A History of Markets Past: The Role of Institutional Memory Failure in Financial Crises”. In Routledge Companion to Anthropology in Management, edited by Raza Mir and Anne-Laure Fayard, (New York: Routledge, 2020), pp. 34-63
Abstract: Anthropology and history bring different lenses to the study of financial markets. While anthropology focuses on understanding the market participants’ practices, history offers a window into the co-evolution of these practices and market institutions. This chapter uses the financial market setting to explore how historical analysis can enrich our understanding of the relationship between institutional memory and financial crises. Specifically, I compare and contrast the security structures in three markets for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) in the United States in the 1880s, 1900s, and 1970s to investigate whether the lessons learned in the first two markets shaped the structure of MBS securities in the third. My analysis suggests that the prior instances of MBS markets are informative about the antecedents of the 2008 crisis. I find that the security structures in the third market shared important similarities with those of the previous markets, particularly, with regard to the mechanisms used to control the risks of investing in the securities. My analysis suggests that the participants in the third market did not learn from the experiences of the first two. Tracing the security design across the three markets sheds light on failure of institutional memory to constrain the reemergence of financial instruments and crises associated with the instruments.
Natalya Vinokurova and Rahul Kapoor (2020), Converting Inventions into Innovations in Large Firms: How Inventors at Xerox Navigated the Innovation Process to Commercialize Their Ideas, Strategic Management Journal, 41 (13), pp. 2372-2399.
Abstract: How can inventors in large firms navigate their organizations’ innovation processes to commercialize breakthrough inventions? Using historical case studies of three breakthrough inventions at Xerox—office workstations, personal computers, and laser printers, we illustrate how inventors navigated multiple evaluation criteria across different organizational units to attract resources towards inventions. These criteria stemmed from Xerox's first successful breakthrough invention, the 914 copier and the specific objectives of the organizational units. We highlight two approaches deployed by Xerox inventors—searching across the organization for more favorable evaluation criteria and shaping the evaluation criteria to help attract resources. While searching leveraged the heterogeneity of evaluation criteria across the different organizational units, shaping required the presence of evaluative uncertainty with respect to the appropriate criteria for evaluating breakthrough inventions.
Natalya Vinokurova (2019), Reshaping demand landscapes: How firms change customer preferences to better fit their products, Strategic Management Journal, 40 (13), pp. 2107-2137. https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.3074
Abstract: What strategies do firms use to change their customers’ preferences? This paper addresses this question by developing a conceptual model that combines the representation of customer preferences as a demand landscape with research on marketing and psychology. I suggest that in addition to repositioning their products to accommodate customer preferences firms also change the distribution of customer preferences to accommodate the firms’ products. Specifically, I argue that firms alter customer preferences by adding, removing, and transforming the dimensions of the demand landscape. I illustrate the model with an historical case study of the U.S. market for mortgage-backed securities (MBS) between 1968 and 1987, a period during which MBS issuers succeeded in reshaping the bond demand landscape to promote the acceptance of MBS as bonds.
Abstract: This comment, in response to Phil Scranton’s article, suggests that communist business practices differ from those adopted in the West along three dimensions: (1) the locus and degree of centralization of production decisions, (2) the mechanism for coordinating the producers’ actions, and (3) the use of state terror in shaping the workers’ and the managers’ incentives. My analysis focuses on the third dimension—state terror, which I define as a workers and managers experiencing extreme penalties for failing to meet the state’s goals. I argue that business history and allied disciplines of management and economics would benefit from studying state terror as a management practice and outline several avenues for pursuing such research.
Natalya Vinokurova (2018), Failure to Learn from Failure: The 2008 Mortgage Crisis as a Déjà Vu of the Mortgage Meltdown of 1994, Business History, 61 (6), pp. 1005-1050.
Abstract: This article traces the developments in the market for residential mortgage-backed securities (MBS) during the period 1970–2008. Drawing on an analysis of trade publications, business press, and interviews with practitioners, it shows that an MBS market meltdown in 1994 provided clear signals of problems with MBS. The market participants did not re-evaluate their use of risk management tools or adjust security design in response to the 1994 crisis, suggesting a lack of understanding of the implications of the crisis. The 1994 meltdown showed that MBS were vulnerable to systematic risks and that these risks could precipitate an MBS market crash. Furthermore, the 1994 meltdown demonstrated that large-scale investment in MBS could affect the primary mortgage market, thereby rendering the MBS risks unpredictable. After 1994, MBS investment shifted to MBS backed by mortgages with default risk – a development that led to the crash of 2008. By drawing parallels between the 1994 and 2008 crises, this article shows how the MBS market failed to self-correct. The results suggest that financial market participants do not always incorporate relevant information in their decision-making and that market participants have difficulties in both foreseeing the effect of financial innovations on markets and interpreting these effects.
Natalya Vinokurova (2018), How Mortgage-Backed Securities Became Bonds: The Emergence, Evolution, and Acceptance of Mortgage-Backed Securities in the U.S. 1960-1987, Enterprise and Society, 19 (3), pp. 610-660.
Abstract: This article documents the emergence, evolution, and acceptance of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) by bond investors in the United States between 1968 and 1987. Drawing on an analysis of trade publications, securities prospectuses, and business press, I argue that MBS issuers’ eventual success at convincing bond investors to accept their products is especially remarkable given that bond investors had rejected most types of MBS issued between 1970 and 1983. My analysis suggests that the acceptance of MBS as bonds was an outcome of two approaches employed by the MBS issuers: (1) changing the attributes of their products to make them more bond-like, and (2) changing the meaning of the bond category by opening its boundaries to products that incorporated mortgage features. These two approaches to changing investors’ beliefs to promote innovation acceptance may undergird the diffusion processes for other financial innovations. Understanding the process of innovation acceptance may be especially important because market participants have short memories. Forgetting the assumptions made during innovation–acceptance processes can bring unanticipated consequences of innovation adoption, such as financial crises.
Natalya Vinokurova and Adam Brandenburger (2012), Comment on “Toward a Behavioral Theory of Strategy”, Organization Science, 23 (1), pp. 286-287.
Abstract: This comment, in response to Phil Scranton’s article, suggests that communist business practices differ from those adopted in the West along three dimensions: (1) the locus and degree of centralization of production decisions, (2) the mechanism for coordinating the producers’ actions, and (3) the use of state terror in shaping the workers’ and the managers’ incentives. My analysis focuses on the third dimension—state terror, which I define as workers and managers experiencing extreme penalties for failing to meet the state’s goals. I argue that business history and allied disciplines of management and economics would benefit from studying state terror as a management practice and outline several avenues for pursuing such research.
This course is about managing large enterprises that face the strategic challenge of being the incumbent in the market and the organizational challenge of needing to balance the forces of inertia and change. The firms of interest in this course tend to operate in a wide range of markets and segments, frequently on a global basis, and need to constantly deploy their resources to fend off challenges from new entrants and technologies that threaten their established positions. The class is organized around three distinct but related topics that managers of established firms must consider: strategy, human and social capital, and global strategy.
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