Henning Piezunka

Henning Piezunka
  • Associate Professor of Management

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3203 SHDH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: Organisations, Innovation, Selecting Ideas and Relationship Management with Partners

Links: CV, Personal Website


Henning Piezunka is an Associate Professor of Management at Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Henning’s teaching is focused on startups and entrepreneurship, with a particular emphasis on guiding entrepreneurs in building, scaling and growing their business ideas and ventures. He teaches this material to MBA students, executives and corporations, and coaches start-up CEOs and entrepreneurial leaders. He has received outstanding teaching ratings, been on the Dean’s list for excellence in MBA teaching, and won the INSEAD best teacher award multiple times.

Henning is an award-winning researcher. He studies how organisations can tap into the knowledge of their members to foster greater inclusion, innovation and diversity. He has also conducted research into the crowdsourcing of ideas and the wisdom of the crowds. In another stream of research, Henning studies collaboration and competition, such as the factors that escalate competition into dangerous conflict. He has further researched succession in family firms and how people can improve their ability to interact with others by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Through his research, Henning has also developed significant expertise across various domains, including start-ups, technology companies, family businesses and a range of sports. He has leveraged data from sports such as Formula One, soccer and chess to shed light on effective management practices. Henning’s work and expert opinions have been featured in leading business media including Time Magazine, The Economist and Harvard Business Review.

Henning obtained a PhD at Stanford University, a Master of Science at the London School of Economics, UK, and a Diploma Kaufmann from the University of Mannheim, Germany. Before starting his academic career, he co-founded a web design company in 1998 and acted as its founder-CEO until selling it in January 2016. By 2016, Henning’s company employed more than 30 people and served customers in more than 80 countries.

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  • Abhishek Nagaraj and Henning Piezunka (2024), The Impact of Competition on Crowdsourced Platforms, Strategy Science (forthcoming).

    Abstract: Knowledge platforms differ in how they source their knowledge; they can be categorized as traditional (e.g., Encyclopedia Britannica, Guide Michelin) or crowdsourced (e.g., Wikipedia, Yelp). Although research has compared and contrasted the two, we study how they compete with one another. In particular, we focus on how competition from traditional platforms affects volunteers’ contributions to crowdsourced platforms. We propose a divergent effect: competition increases individual contributions from volunteers who were already active before the entry of any competitor (pre-entry contributors). However, competition also hinders recruitment and therefore leads to a decrease in total contributions from the set of volunteers who are new to the platform in a given time period (newly recruited contributors). We suggest the first effect is driven by pre-entry contributors’ ideological attachment, whereas the second is driven by lower awareness of the platform postcompetitive entry. To test our theory, we leverage and examine how the phased entry of Google Maps in different countries affects contributions to OpenStreetMap, a crowdsourced mapping platform. We find the hypothesized divergent effects and provide suggestive evidence of the underlying mechanisms. We contribute to research on crowdsourcing, volunteers’ willingness to contribute, platform competition, and on the effect of competition on organizations more broadly.

  • Helge Klapper, Henning Piezunka, Linus Dahlander (2023), Peer Evaluations: Evaluating and being evaluated, Organization Science (forthcoming).

    Abstract: Peer evaluations place organizational members in a dual role: they evaluate their peers and are being evaluated by their peers. We theorize that when evaluating their peers, they anticipate how their evaluations will be perceived and adjust their evaluations strategically to be evaluated more positively themselves when their peers assess them. Building on this overarching claim of role duality resulting in strategic peer evaluations, we focus on a dilemma that evaluating members face: they want to leverage their evaluations of peers to portray themselves as engaged and having high standards, but at the same time, they must be careful not to offend anyone as doing so may cause retaliation. We suggest that organizational members about to be evaluated resolve this dilemma by participating in more peer evaluations but carefully targeting which evaluations they participate in. We test our theory by analyzing peer evaluations on Wikipedia, supplemented by in-depth semistructured interviews. Our study informs research on peer evaluation and organizational design by revealing how being an evaluator and evaluated can make evaluations more strategic.

  • Sanghyun Park, Henning Piezunka, Linus Dahlander (2023), Coevolutionary Lock-In in External Search, Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).

    Abstract: While external search allows organizations to source diverse ideas from people outside the organization, it often generates a narrow set of nondiverse ideas. We theorize that this stems from an interplay between organizations’ idea selection and the external generation of ideas: an organization selects ideas shared by external contributors, and the external contributors, who strive to see their ideas selected, use the prior selection to infer what kind of ideas the organization is looking for, and to respond. Contributors whose ideas are misaligned with the organization’s selection tend to stop submitting ideas (i.e., self-selection) or adjust the ideas they submit so that they correspond (i.e., self-adjustment), resulting in a less diverse pool of ideas. Our central hypothesis is that the more consistent organizations are in their selection, the stronger the coevolutionary lock-in: organizations with greater selection consistency receive future ideas with lower content variety. We find support for these predictions by combining large-scale network analysis and natural language processing across a large number of organizations that use crowdsourcing. Our findings suggest a reconceptualization of external search as a two-way street: organizations are not simply passive receivers of ideas but send signals that shape the pool of ideas that externals share.

  • Fabian Gaessler and Henning Piezunka (2023), Training with AI: Evidence from chess computers, Strategic Management Journal, 44 (11), pp. 2724-2750.

    Abstract: We suggest that AI can help decision-makers learn; specifically, that it can help them learn strategic interactions by serving as artificial training partners and thus help them to overcome a bottleneck of scarce human training partners. We present evidence from chess computers, the first widespread incarnation of AI. Leveraging the staggered diffusion of chess computers, we find that they did indeed help chess players improve by serving as a substitute for scarce human training partners. We also illustrate that chess computers were not a perfect substitute, as players training with them were not exposed to and thus did not learn to exploit idiosyncratic (“human”) mistakes. We discuss implications for research on learning, on AI in management and strategy, and on competitive advantage.

  • Henning Piezunka and Oliver Schilke (2023), The Dual Function of Organizational Structure: Aggregating and Shaping Individuals’ Votes, Organization Science, 34 (5), pp. 1914-1937.

    Abstract: How do organizational structures influence organizational decision making? This article reveals organizational structures’ dual function: they both (1) aggregate and (2) shape individuals’ decisions. What makes this dual function so remarkable is that the two effects are diametrically opposed to one another. Ceteris paribus, a less stringent decision-making structure reduces the amount of support required for a given project to be greenlit at the organizational level, which should result in more investments getting approved. However, we find that this ceteris paribus assumption does not hold, because a less stringent decision-making structure also reduces individuals’ tendency to provide their support for an investment. Our experimental investigation of organizational voting provides evidence for our position that organizational structure plays an important role beyond mere aggregation: voting thresholds also affect individuals’ voting behavior. The combination of both effects explains why the organizational adoption of a new voting threshold may not yield the intended outcome.

  • Henning Piezunka, Vikas Aggarwal, Hart E. Posen (2022), The Aggregation Learning-Trade-Off, Organization Science, 33 (3), pp. 1095-1115.

    Abstract: Organizational decision making that leverages the collective wisdom and knowledge of multiple individuals is ubiquitous in management practice, occurring in settings such as top management teams, corporate boards, and the teams and groups that pervade modern organizations. Decision-making structures employed by organizations shape the effectiveness of knowledge aggregation. We argue that decision-making structures play a second crucial role in that they shape the learning of individuals that participate in organizational decision making. In organizational decision making, individuals do not engage in learning by doing but, rather, in what we call learning by participating, which is distinct in that individuals learn by receiving feedback not on their own choices but, rather, on the choice made by the organization. We examine how learning by participating influences the efficacy of aggregation and learning across alternative decision-making structures and group sizes. Our central insight is that learning by participating leads to an aggregation–learning trade-off in which structures that are effective in aggregating information can be ineffective in fostering individual learning. We discuss implications for research on organizations in the areas of learning, microfoundations, teams, and crowds.

  • Henning Piezunka and Thorsten Grohsjean (2022), Collaborations that Hurt Firm Performance but Help Employees’ Careers, Strategic Management Journal, 44 (3), pp. 778-811.

    Abstract: When a firm and a competitor collaborate with the same partner, they compete for the shared partner's resources and attention. Such “peer competition” has been shown to negatively affect a firm's access to resources and its performance. One might expect that also the employees’ careers to suffer as a result. However, we argue that the firm's employees benefit from such collaborations. They leverage these collaborations to build social capital—helping their mobility and careers. We find empirical support for our theory using a large sample dataset of video game companies. Our study points to an important yet hitherto neglected agency conflict: employees seek interfirm collaborations that benefit them personally but hurt their firm.

  • Riitta Katila, Henning Piezunka, Philipp Reineke, Kathleen Eisenhardt (2022), Big Fish vs. Big Pond? Entrepreneurs, Established Firms, And Antecedents of Tie Formation, Academy of Management Journal , 65 (2), pp. 427-452.

    Abstract: Entrepreneurial and established firms form collaborative relationships to commercialize products. Through such ties, entrepreneurs seek (a) development help to hone ideas into marketable products and (b) access to markets. In most cases, entrepreneurs face a trade-off: they can be a big fish in a small pond, getting more attention and development help from a smaller firm with less market access, or a small fish in a big pond, getting less attention and help from a larger firm with more market access. Our study investigates what goes into choosing between these options. Drawing from resource dependence theory and an empirical study of tie formation between developers and publishers of PlayStation 2 video games, we develop and test a framework that identifies the key decision variables and focuses on two moderators—resource need evolution and resource uncertainty related to competition—that explain whether a big fish (more development help) or a big pond (more market access) drives tie formation. Our findings point to prospective peers as one of the significant decision criteria at tie formation and highlight the dynamic nature of resource dependence. Altogether, the results give resource dependence theory a dynamic element it has lacked in the past.

  • Jian Bai Li and Henning Piezunka (2020), The Uniplex Third: Enabling Single-Domain Role Transitions in Multiplex Relationships, Administrative Science Quarterly , 65 (2), pp. 314-358.

    Abstract: Actors in a multiplex relationship—one crossing multiple domains—can struggle to transition into new roles in one domain without disrupting existing interactions and the role hierarchy in another. Via an inductive study of intergenerational leadership successions in seven Chinese family firms, we examine how actors can complete such a single-domain role transition. We find that a succession between the founder/father and the successor/son is successful when the mother (i.e., the founder’s wife) is active in the family but not the firm, acting as a trustworthy third party to the founder and successor in the family while staying nonpartisan to their business disagreements. Limiting her involvement to the family allows the mother to help the founder and successor maintain their existing family roles and interactions while transitioning into new roles in the firm. A mother involved in both firm and family could not stay nonpartisan between the founder and successor, which compromised their trust in her and prevented her from legislating over their multiplex relationship and facilitating the succession. We conceptualize the position of the uniplex third: the network position an actor occupies when she or he is connected in only one domain to two actors who have a multiplex dyadic relationship. Our cases reveal that the uniplex third position grants an actor authority via establishing trustworthiness and nonpartisanship relative to a multiplex dyadic relationship. The uniplex third party can thus facilitate change in one domain and maintain stability in another. We also observe how the mother is inhibited from occupying the uniplex third position when her kin are involved in the firm’s top management. If conflicts exist in the firm between the mother’s nuclear family and her kin, we find the mother disengages from succession-aiding activities in both family and firm domains.

  • David Clough and Henning Piezunka (2020), Tie Dissolution in Market Networks: A Theory of Vicarious Performance Feedback, Administrative Science Quarterly, 65 (4), pp. 972-1017.

    Abstract: Managers need to periodically evaluate any exchange partner to decide whether to continue or dissolve the exchange tie, but doing so can be challenging because of causal ambiguity: it can be difficult to attribute organizational performance to any specific underlying factor. One way managers may evaluate their exchange partners is by observing the performance trajectories of competitors who rely on the same exchange partners. We propose a theory of vicarious performance feedback and test it in the context of Formula One motor racing. We find that a firm building a Formula One racing car is more likely to end an exchange relationship with an engine supplier after that supplier’s other customers experience an episode of poor performance relative to their historic track record. In line with an attention-based view of the firm, this behavior occurs when the firm’s own performance is below its aspiration level. This work extends our understanding of how managers use vicarious learning to supplement their direct experience when evaluating their exchange partners, expands our thinking about network dynamics by showing how network neighbors’ experiences can influence tie decisions made within a dyad, and contributes to the cognitive foundations of problemistic search by showing how external information is integrated into managers’ responses to their own firm’s underperformance.


All Courses

  • MGMT2300 - Entrepreneurship

    How do you take a good idea and turn it into a successful venture? Whether you plan to become a founder, investor, mentor, partner, or early employee of a startup company, this course will take you through the entire journey of new venture creation and development. MGMT 230 is a project-based survey course designed to provide an overview of the entrepreneurial process and give you practical hands-on experience with new venture development. You and a team will have the chance to ideate, test, and develop a pitch for an early-stage startup by incorporating material from class lectures, simulations, labs, and class discussions. By the end of the course, you will have a better understanding of what it takes to create a successful startup, as well as proven techniques for identifying and testing new market opportunities, acquiring resources, bringing new products and services to market, scaling, and exiting new ventures.

  • MGMT8010 - Entrepreneurship

    MGMT 801 is the foundation coures in the Entrepeurial Management program. The purpose of this course is to explore the many dimensions of new venture creation and growth. While most of the examples in class will be drawn from new venture formation, the principles also apply to entrepreneurship in corporate settings and to non-profit entrepreneurship. We will be concerned with content and process questions as well as with formulation and implementation issues that relate to conceptualizing, developing, and managing successful new ventures. The emphasis in this course is on applying and synthesizing concepts and techniques from functional areas of strategic management, finance, accounting, managerial economics, marketing, operations management, and organizational behavior in the context of new venture development. The class serves as both a stand alone class and as a preparatory course to those interested in writing and venture implementation (the subject of the semester-long course, MGMT 806). Format: Lectures and case discussions

  • MGMT9530 - Sem Research Design

    This is an introductory doctoral seminar on research methods in management. The course is designed to help you define your research interests, to strengthen your grasp of research design choices and standards, and to move you further along on the path to becoming a skilled, accomplished, engaged, and independent research scholar. We will read about, discuss, and in some cases practice: framing of research questions, writing for publication, defining and meeting research standards, and conducting experimental, archival, survey-based, and qualitative research suitable for publication in top-tier management journals.

Awards and Honors

  • Wharton Teaching Excellence Award, 2023
  • Nomination for the Best Teacher Award in the Executive MBA, 2017-2023
  • Emerging Scholar Award of the TIM Division at the Academy of Management, 2022
  • Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professor, Poets & Quants, 2019
  • Dean’s Commendation of Excellence in Teaching, 2014-2018
  • Best Teacher Award for MBA Cohorts, 2016-2018


Latest Research

Abhishek Nagaraj and Henning Piezunka (2024), The Impact of Competition on Crowdsourced Platforms, Strategy Science (forthcoming).
All Research