Announcing the Winners of the 2022 Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on the Role of Organizational Behavior in Competition

December 8, 2022

Shaping and Exploring

Strategy and Organizational Behavior

The 2022 Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on the Role of Organizational Behavior in Competition offered three rounds of awards for intellectually bold work that reinvigorated strategic thinking on organizational behavior and its impact on strategic competition. What are, or what might be in the future, cases of great strengths or great weaknesses of organizational behavior in developing or implementing strategy?

The grand prize-winning paper will be presented and published in Spring 2023. Read about the format of the competition here.

Grand Prize Winners Elliot M. Seckler and Travis Zahnow

Rethinking Strategic Competition with China

(How U.S. Organizational Culture is Shaping a Reactive Foreign Policy and Subject to a Reverse Competitive Strategy)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the most persistent threat to the United States and the international order since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This paper raises three central questions: is the way the U.S. government engages in strategic competition with China based on United States interests? Or are the resulting strategies and actions the ways the CCP wants the U.S. government and its leaders to operate? Is the U.S. vulnerable to a Chinese reverse competitive strategies approach? While challenging to ascertain, the paper posits that, because of organizational behavior and culture, the U.S. foreign policy community approaches strategic competition in ways not advantageous to the United States. The paper raises the idea of competitive strategies in the U.S.-CCP strategic competition through an analysis of the political-military condition of U.S. foreign policy. By exploring contemporary issues such as Taiwan and integrated deterrence, juxtaposed against historical examples, an underlying pattern emerges. Because of ill-defined objectives and meanings of success, the U.S. could be playing into CCP strategies, interests, and advantages. The goal is not to supply a prescriptive or direct answer, but to provide a diagnostic assessment on the susceptibility of the U.S. to such a reality.


Don Casler

Credible to Whom? Credibility, Organizational Politics, and Crisis Decision Making

When and why do foreign policy decision makers care about the credibility of their own state’s commitments? How do policymakers’ conceptions of credibility affect their willingness to support the use of force during crises? Building on classic scholarship in bureaucratic politics, I argue that organizational identity affects the dimensions of credibility that policymakers value, and ultimately, their advocacy on the use of force. While military officials equate credibility with hard military capabilities, diplomats view credibility in terms of reputation, or demonstrating reliability and resolve to external parties. During crises, military officials confine their advice on the use of force to what can be achieved given current capabilities, while diplomats exhibit higher willingness to use force as a signal of a strong commitment. I demonstrate support for these propositions using three illustrative case studies of U.S. foreign policy decision making. I demonstrate that credibility concerns affect the balance of hawkishness in advice that diplomats and military officials deliver to leaders as a function of organizational identity. These findings have key implications for contemporary policy debates about credibility, civil-military relations, and crisis bargaining under the aegis of strategic competition.

Julia Coff

Virtualization, Organizational Attention, and the Perceiving of Weak Cues

How does the transition to virtual work impact organizational attention, and with what strategic consequences? I propose that virtualization reduces an organization’s ability to perceive weak cues in its strategic environment, through changes in attentional coherence (with consequences for an organization’s ability to notice) and attentional vividness (with consequences for an organization’s ability to interpret). Two mechanisms underpin this. First, I propose that virtualization catalyzes disparate internal sensemaking, which makes for reduced attentional coherence. Reduced attentional coherence, in turn, inhibits an organization’s ability to notice weak cues. The boundary condition for this is the integration of attention across the organization, which may transmute dysfunctional attentional incoherence into its more functional counterpart, attentional specialization. In such instances, organizations may, in fact, improve in their ability to notice weak cues. Second, I propose that virtualization intensifies centralization. This compartmentalizes organizations in ways that impoverish an organization’s collective repertoire of schema, thereby decreasing attentional vividness. This, in turn, attenuates an organization’s ability to interpret weak cues. Together, these propositions attempt to explicate some of the ways that competitive consequences follow from changes in the means of work and from cognition at multiple levels of an organization.

Tom Welch

Chinese Science & Technology: Organizational Behavior, Competition, & The Middle-Innovation Trap

Science and technology (S&T) will be a significant part the U.S.-China strategic competition to 2050. During this period, Chinese S&T organizational behavior will be affected by political, cultural, and other expectations and constraints. How might these requirements affect Chinese S&T organizations? How might their decisions, incentives, and innovations be influenced? A necessary first step in addressing these kinds of questions is to take an analytical, diagnostic perspective- how to think about the problem. This paper first asks if anything like this has happened before. What does history disclose about ideology, and authoritative government policy affecting S&T organizational behavior? Second, the paper considers modern Chinese S&T organizational behavior and how Chinese culture, political, and other factors influence that behavior. Finally, given historical and modern examples of Chinese S&T organizational behavior, the paper asks how to think about its relation to competition. As an illustration, the paper argues that many Chinese S&T centered modernization programs are bounded by a middle-innovation trap – a good return on investments into known science, technology and innovations (re-innovation) but an inability, a reluctance on challenging and moving beyond what is known. This results from major, systemic, difficult-to-change weaknesses offering competitive opportunities.



George Bogden

Recreating ‘Policy Hill’: A Case Study Supporting the Installation of a Contingency Planning Group at the National Security Council

Anand Datla

A Case Study – The Organizational Behavior of the U.S. and Imperial Japanese Navy’s Torpedo Development Efforts Up to and During the 1940s

Eliza Gheorghe, Muhammet Muhammetgulyyev

Ex Uno Plures: Organizational Behavior, Deterrence Strategy, and Alliance Management

Sara Moller

Explaining Organizational Adaptations in Modern Wars: Evidence from Afghanistan

Zoe Robbin

The Privatization of State-Building and National Security: How the Department of State’s Procurement Processes Impact the Implementation of American Strategy

Special Thanks

To Our Reviewers

Facilitator: Stephen P. Rosen

Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky

Robyn Ferguson

Aaron Friedberg

Licia Hahn

Michael Horowitz

Michael Hunzeker

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Lionel Tiger

Sally White