Poppo invited to Nobel research symposium

Business prof one of few to attend international research event

Laura Poppo, professor of business, was among a select few chosen to attend a symposium Dec. 4 in honor of Oliver E. Williamson’s Nobel Prize at the BI Norwegian School of Management in Oslo. The event was attended by a small number of researchers whose work has been influential in the field of transaction cost economics.

Laura Poppo

The fact that Poppo, a strategic management professor, was invited to a symposium reserved for leading economists and scholars advancing the field is a testament to the traits she shares with the Nobel Prize winner. Both professors have spent their careers examining the benefits and limitations of markets and firms, expanding their research to include other academic areas.

“This is why Williamson’s work is so significant,” Poppo said. “His research has influenced many disciplines outside of economics – marketing, strategic management, international business, organizational theory – many other disciplines reference his work.”

Although Poppo was invited to the symposium specifically because of her contributions to Williamson’s specialty, this wasn’t her first encounter with the Nobel Prize winner. She met him 15 years ago while teaching at Washington University, where Williamson was a guest lecturer. Williamson also reviewed a recent publication of Poppo’s.

“I have spent most of my career examining empirically whether Williamson’s claims are supported or not,” said Poppo. “And how his ideas should be expanded to better explain the phenomenon.”

The study of transaction cost economics lends itself well to interdisciplinary study. According to Poppo, the field examines the role of firms in an economy and how firms can actually exist as hierarchical organizations, which coordinate specialized transactions more efficiently than markets.

“Williamson’s research proposed why a large firm could and should exist,” Poppo said. “Because markets fail. Prior to this time, economists believed that markets were the optimal form of organization and firms were incidental.”

Williamson is an Edgar F. Kaiser Professor Emeritus of Business, Economics and Law at the University of California-Berkeley. According to the Nobel Prize Web site, he received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics for “his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm.” Williamson shares the prize with Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University, awarded for her “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.”

Poppo’s academic interests include strategic management, international business and empirical tests of strategic, economic and sociological perspectives.

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