Scholarly Works - Judge Business School


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 260
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Applying Behavioural Insights to Policy: From Evidence to Practice
    (2020-12-21) Jarke, Hannes; Varaday, Grihith; Ruggeri, Kai; Ruggeri, Kai [0000-0002-8470-101X]; Jarke, Hannes [0000-0002-6022-6381]
    Evidence from the behavioural sciences is increasingly used to inform and improve policy around the world across many domains. These behavioural insights can be used for a number of purposes, such as improving communication to the public, encouraging healthier behaviour, and increasing the uptake of social services that improve life outcomes. However, not all evidence can be equally applied to any policy; the strength of the evidence and suitability for the situation at hand should be assessed case by case and ideally more evidence within the new context should be established. This report presents an approach to incorporating behavioural insights into policy using a number of examples while leveraging original work on mental health, trust, and decision-making in Lebanon. The aim is not to present a specific recipe or set of recommendations, but to share general concepts and examples for consideration in establishing a behavioural policy framework.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Brace for impact: uniting our diverse voices through a social impact frame
    (Elsevier, 2018-09) Wry, T; Haugh, HM; Haugh, Helen [0000-0002-5239-262X]
    The research on prosocial organizing is undeniably broad, with studies examining enterprises that embody a variety of organizational forms, pursue a wide range of social goals, and face numerous internal and external challenges. Qualitative and quantitative research methods have both been used, and arguments have been developed that touch on almost all areas of management theory. Yet despite this diversity, all of this research is arguably motivated by a desire to: 1) understand the challenges faced by organizations that aspire to create value for people, communities, and the natural environment (Rynes et al., 2012; Walsh, 2011) and; 2) help these organizations to achieve their social and environmental goals (Nason et al., 2018; Walsh, 2011). To date, however, few studies in the management literature have directly considered how prosocial organizations impact society. The typical approach has been to focus on organization-level processes, outputs and outcomes, while taking for granted that prosocial organizing has positive societal impacts. On one hand, this approach has catalyzed a rich and growing literature that speaks to the challenges of prosocial organizing (Battilana and Lee, 2014; Battilana et al., 2017; Rynes et al., 2012) as well as the processes through which these organizations emerge (Sine and Lee, 2009; Tracey et al., 2011), acquire resources (Cobb et al., 2016; Moss et al., 2018; York et al., 2016; Zhao et al., 2016) and scale (André and Pache, 2016; Seelos and Mair, 2017). Yet by leaving societal impact implicit, scholars have more to do if we are to advance knowledge about how prosocial organizing impacts society. In this editorial we advocate for bringing social impact considerations to the fore, and argue that scholars who study prosocial organizing be thoughtful about how their work contributes to such understanding. We believe that doing so can provide the foundation for more integrative and generative research conversations that embrace the institutional and organizational aspects of creating social impact, as well as the interplay between the two. Before proceeding, though, it is important to define what we mean by "impact." When thinking about impact, there are multiple levels at which change may be affected (Rawhouser et al., 2017; Smith and Besharov, 2017). To this end, development practitioners have long recognized that impact comprises much more than the link between a specific intervention and a desired outcome. Rather, impact is the endpoint of a causal chain (or logic model) wherein an enterprise acquires resources, transforms these into activities, and creates outputs that impact society (Ebrahim and Rangan, 2014; McLaughlin and Jordan, 2005; van Tulder et al., 2016). Traditionally, this type of model has been used to assess the performance of individual organizations. However, by providing a framework to think about the processes through which impact is created, we argue that the logic model can be usefully adapted to: 1) organize disparate studies in the management and entrepreneurship literature into coherent, impact-oriented, research streams; 2) provide scholars with a language to both situate and convey their contributions to social impact research, and; 3) help identify theoretical and empirical puzzles that point to opportunities for future research. In this editorial we review the logic model and discuss its relevance for research on prosocial organizing. Specifically, we argue that by defining and differentiating between aspects of the impact-creation process, the logic model helps both to organize existing studies in a way that shows their relevance for understanding social impact, and highlights opportunities for future research. In this regard, the logic model can be applied in a variety of ways: for instance, it might be used to map-out research that focuses on a specific type of organization (e.g., an impact model of microfinance) or on a particular societal outcome (e.g., an impact model of empowerment). For our purposes, though, we use the logic model to organize key studies on social entrepreneurship; arguably the dominant prosocial organizing research stream. Through this exercise, we show that management scholars have contributed in many ways to our understanding of how social enterprises pursue prosocial goals. Yet we also note that this work says little about the achievement of broader systemic change. Based on our analysis, we suggest three principal domains for future impact research. In short, our approach encourages scholars to recognize how their work connects to broader conversations about social impact, both in general terms, and in relation to specific organizations, activities and outcomes. In so doing, we note that there are many ways to contribute to impact research, and that no one study, theory, or research method can address the complexity of the phenomenon. Each study contributes a knowledge piece to a much larger puzzle. In this spirit, we aim to show that embracing the logic model for impact research can help management scholars find common cause in diverse approaches, while also pursuing research that advances collective understanding about social impact in general terms, as well as in specific empirical domains. In this regard, we encourage scholars to reclaim the early mantle of our profession, and embrace considerations of impact in our work (Hinings and Greenwood, 2002; Rynes et al., 2012). While there is no need for this to take away from broader theoretical discussions—or attempts to advance research on such conceptual frontiers—we see great opportunities to engage deeply with different organizational contexts, different interventions, and different desired impacts in the spirit of affecting and supporting change that extends beyond the narrow confines of the academic community.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Evaluating an automated number series item generator using linear logistic test models
    (Inderscience, 2018-04) Loe, BS; Sun, L; Simonfy, F; Doebler, P; Sun, Luning [0000-0002-2470-4278]
    This study investigates the item properties of a newly developed Automatic Number Series Item Generator (ANSIG). The foundation of the ANSIG is based on five hypothesised cognitive operators. Thirteen item models were developed using the numGen R package and eleven were evaluated in this study. The 16-item ICAR (International Cognitive Ability Resource1) short form ability test was used to evaluate construct validity. The Rasch Model and two Linear Logistic Test Model(s) (LLTM) were employed to estimate and predict the item parameters. Results indicate that a single factor determines the performance on tests composed of items generated by the ANSIG. Under the LLTM approach, all the cognitive operators were significant predictors of item difficulty. Moderate to high correlations were evident between the number series items and the ICAR test scores, with high correlation found for the ICAR Letter-Numeric-Series type items, suggesting adequate nomothetic span. Extended cognitive research is, nevertheless, essential for the automatic generation of an item pool with predictable psychometric properties
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Which smart electricity service contracts will consumers accept? The demand for compensation in a platform market
    (Elsevier, 2018-05) Pollitt, MG; Richter, Laura-Lucia; Pollitt, Michael [0000-0002-6858-129X]
    This paper analyses the heterogeneity of household consumer preferences for electricity service contracts in a smart grid context. Platform pricing strategies that could incentivise consumers to participate in a two-sided electricity platform market are discussed. The research is based on original data from a discrete choice experiment on electricity service contracts that was conducted with 1,892 electricity consumers in Great Britain in 2015. We estimate a flexible mixed logit model in willingness to pay space and exploit the results in posterior analysis. The findings suggest that while consumers are willing to pay for technical support services, they are likely to demand significant compensation to share their usage and personally identifying data and to participate in automated demand response programs involving remote monitoring and control of electricity usage. Cross-subsidisation of consumers combining appropriate participation payments with sharing of bill savings could incentivise participation of the number of consumers required to provide the optimal level of demand response. We also examine the preference heterogeneity to suggest how, by targeting customers with specific characteristics, smart electricity service providers could significantly reduce their customer acquisition costs.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Market design for a high-renewables European electricity system
    (Elsevier, 2018-08) Newbery, David; Pollitt, Michael; Ritz, RA; Strielkowski, W; Pollitt, Michael [0000-0002-6858-129X]
    This paper presents a set of policy recommendations for the market design of a future European electricity system characterized by a dominant share of intermittent renewable energy supply (RES), in line with the stated targets of European governments. We discuss the market failures that need to be addressed to accommodate RES in liberalized electricity markets, review the evolution of the EU’s RES policy mechanisms, and summarize the key market impacts of RES to date. We then set out economic principles for wholesale market design and use these to develop our policy recommendations. Our analysis covers the value of interconnection and market integration, electricity storage, the design of RES support mechanisms, distributed generation and network tariffs, the pricing of electricity and flexibility as well as long-term contracting and risk management.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    A network ridesharing experiment with sequential choice of transportation mode
    (Springer Nature, 2018-10) Mak, WS; Seale, DA; Gisches, EJ; Rapoport, A; Cheng, M; Moon, M; Yang, R; Mak, Vincent [0000-0002-4690-0819]
    Within the last decade, there has been a dramatic bloom in ridesharing businesses along with the emergence of new enabling technologies. A central issue in ridesharing, which is also important in the general domain of cost-sharing in economics and computer science, is that the sharing of cost implies positive externalities and hence coordination problems for the network users. We investigate these problems experimentally in the present study. In particular, we focus on how sequential observability of transportation mode choices can be a powerful facilitator of coordination in ridesharing. Our study abstracts the essential issues of coordination in ridesharing into a directed network game with experimentally testable predictions. In line with the theoretical analysis, our experimental evidence shows that even a limited extent of sequential choice observability might lead to efficient coordination. However, convergence to efficiency is slower with more limited observability, resulting in a significant increase in travel cost.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    New ways of seeing: radical theorizing
    (Academy of Management, 2018-04) Nadkarni, S; Gruber, M; DeCelles, K; Connelly, B; Baer, M
    At AMJ, we encourage authors to produce novel, interesting, and theoretically bold work, and recommend that authors ask themselves how their manuscript challenges, changes, or advances what we know at a theoretical level before submitting their paper for review. The strength of a manuscript’s theoretical contribution is a key element that is considered by reviewers and associate editors alike when evaluating the merits of a study. In our endeavor to stimulate New Ways of Seeing in management research, this editorial focuses on “radical theorizing,” which is the generation of completely new theoretical insights that may lead to a substantial departure from existing paradigms. Theorization, in general, may be viewed as disciplined imagination (Mills, 1959; Weick, 1989) and allows scholars to systematically explain and predict outcomes of interest (Cook & Campbell, 1979). Radical theorizing, though, emphasizes the achievement of significant creative leaps as evidenced, for instance, by drawing on pertinent distal theories, and formulating novel relationships (cf. Colquitt & Zapata-Phelan, 2007). It can be viewed as the process by which we accomplish theoretical prescience (Corley & Gioia, 2011; Kuhn, 1962)—creating understandings that resolve existing ambiguities over future states. Interestingness is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the outcome of this process (an idea that is original and has both scientific and practical utility); it is not a process to derive ideas that are merely counterintuitive or painfully obvious. Through radical theorizing, scholars introduce new research directions that may fundamentally shape future discourse on a topic. This editorial offers ideas on how scholars might want to think about radical theorizing. We borrow from research on innovation and organizational learning as well as the philosophy of science to discuss the important role of radical theorizing in achieving scientific progress, different approaches to radical theorizing, and insights one may obtain from observing the work of radical theorizers in the past. We conclude by offering some practical tips on how one can get started with radical theorizing in their own work.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Carbon capture and storage: the way forward
    (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2018-05) Bui, M; Adjiman, CS; Bardow, A; Boston, A; Brown, S; Fennell, PS; Fuss, S; Galindo, A; Hackett, LA; Hallett, JP; Herzog, HJ; Jackson, G; Kemper, J; Krevor, S; Maitland, GC; Matuszewski, M; Metcalfe, IS; Petit, C; Puxty, G; Reimer, J; Reiner, DM; Rubin, ES; Scott, SA; Shah, N; Smit, B; Trusler, JPM; Webley, P; Wilcox, J; MacDowell, N; Reiner, David [0000-0003-2004-8696]
    Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is broadly recognised as having the potential to play a key role in meeting climate change targets, delivering low carbon heat and power, decarbonising industry and, more recently, its ability to facilitate the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. However, despite this broad consensus and its technical maturity, CCS has not yet been deployed on a scale commensurate with the ambitions articulated a decade ago. Thus, in this paper we review the current state-of-the-art of CO2 capture, transport, utilisation and storage from a multi-scale perspective, moving from the global to molecular scales. In light of the COP21 commitments to limit warming to less than 2 °C, we extend the remit of this study to include the key negative emissions technologies (NETs) of bioenergy with CCS (BECCS), and direct air capture (DAC). Cognisant of the non-technical barriers to deploying CCS, we reflect on recent experience from the UK's CCS commercialisation programme and consider the commercial and political barriers to the large-scale deployment of CCS. In all areas, we focus on identifying and clearly articulating the key research challenges that could usefully be addressed in the coming decade.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Evaluating market consolidation in mobile communications
    (Oxford University Press, 2018-01) Genakos, C; Valletti, TM; Verboven, F
    We study the dual relationship between market structure and prices and between market structure and investment in mobile telecommunications. Using a uniquely constructed panel of mobile operators' prices and accounting information across 33 OECD countries between 2002 and 2014, we document that more concentrated markets lead to higher end user prices. Furthermore, they also lead to higher investment per mobile operator, though the impact on total investment is not conclusive. Our findings are not only relevant for the current consolidation wave in the telecommunications industry. More generally, they stress that competition and regulatory authorities should take seriously the potential trade-off between market power effects and efficiency gains stemming from agreements between firms.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    The interplay between forward-looking measures and target setting
    (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), 2017-09) Bouwens, J; Kroos, P; Bouwens, Johannes [0000-0002-8555-7056]
    We examine whether financial targets are based on both forward-looking and financial information, rather than on financial information only. We collect sales and performance appraisal data of store managers in a retail chain. The firm issues directives focused on the provision of excellent customer service and assesses store managers’ compliance with these directives subjectively. We demonstrate that, controlling for current sales, compliance with directives scores predicts future sales performance. We find that, next to objective sales information, this forward-looking information is impounded in the next year’s sales target. Finally, we find some evidence that suggests that incorporating forward-looking information improves the accuracy of sales targets.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Connections and collaboration—celebrating the contributions of Barbara Gray
    (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018-02) Purdy, J; Kish‐Gephart, J; Labianca, G; Ansari, SM; Ansari, Shahzad [0000-0002-3620-078X]
    In July 2017, Dr. Barbara Gray was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the IACM during its 30th annual conference in Berlin, Germany. In this tribute article, we celebrate Barbara's unique and varied contributions to our understanding of conflict and collaboration. We highlight multiple aspects of Barbara's scholarly work including research on (a) intergroup conflict and organizational change, (b) power and conflict dynamics, (c) frames and framing, and (d) shared meanings and institutional theory approaches to conflict and conflict resolution. In reviewing this work, we recognize Barbara's lifelong concern for social justice and environmental sustainability, her pioneering use of qualitative methods, and her ongoing commitment to the development of young scholars.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    De Finetti on uncertainty
    (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2014-01) Feduzi, A; Runde, J; Zappia, C; Runde, Jochen [0000-0001-9596-5144]
    The well-known Knightian distinction between quantifiable risk and unquantifiable uncertainty is at odds with the dominant subjectivist conception of probability associated with de Finetti, Ramsey and Savage. Risk and uncertainty are rendered indistinguishable on the subjectivist approach insofar as an individual’s subjective estimate of the probability of any event can be elicited from the odds at which she would be prepared to bet for or against that event. The risk/uncertainty distinction has however never quite gone away and is currently under renewed theoretical scrutiny. The purpose of this article is to show that de Finetti’s understanding of the distinction is more nuanced than is usually admitted. Relying on usually overlooked excerpts of de Finetti’s works commenting on Keynes, Knight and interval valued probabilities, we argue that de Finetti suggested a relevant theoretical case for uncertainty to hold even when individuals are endowed with subjective probabilities. Indeed, de Finetti admitted that the distinction between risk and uncertainty is relevant when different individuals sensibly disagree about the probability of the occurrence of an event. We conclude that the received interpretation of de Finetti’s understanding of subjective probability needs to be qualified on this front.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Uncovering unknown unknowns: towards a Baconian approach to management decision-making
    (Elsevier BV, 2014-07) Feduzi, A; Runde, J; Runde, Jochen [0000-0001-9596-5144]
    Bayesian decision theory and inference have left a deep and indelible mark on the literature on management decision-making. There is however an important issue that the machinery of classical Bayesianism is ill equipped to deal with, that of “unknown unknowns” or, in the cases in which they are actualised, what are sometimes called “Black Swans”. This issue is closely related to the problems of constructing an appropriate state space under conditions of deficient foresight about what the future might hold, and our aim is to develop a theory and some of the practicalities of state space elaboration that addresses these problems. Building on ideas originally put forward by Bacon (1620), we show how our approach can be used to build and explore the state space, how it may reduce the extent to which organisations are blindsided by Black Swans, and how it ameliorates various well-known cognitive biases.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    De Finetti on the insurance of risks and uncertainties
    (University of Chicago Press, 2012-06) Feduzi, A; Runde, J; Zappia, C; Runde, Jochen [0000-0001-9596-5144]
    In the insurance literature, it is often argued that private markets can provide insurance against ‘risks’ but not against ‘uncertainties’ in the sense of Knight ([1921]) or Keynes ([1921]). This claim is at odds with the standard economic model of risk exchange which, in assuming that decision-makers are always guided by point-valued subjective probabilities, predicts that all uncertainties can, in theory, be insured. Supporters of the standard model argue that the insuring of highly idiosyncratic risks by Lloyd's of London proves that this is so even in practice. The purpose of this article is to show that Bruno de Finetti, famous as one of the three founding fathers of the subjective approach to probability assumed by the standard model, actually made a theoretical case for uncertainty within the subjectivist approach. We draw on empirical evidence from the practice of underwriters to show how this case may help explain the reluctance of insurers to cover highly uncertain contingencies.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Organization identity and earnings manipulation
    (Elsevier BV, 2017-04-18) Abernethy, MA; Bouwens, J; Kroos, P; Bouwens, Johannes [0000-0002-8555-7056]
    Management scholars are beginning to provide empirical evidence that organization identity (OI) can be a powerful means of reducing agency costs. We examine whether an individual's identity with the firm influences the agency costs associated with incentive contracts, namely earnings manipulation. Based on OI theory, we expect that managers who identify with the firm gain utility by taking actions that in their view benefits the firm, and experience disutility from taking actions that are harmful to the firm. Drawing on a third-party survey database, we find that performance-based compensation is associated with higher levels of earnings manipulation. Importantly, we also find that managers with incentive-based compensation engage in lower levels of opportunistic earnings manipulation when they identify with the firm.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Only timeline will tell: temporal framing of competitive announcements and rivals' responses
    (Academy of Management, 2019-02) Nadkarni, S; Pan, L; Chen, T
    Research has focused predominantly on the influence of the language firms use in their announcements on the reactions of constituents such as shareholders and the media. We extend this research by examining a new form of linguistic construction––temporal framing—in the context of competitive interactions. Building on inter-temporal choice theory, we theorized and tested how a focal firm’s temporal framing of its competitive action announcements affects rivals’ response speed. We examined three dimensions of temporal framing: temporal vagueness (lack of clarity and completeness regarding timelines); temporal distance (length of the action timeline: proximal versus distal); and frequency (repetition of vagueness and distance cues). Based on analysis of 2,130 competitive action press releases of 28 duopoly firms from 14 industries, we found that the temporal framing dimensions, both individually and interactively, were related to the response speed of rivals. Specifically, temporally vague and distally framed timelines in action announcements delayed rivals’ response speed, and increased frequency of vagueness and distance cues strengthened these effects. This study explicates the linguistic underpinnings of competitive interactions and highlights the importance of temporal framing in the competitive context.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Working and organizing in the age of the learning algorithm
    (Elsevier, 2018-03) Faraj, S; Pachidi, S; Sayegh, K; Pachidi, Styliani [0000-0003-4024-079X]
    Learning algorithms, technologies that generate responses, classifications, or dynamic predictions that resemble those of a knowledge worker, raise important research questions for organizational scholars related to work and organizing. We suggest that such algorithms are distinguished by four consequential aspects: black-boxed performance, comprehensive digitization, anticipatory quantification, and hidden politics. These aspects are likely to alter work and organizing in qualitatively different ways beyond simply signaling an acceleration of long-term technology trends. Our analysis indicates that learning algorithms will transform expertise in organizations, reshape work and occupational boundaries, and offer novel forms of coordination and control. Thus, learning algorithms can be considered performative due to the extent to which their use can shape and alter work and organizational realities. Their rapid deployment requires scholarly attention to societal issues such as the extent to which the algorithm is authorized to make decisions, the need to incorporate morality in the technology, and their digital iron-cage potential.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Psychological targeting as an effective approach to digital mass persuasion
    (National Academy of Sciences, 2017-11) Stillwell, DJ; Matz, SC; Kosinski, M; Nave, G; Stillwell, David [0000-0003-0174-3212]
    People are exposed to persuasive communication across many different contexts: governments, companies, and political parties use persuasive appeals to encourage people to eat healthier, purchase a particular product, or vote for a specific candidate. Laboratory studies show that such persuasive appeals are more effective in influencing behavior when they are tailored to individuals’ unique psychological characteristics. Yet, the investigation of large-scale psychological persuasion in the real world has been hindered by the questionnaire-based nature of psychological assessment. Recent research, however, shows that people’s psychological characteristics can be accurately predicted from their digital footprints, such as their Facebook Likes or Tweets. Capitalizing on this new form of psychological assessment from digital footprints, we test the effects of psychological persuasion on people’s actual behavior in an ecologically valid setting. In three field experiments that reached over 3.5 million individuals with psychologically-tailored advertising, we find that matching the content of persuasive appeals to individuals’ psychological characteristics significantly altered their behavior as measured by clicks and purchases. Persuasive appeals that were matched to people’s extraversion or openness-to-experience level resulted in up to 40% more clicks and up to 50% more purchases than their mismatching or un-personalized counterparts. Our findings suggest that the application of psychological targeting makes it possible to influence the behavior of large groups of people by tailoring persuasive appeals to the psychological needs of the target audiences. We discuss both the potential benefits of this method for helping individuals make better decisions and the potential pitfalls related to manipulation and privacy.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Maintenance of cross-sector partnerships: the role of frames in sustained collaboration
    (Springer Nature, 2018-06) Klitsie, EJ; Ansari, SM; Volberda, HW; Ansari, Shahzad [0000-0002-3620-078X]
    We examine the framing mechanisms used to maintain a cross-sector partnership (XSP) that was created to address a complex long-term social issue. We study the first eight years of existence of an XSP that aims to create a market for recycled phosphorus, a nutrient that is critical to crop growth but whose natural reserves have dwindled significantly. Drawing on 27 interviews and over 3,000 internal documents, we study the evolution of different frames used by diverse actors in an XSP. We demonstrate the role of framing in helping actors to avoid some of the common pitfalls for an XSP, such as debilitating conflict, and in creating sufficient common ground to sustain collaboration. As opposed to a commonly held assumption in the XSP literature, we find that collaboration in a partnership does not have to result in a unanimous agreement around a single or convergent frame regarding a contentious issue. Rather, successful collaboration between diverse partners can also be achieved by maintaining a productive tension between different frames through ‘optimal’ frame plurality – not excessive frame variety that may prevent agreements from emerging, but the retention of a select few frames and the deletion of others towards achieving a narrowing frame bandwidth. One managerial implication is that resources need not be focussed on reaching a unanimous agreement among all partners on a single mega-frame vis-à-vis a contentious issue, but can instead be used to kindle a sense of unity in diversity that allows sufficient common ground to emerge, despite the variety of actors and their positions.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Room for Silence: Ebola Research, Pluralism and the Pragmatic Study of Sociomaterial Practices
    (Springer Nature, 2018-12) Holeman, IM
    The notion of sociomaterial practices speaks to a view of routine work in which people and materials are always already entangled. This implies that the commonsense tendency to treat concrete materials and social activity as separate analytical categories may actually muddy more than illuminate our understanding of practices. Engaging work from science and technology studies, this broad view of materiality refers not only to the physical properties of machines but also to software and algorithms, electrical grids and other infrastructure, buildings, human bodies, ecological systems etc. Despite remarkable enthusiasm, the conversation about sociomaterial practices occasionally has devolved into philosophical turf wars, engendering pleas for pluralism. All too often, such lofty conceptual debates lose sight of pragmatic concerns such as technology design work or humanitarian action. This essay traces both issues to a tension between adopting a grand philosophical Ontology, versus undertaking detailed empirical studies of particular concrete work practices. I argue that studies exploring the practical specifics of particular sociomaterial practices should be granted room for silence with respect to some theoretical commitments, on the grounds that this will afford a more lively pluralism. For ethnomethodologists, this re-orientation to grand theory is a matter of methodological rigor and theoretical sophistication. For pragmatists, room for silence has to do with the dilemma of rigor or practical relevance. This is not to say that key concepts are unnecessary—they can provoke us to look beyond narrow disciplinary confines and standard assumptions about the scope of field studies. Through an account of the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, I show how these conceptual debates matter for empirical research and for design practice. In this case, complex technical and biosocial processes made a concrete difference in the course of the outbreak and the humanitarian response to it. For practitioners no less than for researchers, this case throws into sharp relief the real human stakes of grasping how the material world gets caught up in workaday human activity.