Franziska Lauenstein appointed as Assistant Professor of Strategy

Franziska Lauenstein’s appointment as Assistant Professor of Strategy at Kühne Logistics University represents not just a significant milestone in her career, but also a homecoming. Born in Hamburg, she completed her PhD at the University of Hamburg before going on to take up an assistant professorship at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in Odense. Lauenstein, whose research interests lie at the intersection of organization design and behavioral strategy, joined KLU in April this year.

Despite having spent four enjoyable, productive years at the SDU’s Strategic Organization Design Unit, Lauenstein says her decision to return to Hamburg and take up a role at the KLU was the right one to make. “The position at KLU is special in that it’s an assistant professorship, and in the German system those positions are very rare for junior researchers like me. My previous role as an assistant professor in Denmark was also in strategy and KLU is a young, internationally oriented university in Hamburg, all of which was very attractive.”

Lauenstein’s current research is in the area of organization design and centers on how organizations work.

“The broader picture is that I would like to understand how future organizations will work and how to make them work better. When I say how we can make them work better, then this basically means how we can design organizations so that individuals are able to try something new.”

As well her stint in Odense, Lauenstein spent time working with Professor Gael Le Mens at Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, where they started to work on the so-called “Hot Kitchen Effect”.

“In that research, we build on widely known phenomenon called ‘hot stove effect’ which got its name in reference to Mark Twain’s tale about a cat that, after burning itself on a hot stove avoids it. We show that when people make initial negative experiences and over-generalize, they will avoid exploring all new things - the cat avoids not only the stove but the whole kitchen."

In another recent project, Lauenstein, collaborating with Professors Oliver Baumann of the SDU and Thorsten Wahle of the Skema Business School in Lille in France, examines zones for experimentation in organizations. A recent trend, she says, is organizations trying to use flatter structures with less hierarchy to empower their employees. Here zones for experimentation can emerge.

“The idea is that if you flatten structures and people have more autonomy and might try new or riskier things. But there might also be behavioral consequences you didn't foresee. In my research I would then try to better understand what happens and what would managers need to do so that employees within those structures can thrive.”

Beyond her research, which will take her to a number of conferences this year, including The Strategic Management Society in Istanbul in October, Lauenstein will begin teaching courses on corporate strategy in the KLU bachelor’s program and on business strategy and sustainability in the master’s program in the fall.

Students on those programs can look forward to delving into case studies about real organizations, theorizing about what they and their managers might have done better in critical situations and reflecting on which theoretical tools would have helped and where their limits lie.

“It’s something that my students in the past really like a lot and I think they tend to learn a lot this way,” she says. “I can’t wait to get started.”