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Bullish on Uncertainty


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Table of Contents

Foreword Kenneth J. Gergen; 1. Bullish on uncertainty; Part I. Work Practices: 2. Practices that reduced cognitive uncertainty at Individual Bank; 3. Practices that amplified cognitive uncertainty at Organization Bank; Part II. Psychological Transformation: 4. Recruiting; 5. Individual-centered transformation; 6. Organization-centered transformation; 7. An alternative approach to organizational and psychological transformation.

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Studies how two highly successful Wall Street investment banks managed the uncertainty of their high-velocity environment through different work practices.

About the Author

Alexandra Michel is assistant professor in the Department of Management and Organization at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. Before receiving a Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania and beginning her academic career, she worked as an investment banker in Goldman Sachs' mergers and acquisitions department, and she worked under Goldman's Chief of Staff, helping the firm implement a new approach to executive education, with topics that included leadership, banker development, and building client relationships. Her interdisciplinary publication record includes such journals as Administrative Science Quarterly, Theory and Psychology, and Learning Inquiry. Stanton Wortham is the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Learning Identity (Cambridge University Press, 2006).


"Investment bankers and investment banks have long shrouded what they do under a veil of mystery that has made serious study of the people and institutions difficult if not impossible. This is unfortunate given their deep importance both to our culture and our economy. Bullish on Uncertainty makes a significant contribution to our understanding of what drives the success of the best of these organizations." --Jonathan A. Knee, Senior Managing Director, Evercore Partners "Alexandra Michel and Stanton Wortham have provided a stunning illustration of the intricate inter-play between culture and human development in what might at first appear to be the most unlikely of conditions: the changes in adult bankers who enter contrasting banking organizations. Leveraging the fact that one bank adopts an individual-oriented set of practices that map onto the assumptions of standard cognitive psychology, while the other adopts practices that emphasize interdependence in a community of practice, they provide a level of empirical specificity that makes for compelling reading and sets a new standard that should be a beacon for the development of both theory and practice in the years to come." --Dr. Michael Cole, University of California, San Diego "This brilliant study provides some quite counter-intuitive insights into how we function in today's cutting edge organizations and of how these organizations change us. The range and depth of scholarship generate a new level of understanding of the psychological and organizational forces at work in today's economy." --James V. Wertsch, Washington University in St. Louis

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