Organizational adaptation to uncertain futures

Exponentially accelerating technological change, the unravelling of the post-war geopolitical order, and growing costs from climate change are generating environmental turbulence and uncertainties about the future. Organizations play a critical role in structuring social and economic life and in mediating the wider impact of such environmental instabilities. How do organizations learn from and adapt to these increasingly turbulent and uncertain environments? What are the wider economic and societal effects of their reactions?

Institutional resilience and environmental change

The second theme that guides my research revolves around the institutional consequences of turbulent and uncertain environments. How and why do institutional systems respond to infusions of uncertainty? What role does the state and political processes play in these responses? When does greater uncertainty strengthen or weaken the resilience of existing institutional configurations? When and how do they transform them? What are the wider societal effects of such changes?

Institutional and organizational innovation

I am also interested in the conditions and processes that create new and innovative organizational and institutional solutions to the market disruptions caused by climate shocks. What conditions block or enable the emergence of more (or less) resilient, efficient, or democratic alternatives?


I explore above questions in the context of the effects of climate-related natural hazards on residential insurance and property markets. Insurance markets specialize in quantifying risk and predicting future atmospheric shocks. They consequently play a critical role in insulating the wider economy from related cost disruptions. Property markets serve as a key storage of wealth and greatly influence overall economic performance, inequality, and human flourishing.

Homeowner insurance and hurricanes – dissertation

My dissertation investigates how record hurricane damages along the Atlantic and Gulf coast have transformed the organizational composition and institutional governance of homeowner insurance markets between 1991 and 2013. The project draws on a proprietary panel data set that merges detailed financial and demographic information of property and casualty insurance companies in the U.S. with data on the timing and damage of all hurricanes, and the changing political, legal, and regulatory characteristics in all coastal states. To gain greater traction on the underlying explanatory mechanisms and processes, I complement statistical analyses of this data set with historical-comparative methods that draw on participant observation in professional risk modeling seminars and insurance conferences, semi-structured interviews with key actors and a wide range of policy, regulatory, insurer, and press reports on homeowner insurance market transformations. The project engages with research on organizational learning, organizational and institutional risk-taking and adaptation to rare and ambiguous events, and the contingencies of political mobilization and regulatory intervention.

Wildfires and property markets – data collection stage

My next project builds on my original dataset and expands the investigation of the adaptation of insurance and property markets to that of another growing atmospheric disaster in the U.S.: wildfires. This extension allows me to more systematically test and build on the insights from the hurricane case in a different geographic, institutional, and risk context. Like hurricane wind destruction, wildfires predominantly damage residential homes. Private homeowner insurance usually covers the resulting costs. The geographic concentration, risk profile, and temporal dimension of wildfire damage differs, however, from hurricanes. The project will compare the effects of wildfires on homeowner insurance and the evolution of property markets to that of more punctuated but larger hurricane costs.

Solutions to climate change related insurance and property market problems – data collection stage

I am in the exploratory stage of a project that will investigate the barriers to, emergence, and scaling up of technologically and organizationally innovative solutions to insurance-related (property) market problems created by the effects of climate change. This includes an exploration of the growing financialization of disaster insurance, the emergence of peer-to-peer insurance models and blockchain technology, the role of regulatory and policy efforts to encourage alternative models of insurance, and whether and how they can replace traditional insurance forms. I already have relevant insurance firm and disaster data and am in the process of collecting additional qualitative data for this project.

Political impact of natural disasters – conceptual stage

To better understand how the environmental turbulence and uncertainty caused by intensifying natural hazards alters the broader political economic makeup of advanced market societies, another project will statistically examine the effect of the interaction of natural hazards and social capital on political outcomes at the county and state level in the U.S.