Carnegie Mellon University

Sunkee Lee Award

October 12, 2017

Professor Sunkee Lee Wins Prestigious Awards at the 2017 Academy of Management Conference

Sunkee Lee, assistant professor of organizational theory and strategy at the Tepper School of Business, received the prestigious William H. Newman Award for Best Paper Based on a Dissertation and the Business Policy and Strategy Division Distinguished Student Paper Award at the 2017 Academy of Management Conference.

The winning paper, titled, “The Organizational Design of Spatial Proximity and its Influence on Organizational Learning: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," uses data on a change in employees’ seating assignments during an e-commerce company’s headquarters relocation to determine the causal relationship between spatial proximity among employees at a workplace and organizational learning. Lee finds that increasing the spatial proximity between the individual workspaces of employees who were previously physically separated leads to more individual-level exploration (i.e., innovations) and higher firm performance. Lee said he latched onto this idea through looking at trends from innovative firms like Google and Facebook which are experimenting with their office space.

“[This research is] meant to have practical and strategic implications for organizations,” Lee said. “If it was just the selection effect that innovative individuals are selecting themselves into innovative firms with appealing physical work spaces, then the firms who cannot get those human assets will have difficulties in creating new knowledge. But if this research is true that physical space matters, then firms can help their existing employees to come up with better ideas by reconfiguring the spatial proximity between them in a strategic manner.”

Lee joined the Tepper School in 2017 after earning his Ph.D. in strategy from INSEAD. Lee also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Seoul National University and a BBA from Korea University.

Lee has won additional awards in the past such as an Honorable Mention of the Best Conference Paper Prize at the 2015 Strategic Management Society Conference and Best Doctoral Student Paper Prize awarded by the Samsung Economic Research Institute at the 2015 Academy of Management Conference. He is also the author of research articles published in leading management journals such as Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal.