Derek Harmon, Marshall School of Business, Management and Organization

2016 Recipients of the PhD Achievement Award

Derek Harmon, Marshall School of Business, Management and Organization

Faculty Advisor: Peer Fiss

Derek Harmon studies how people in organizations use communication strategically to
influence and persuade others. In particular, his dissertation advances a novel
theory and way to measure how strategic communication works. This new
measurement—the argument structure ratio (ASR)—captures the degree to which a
speaker makes explicit their assumptions when communicating. Using all public
speeches made by the Chairperson of the United States Federal Reserve from 1998 to
2014, he shows that the more they expose their assumptions underlying the Federal
Reserve System, the more their speeches produce market uncertainty. This is because
strategic messages that expose people’s collective assumptions point to the
contingencies and therefore potential instability of those very assumptions, thereby
creating anxiety and uncertainty about the future. This work changes what we know
about how strategic communication works in financial markets. Specifically, it
challenges the dominant belief held by the Federal Reserve and others that more
communication should actually decrease market uncertainty because it presumably
conveys new information to market participants. His research has been published in
the Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, and Journal of
Experimental Psychology: Applied. After graduating, he will be starting as an
Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in their
Strategy group.