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University of Michigan School of Information


Inna Smirnova

A headshot of Inna Smirnova


Email: [email protected]

I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Michigan School of Information. In my research, I provide multiple pathways to explore how collaborative innovations unfold and how high-knowledge innovation teams can be influenced to become the most productive. In particular, I focus on helping organizations understand the effects of different organizational design levers on individual-level motivation and behavior that, in turn, shape macro-level team output and help to improve the direction of collaborative innovation. I use online innovation communities, including GitHub and Stack Overflow, and scientific teams as my research sites, and econometric analysis of archival data and experiments as my research methods.

Personal website


Dissertation title

Essays on the organizational design of online communities

Dissertation abstract

PhD Dissertation focus: Firms have for a long time recognized online communities as pools of human capital that reside outside the organizational boundary and constitute a complementary asset to firms’ traditional innovation activities when appropriately accessed and exploited. To do so effectively, however, firms need to get an in-depth understanding of how such communities work and how they can be influenced. To that end, I explore how different design solutions to fundamental problems of organizing—division of labor and reward distribution—affect participation and performance of community contributors. My first chapter explores how project owners in GitHub can manage their repositories so as to incentivize particularly high-skilled contributors to exert effort after joining a project. My second chapter examines how contributors, by collecting non-pecuniary awards for their contributions, attain high status within the Stack Overflow community. My third chapter explores what shapes project growth in online communities and how they can achieve efficient division of labor. Finally, my fourth chapter examines the consequences of delegating the decision-making power in the GitHub community with regards to talent management and decision-making processes.

Fields of interest

Organization Theory & Design
Innovation & Technology Strategy
Nonfinancial Incentives
Social Evaluation
Online Communities
Scientific Teams


BSc in Information Technologies, Kazan Federal University, 2012
MA in Management of Organizations, Kazan Federal University, 2014
MSc in Computer Science, University of Helsinki, 2014
PhD in Management, University of Vienna, 2020

Selected Publications

Smirnova I, Reitzig M, & Sorenson O. 2022.Building status in an online community.” Organization Science, forthcoming.
** Media coverage: UCLA Anderson Review.

Smirnova I, Reitzig M, & Alexy O. 2022. “What makes the right OSS contributor tick? Treatments to motivate high-skilled developers.” Research Policy 51(1).
** Media coverage: UMSI news.