Enhancing Student Learning Through Scaffolded Client Projects

[We’re pleased to welcome author Elizabeth Tomlinson of West Virginia University. Tomlinnson recently published an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Enhancing Student Learning Through Scaffolded Client Projects.” Below, Tomlinson outlines the inspiration for this study:]

As a Teaching Assistant Professor, much of my research tends to focus on advancing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (STL). I want to ensure that the pedagogical practices I’m using are meeting my students’ needs, as well as advancing pedagogy within the disciplinBPCQ_v77n1_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpge. Simultaneously, I want to ensure that the clients who graciously allow my students to work with them have a great experience and receive worthwhile materials that they can actually use. I am not an instructor who is comfortable with the status quo— as a business school professor, I’m continually looking for ways to enhance student readiness for the workforce while improving students’ experiences in my courses. This impetus led to my systematic investigation into what ways client projects (CP) are currently being used across the business communication course, as well as the best practices in place to teach those types of projects. The survey data from other instructors pointed to a need for a model for teaching CP, which the article demonstrates.

I was first introduced to the CP concept in conversations with Gerry Winter, one of my mentors at Kent State. She explained how she had used the projects in the past, and also provided some advice on how to fit these types of projects within the framework of technical and business communication courses.

Regarding the findings for this project, one of the surprises to me was the differences between the actual problems instructors using CP face and the problems instructors not currently using CP fear. I hope that the article speaks to both of these audiences. In the future, we should continue to critically examine our pedagogical practices—it’s important to bring our knowledge of good research practices into the classroom to examine how we plan and deliver our courses, while continually assessing how to teach more effectively.

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Case In Point: A For-Profit Model for Social Entrepreneurship

Is it possible for social entrepreneurs to improve the lives of others and make a profit? For Sanergy, a startup dedicated to making hygienic sanitation accessible, affordable, and prosperous for those in developing countries, the answer seems to be yes.

The story of this startup— now an entrepreneurship venture seeded by grants from the likes of USAID, MIT, and Berkeley, to name a few—is covered in Sanergy: Using Social Entrepreneurship to Solve Emerging Market Problems, a case study from SAGE Business Cases. Using Sanergy as an example, case author Carole Carlson discusses the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship and how early stage entrepreneur ventures can evaluate expansion and new market opportunities.

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Delving further into these topics, we interviewed Professor Carlson for our inaugural post in the new Case In Point series. Drawn from our business case collection and containing insights from thought leaders in business and management, posts from this series will be published monthly. Read on to see Professor Carlson’s interview and check back next month for a new installment.

Carole Carlson is the MBA Program Director and a Senior Lecturer at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.

  1. The case you wrote outlines an early stage, for-profit venture that addresses a real social need in a developing country. In your opinion, what are the top three takeaways for other budding entrepreneurs with a social mindset?

I think that the major takeaway is that it is possible for an entrepreneurial team to use out-of-the-box thinking to innovate and develop new ideas.

A second takeaway is that not all social problems need to be addressed by non-profit organizations.

Finally, at Sanergy, as in so many other places, entrepreneurial startups can be really challenging, and sustained focus and a committed high quality team are essential to success.

 

  1. How does the application of social entrepreneurship in the for-profit world differ from applications in the non-profit world? Have you seen a growth in for-profit social entrepreneurial ventures?

There are a number of differences, but perhaps the most important one is that for-profits and nonprofits usually access very different funding.  In short, they play in different capital markets.  And the best organizational approach typically depends on the organization’s business model and scaling ambitions.

  1. How does social impact measurement factor into social entrepreneurship?

In my view, measurement is essential.  Social entrepreneurs, whether working with for-profit or nonprofit organizations, are accountable to their stakeholders – and this requires transparent measurement of their results.  That said, fast-moving entrepreneurs also need to be pragmatic.  It would not make sense for a social venture, for example, to spend half of its resources measuring results.  The entrepreneurs need to focus on the most important indicators.

  1. How pervasive is the teaching of social entrepreneurship across your campus? What level of interest do you see from students?

We see a real groundswell of interest.  For example, this past semester we hosted the Heller Startup Challenge, which focused exclusively on mission-driven startups, and a regional competition for the Hult Prize.  Both graduate and undergraduate students are drawn to concepts where they can grow as entrepreneurs while making a difference in society.  The Heller MBA at Brandeis focuses squarely on students that want to explore their interest in social justice while receiving a rigorous business education.

Learn more by reading the full case study, Sanergy: Using Social Entrepreneurship to Solve Emerging Market Problems, from SAGE Business Cases, open to the public for a limited time. To learn more about SAGE Business Cases and to find out how to submit a case to the collection, please contact Rachel Taliaferro, Associate Editor: rachel.taliaferro@sagepub.com.

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Small Family Firms: How Knowledge is Shared

One could imagine that every small family firm has their particular habits when knowledge sharing, especially when the success (or failure) of the business relies on effective communication.

A recent study published in Family Business Review analyzes the different leadership approaches to knowledge sharing, and we are pleased to welcome one of the authors, James Cunningham, who reflects on the foundation and findings of the research. The paper, entitled “Perceptions of Knowledge Sharing Amongst Small Family Firm Leaders–A Structural Equation Model,” is co-authored by Claire Seaman and David McGuire. From Cunningham:]

Family firms are known for the unique ways in which they view and run their business. This has led many to believe that firms with a family influence behave differeFBR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgntly to their non-family counterparts. While a lot of research focuses on the many implications of this difference for the economic impact family firms, in terms of strategi
c direction, longevity, etc., we were more curious to know how the influence of family impacts what it is like inside the firm.

In this respect, knowledge is increasingly becoming the most important internal resource for a competitive organisation in the contemporary business environment. Integrating and exploiting the knowledge of people in the business has become one of the key activities of the modern business leader. The impact of leadership on how the firm manages knowledge is long established in the broader management literature, but our instincts would tell us that family firms will have their own way of approaching and managing knowledge. In this article, we uncover the different leadership behaviours played out in small family firms and how these behaviours are related to the leader’s perception of knowledge sharing in the firm. Essentially, we ask the question, does family influence help or hinder the development of a knowledge resource?

Unsurprisingly, we found a variety of leadership behaviours employed by family firm leaders. We present a choice in how the family firm views its knowledge resource. We suggest that a greater level of family influence implies more guidance-based leadership when it comes to knowledge. Knowledge here is considered a quality the family leaders have, which must be ‘distilled’ to other organisational members. While, the alternative is a participative approach to knowledge in the firm, one more accepting of input from others, but with the potential to reduce family control.

This choice of leadership approach is important for family business leaders to consider, as there are important implications for the development of their knowledge resource. We see these findings as part of a research direction which moves away from viewing family firms as a homogenous group, subject to the overbearing influence of family. Instead, we present the behaviours inside these organisation as choices, and these choices at the most basic level represent the business intentions of family firm leaders.

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CEO Characteristics That Influence A Firm’s Investing Strategy

[We’re pleased to welcome author Bruce C. Rudy of The University of Texas at San Antonio. He recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Chief Political Officer: CEO Characteristics and Firm Investment in Corporate Political Activity,” co-authored by Andrew F. Johnson. From Rudy:]

In setting outB&S_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg to study what drives organizations to engage in corporate political activity (CPA), my coauthor (Andrew F. Johnson, Ph.D.) and I were struck by how little was known about the role that the firm’s leader played in this regard.  This was especially surprising considering that we have a well-researched theory on the influence of the firm’s leader on its strategic choices (i.e., Upper Echelons Theory).  When we combined the concepts underpinning CPA and Upper Echelons Theories, a number of novel ideas emerged and we knew we had the opportunity to make important contributions to both theories.  The data we collected supported many of these ideas.  We are thrilled that Business & Society has provided us the opportunity to share our research with you.

The full abstract to their article is below:

Research on corporate political activity has considered a number of antecedents to a firm’s engagement in politics. The majority of this research has focused on either industry or firm-level motivations that lead to corporate political activity, leaving the role of the firm’s leader noticeably absent in such scholarship. This article combines ideas from Upper Echelons Theory with research in corporate political activity to bridge this important gap. More specifically, this research utilizes CEO demographic characteristics to determine (a) whether a firm will invest in political activity and (b) how these characteristics influence the particular approach to political activity the firm undertakes. Considering 27 years of data from large U.S. firms, we find that a CEO’s age, tenure, functional, and educational backgrounds influence whether and how the firm invests in political activity.

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A Space for Place in Business Communication Research

As technology allows more employees to have a “mobile” workplace, what happens to effective business communication overall? Should more businesses adopt an open-concept floor-plan to foster better collaboration?

Author Deborah Andrews of the University of Delaware addresses the emerging millennial habits of group collaboration and workplace design in her recently published article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “A Space for Place in Business Communication Research.” From Andrews:

I’m inspired a lot by things, by objects and spaces and what they can make happen. For ye2392869301_65bb870ab9_m.jpgars, too, I have focused my research and teaching on business communication. So when my university started talking about the new “integrated science and engineering” laboratory it was building to fosterinnovation and creativity through collaboration, I wondered: can a building do this? Curious, I looked at some other campuses and, sure enough, many such buildings were being constructed and promoted with similar rhetoric. Because it’s essentially a matter of communication, I was particularly interested in the many occurrences of collaboration in these statements about how the building would deliver on its promise. I saw that term invoked as well in real estate columns, the marketing reports of design consultancies, and popular business articles about new offices being created, for example, by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. I knew then that I had an enticing research project: matching the rhetoric of these new laboratories and offices to results on the ground.

It’s becoming a commonplace of material culture studies that objects create subjects, the things we live with make us the people we are, maybe even more than the other way around. But I’ve been surprised about the extent to which academic administrators, corporate CEOs, and entrepreneurs believe that the right arrangement of plan and furnishings in an office can foster the achievement of organizational goals.

Examining that fit between the rhetoric of the office or lab as a transformative space and results on the ground is an inviting area for communications research. As one anthropologist notes, we often overlook the things in our environment because they are “blindingly obvious.” We take them for granted. My International Journal of Business Communication article aims to encourage researchers to take another look at the physical environment of a 21st Century workplace as it relates to the communication needed to get work done there. We know that the environment shapes us. But can it shape us in desired ways? And how can we tell?

 

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Office image attributed to Jesus Corrius (CC).

Learning Effective Business Communication Through LeBron James’s Career

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alperen Manisaligil of Case Western Reserve University, who recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Taking Your Talents to Business Communications: Analyzing Effective Communication Through LeBron James’s Career Moves,” co-authored by Diana Bilimoria. Below Manisaligil explains the inspiration for the research, and surprising conclusions. From Manisaligil:]

3408889046_b3188df44e_z.jpgI came to Cleveland in 2011 from Turkey to pursue my PhD in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, and I observed how sorry most of the Clevelanders were because LeBron James left the Cavs for the Miami Heat and how happy and hopeful most of Clevelanders (including myself) felt after LeBron’s return in the Summer of 2014. In the Fall of 2014, I was asked to prepare and teach a required undergraduate class that covered business communications and all functional areas of business (accounting, finance, human resources management, management information systems, marketing, and operations management). The first class was on August 26, 2014, the summer LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs).

One of the first principles of effective business communication is to draw the attention of your audience at the beginning of the communication. I wanted to come up with an interesting activity so that I can demonstrate what I teach at the very start. I thought I could transform the communication of LeBron James and the Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert during LeBron’s career moves into an engaging in-class activity by using their publicly available videos and open letters. When I took the idea to one of my teaching mentors, Diana Bilimoria, she thought it was a brilliant idea and that I could even turn this activity into a publication (she later become the co-author of the article).

With the goal of publishing the activity for the benefit of other management educators, I prepared a case study and enriched the activity with media richness and channel expansion theories. I wanted to add academic depth to an event that everybody was talking about and take the conversation to a whole new level, focusing on what we all could learn from it. I designed and taught the activity for the first time, and it was well received by my students—I was even nominated for a university-wide as well as a school-wide teaching award at the end of the semester for teaching the course. Then, we wanted to see test potential modifications for this activity and Dr. Bilimoria used the activity in her elective graduate course on leadership, emphasizing LeBron’s growth as a leader most particularly.

What surprised me about the findings is that gender and nationality did not impact students’ learning from the activity, and students from different backgrounds were similarly engaged during the activity. Maybe we owed it to the fact that we taught the activity in a university in Cleveland, so I would be curious to learn management educators’ experiences using this activity in other geographical locations.

Media choices are increasing rapidly, adding new challenges for managers as they complete business communication tasks. I hope with the help of this activity, we can help practitioners make better-informed decisions in choosing the most appropriate medium to communicate and enrich their use of the chosen medium.

I and my co-author received excellent guidance from the action editor Jen Leigh, as well as two anonymous reviewers. I’m also thankful to Rachel Messina King, Phil Thompson, and Stacey Chung for their comments to earlier drafts.

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LeBron James photo attributed to: Keith Allison (CC)

Incumbents’ Attitude Toward Intrafamily Succession

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alfredo De Massis of Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, who recently published an article in Family Business Review entitled “Incumbents’ Attitude Toward Intrafamily Succession: An Investigation of Its Antecedents,” co-authored by  Philipp Sieger, Jess H. Chua, and Silvio Vismara. From De Massis:]

  • WFBR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpghat inspired you to be interested in this topic?

This study examines how family firm incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family
succession is influenced by family traits, firm characteristics, and incumbent leader attribute.Two considerations played an important role when we decided to investigate the incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family succession and designed a survey targeted to Italian family firm incumbents: (i) the family firm intra-family succession process is largely under incumbents’ control; and (ii) without incumbents’ positive attitude, the process is less likely to even begin.

So a clear understanding of the antecedents of the incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family succession is important in order to ensure transfer of leadership from one generation to the next.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

One of the most surprising findings is that, contrary to our hypothesis, our data show that incumbents’ attitude toward intra-family succession is negatively affected by the combination of family ownership duration and firm economic performance. This unexpected finding supports the argument that better economic performance leads to higher firm financial value, which favors the immediate benefits of selling the business over the long-term ones of intra-family succession, while duration of ownership, through professionalization, may make the higher value business more liquid.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Next-generation members’ intention for intra-family succession has received considerable scholarly attention, but researchers have so far overlooked that of the incumbents despite recent literature reviews calling for research on intra-family succession intention from incumbents’ perspective. Indeed, most prior studies examining family business succession from incumbents’ perspective have focused on the actual behavior (i.e., intra-family succession) and dealt with the issues and challenges during the succession process, with none of them taking a step back to focus on the intention toward such behavior.

To the best of our knowledge, the only empirical study explicitly focusing on the intention for intra-family succession is the exploratory one by Chua et al. (1999). That study did not probe deeper into the antecedents of intra-family succession intention, so we lack rigorous, systematic, and empirical investigations of the factors affecting this important determinant of family firm behavior.

One of the most important determinants of the intention for intra-family succession is attitude toward intra-family succession. Our study examines how family firm incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family succession is influenced by family traits, firm characteristics, and incumbent leader attribute.

Theoretically, our study contributes toward a more complete understanding of family business succession and, practically, provides suggestions about how to influence incumbents’ attitude toward intra-family succession.

 

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