Work Group Inclusion

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Beth G. Chung of San Diego State University, Karen H. Ehrhart of the University of Central Florida, Lynn M. Shore of Colorado State University, Amy E. Randel of San Diego State University, Michelle A. Dean of San Diego State University, and Uma Kedharnath of the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Work Group Inclusion: Test of a Scale and Model” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they recount the motivations and challenges of this research:]

We decided to pursue this research because of the momentum the concept of inclusion has gained in both the academic and business world. Part of this momentum was generated by a conceptual paper (Shore et al., 2011) we wrote that clearly defined the concept of inclusion in the literature. According to our conceptual paper, inclusion is feeling like you belong and are accepted for your uniqueness in a group. The conceptual paper also forwarded a theoretical model to be tested. The current paper does just that. We test a measure of inclusion that contains both uniqueness and belongingness and we test a complete model of the predictors and outcomes of work group inclusion.

One of the most challenging aspects of doing work on inclusion and diversity is that companies are sometimes weary of providing data regarding these topics. Although the information provided by our research can only help organizations improve, the tendency is to shy away from research that might reveal unbecoming information. However, with persistence and tenacity, we were able to collect the data and validate a measure that is greatly needed to practically assess inclusion in organizations. It is a short measure (10-items) that can help an organization assess whether their employees feel inclusion within their workgroups. We are able to show that these feelings of inclusion have important consequences such as improved performance, creativity, and increased helping behavior. We believe that this article will be useful to both academics and practitioners alike.

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Life Principles for Systemic Change

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Sandra Waddock of Boston College and Petra Kuenkel of the Collective Leadership Institute. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “What Gives Life to Large System Change?,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations and innovations of their research:]

As scientists issue ever more frightening reports on the impact of climate change on human civilization, and as the implications of growing inequality become increasingly evident, it has become increasingly clear to us that systemic transformation is needed. Though a great deal has been written about the need for transformational change, we observed that few studies focused on the underlying principles that make systems function effectively—or do what we call ‘giving life’ to the system. Reflecting on the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s ideas about the risks associated with transgressing planetary boundaries, we believe many people and particularly the change agents among us need to take ‘deliberate, integral, and adaptive steps’ to reduce humanity’s impacts on the planet.

In seeking principles for our paper in Organization and the Natural Environment, ‘What Gives Life to Systems Change,’ we drew on a wide range of sources, from architecture, urban planning, biology, enlivenment, appreciative inquiry, systems thinking, resilience theory, complexity theory, physics, and regenerative capitalism, to name a few sources. We were determined to draw out and synthesize the common elements—the core principles—that enhance the flourishing of living and human systems. Ultimately, we concluded that six principles are vital to providing what architect Christopher Alexander in developing pattern language called the ‘quality without a name,’ and we call ‘what gives life.’

One principle is purpose—or what we label intentional generativity, that is. the urge that all living systems have to continue into the future (at the most minimal level, to survive). A second principle is that of connectedness or, more technically, contextual interconnectedness with requisite diversity, which argues from new understandings in ecology, biology, and quantum physics that living systems are integrally interconnected, and also that healthy living systems require diversity so they do not depend on any one species or element for their flourishing.

Another principle—and they are presented in no particular order—is that of boundedness or permeable containment. The idea here is that living systems have some sort of boundary that provides identity, and a form of permeable barrier that allows for new energetic inputs and the removal of waste to keep the system healthy. Emergent novelty is a fourth principle, and is based on the idea that flourishing living systems are constantly changing, that is, becoming new in some way, in creative processes of emergence. Living systems cannot be fragmented or they lose the character of life. Therefore, and must be considered as wholes, so the fifth principle is =mutually enhancing wholeness (or wholeness). The sixth principle, following Maturana and Varela, is that of proprioceptive consciousness (or simply consciousness). Consciousness argues that all living systems have a cognitive aspect and that the property of having life involves a degree of mental or learning activity.

Many details and implications are in the whole article, which we urge both change agents and scholars in management to read. As we think about these principles, we urge scholars, designers, urban and other planners, and change agents to carefully weigh the importance of these principles as they think about designing tomorrow’s societies, organizations, and communities.

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The Impact of Eco-Innovation on Performance Through the Measurement of Financial Resources and Green Patents

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Luz María Marín-Vinuesa of the University of La Rioja, Sabina Scarpellini of the University of Zaragoza, Pilar Portillo-Tarragona of the University of Zaragoza , and José M. Moneva
of the University of Zaragoza. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “The Impact of Eco-Innovation on Performance Through the Measurement of Financial Resources and Green Patents,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the contribution of their research:]

The paper contributes to the academic knowledge about eco-innovation in firms, its measurement and decision-making processes. This study tries to deepen the specific knowledge of the internal factors of eco-innovative companies that could have an impact on their financial performance, within the RBV framework. The objective is to define if financial resources are part of the range of those strategic, unique and inimitable resources that influence the eco-innovation level of a company, and therefore its performance.

Eco-innovation is positively related to the amount of financial resources allocated to the eco-innovative activity. A positive relationship between the cost saving obtained through eco- investments and the eco-innovation level in firms is also demonstrated. Results suggest that there is a positive relation between the level of eco-innovation performed by companies and their financial performance, which is an empirical contribution regarding the debate about the specific impact of eco-innovation.

The relevance of specific financial resources for eco-innovation points out new lines of inquire about their different dimensions, such as their quality, availability and (public nature) other qualitative aspects, and the influence of the firms’ capabilities in the efficient allocation of these resources to undertake investments in eco-innovation.

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How Can Radical Organizational Change Be Achieved More Easily?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Barbara Kump of WU–Vienna University of Economics and Business. Dr. Kump recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Beyond Power Struggles: A Multilevel Perspective on Incongruences at the Interface of Practice, Knowledge, and Identity in Radical Organizational Change,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Kump briefly describes the research and its significance.]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

This research was inspired by observations from a radical change case in a 100-person firm in the Austrian building industry that our research team has been working with for several years. In many ways, that firm was a showcase company: When they started the radical change process, they were very successful in their core business (general renovation works), they had undergone successful changes in the past, the CEO was a charismatic leader, and the staff was highly committed to the firm. Moreover, the change was carried out in line with best practices of change management. However, despite these promising starting conditions, the firm barely survived the change. Nearly 70% of staff members dropped out and it took them a couple of years until they were a successful business again. This really bothered me. I kept asking myself, how this could be possible: They had followed all the ‘rules’ for successful change and this was not (merely) a matter of ‘power and resistance’. So why was it still so difficult for this firm to change? This question was the starting point of my conceptual analysis.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

The popular opinion about organizational change is that people just don’t want to change because they are too lazy, or because they are ‘creatures of habit’. In research, scholars have emphasized the role of power and politics, concluding that radical change is mainly blocked by those who are afraid to lose power within the firm. Complementing previous research, and partly contradicting popular opinion, in this article I provide an alternative explanation for why radical organizational change is so difficult: It requires people to change what they do, what they know (or which knowledge they can apply in their jobs), and who they are. And, in many cases, even if they are willing, they are just not able to change. I hope that this complementary perspective will inspire many organizational scholars to further investigate conditions under which radical change can be achieved more easily – and ways to establish these conditions.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Much research in the context of radical organizational change takes a psychological angle and looks at individual-level antecedents and outcomes of organizational change; most organizational research is focusing on best practices of how to implement change. I believe that we need more empirical studies that investigate what is actually going on in radical change: What are the typical, complex multi-level processes that take place, and what are the typical problems that we can expect and need to counteract. Scholars (including myself) are still building on Lewin’s seminal models from the 1950s, because no other agreed-upon scientific models of change exist. Given the current state of research, I think that longitudinal, qualitative (even ethnographic) case studies are the most promising way to increase our understanding of organizational change processes. Besides interview data, artifact analyses and analyses of ‘objective’ changes (firm name, layout, branding…) would be very interesting sources to take into account.

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The Effects of Financial Crisis on the Organizational Reputation of Banks

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Mario R. Englert of Lauda Dr. R. Wobser GmbH & Co. KG, Christopher Koch of the University Mainz, and Jens Wüstemann of the University of Mannheim. They recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Effects of Financial Crisis on the Organizational Reputation of Banks: An Empirical Analysis of Newspaper Articles,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the impact and innovations of this research:

What motivated you to pursue this research?

In the financial crises, the public heavily criticized banking organization. In particular, we observed that some banks were more harshly criticized than others despite having a similar exposure to the financial crisis. This perceived mismatch of blame allocation motivated us to investigate what characteristics of banking organizations are associated with higher levels of blame and, thus, larger losses of organizational reputation during the financial crisis. Thereby, we also wanted to provide suggestions for a “winning strategy” to overcome such a difficult situation (for which also many banks are – even today – still looking for).

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Clearly, the financial crisis and the strong public attention in the aftermath of the crisis influenced our decision to follow this stream of research. The public pressure was ubiquitous coming along with fundamental shifts in institutional economics. This situation has led to changes of organizational structures and business models of financial institutions as well as new regulatory conditions, with new and revised laws (e.g., the “Single Rulebook” within the EU) and regulatory institutions (e.g., the foundation of the “Single Supervisory Mechanism” in the Euro Area). The following quest for the right external response of banks (e.g., the proclamation of cultural change) that was observable across all media channels further influenced us to follow this research.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

Data gathering, data sampling, and data analyses were clearly one of the main challenges to conduct our research. We wanted to investigate the public opinion over time with regards to a coherent and powerful sample leaving us with quite a demanding task to get and compile the necessary information. Therefore, we hand-collected a consistent sample of newspaper articles covering the entire German market (hence, we included regional and national newspapers across the entire geography of the country) for an eight year period. Using semantic analyses based on pre-defined as well as self-compiled semantic dictionaries, we came up with a powerful sample and interesting results. Besides the results discussed in the paper, we also observed some surprising patterns. For instance, we observed that some individual savings and mutual banks (although being heavily invested in the US subprime market) gained on public reputation during the financial crisis (leading to a hypothesis that there was a thinking among the public that “if there are so many ‘villains’ out there, there must also be some [local] ‘heroes’”). It has also been fascinating to see that we could identify systematic results in the individual newspaper’s stance towards banking organizations (not reported in the paper). For example, newspapers geographically close the banking organization’s headquarters reported more positively about it. Further, newspapers with a left-wing readership took generally a more negative stance towards the banking industry in general.

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Business Perceptions of Biodiversity as Social Learning

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Thomas Smith, Dr. George Holmes, and Dr. Jouni Paavola of the University of Leeds. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Social Underpinnings of Ecological Knowledge: Business Perceptions of Biodiversity as Social Learning,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the methods, and contribution of their research:]

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Despite mounting concerns regarding the degradation and loss of species, habitats and ecosystems occurring worldwide, biodiversity remains an underexplored issue in corporate sustainability. Increasingly, conservationists, policymakers and organisations such as the WBCSD are focussing on business contributions to tackling biodiversity loss. Yet we know little of how different institutional contexts influence efforts to reduce operational impacts on biodiversity, for instance. It is also unclear how different stakeholders can help – or hinder – reform.

This paper integrates social learning and institutional theory to understand business approaches to controlling impacts on biodiversity. Social learning is often used to examine processes of knowledge transfer and reform in natural resource management, but tends to focus on local communities and public bodies rather than businesses. Combined with institutional theory, social learning demonstrates how social systems shape responses to ecological contexts.

This paper adds to ONE research by demonstrating that to understand business responses to biodiversity, it is vital to focus on interactions between social and ecological systems, rather than each system in isolation. Biodiversity is complex, varying across contexts: successfully conserving it means integrating multiple forms of knowledge and values. Business responses to biodiversity need to be examined across multiple contexts, developed to developing country, tropical to temperate, terrestrial to marine, etc.

Although corporate sustainability scholars must be mindful of social and ecological factors specific to one or another context, this should not prevent us from seeking to identify universal principles underlying best practice. Work on stakeholder engagement and institutional views of the firm applied to other issues in corporate sustainability might be used to inform best practices. There is much left to consider and to research regarding business and biodiversity.

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Artificial Intelligence and Social Simulation: Studying Group Dynamics on a Massive Scale

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Jesse Hoey of the University of Waterloo, Tobias Schröder of Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Jonathan Morgan of Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Kimberly B. Rogers of Dartmouth College, Deepak Rishi of the University of Waterloo, and Meiyappan Nagappan of the University of Waterloo. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Spotlight on Methods: Artificial Intelligence and Social Simulation: Studying Group Dynamics on a Massive Scale,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, They discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointTechnological and social innovations are increasingly generated through informal, distributed processes of collaboration, rather than in formal, hierarchical organizations. In this article, we present a novel combination of data-driven and model-based approaches to explore the social and psychological mechanisms motivating these modern self-organized collaborations. We focus on the example of open, collaborative software development in online collaborative networks like GitHub (github.com). The synthesized approach is based in affect control theory (ACT), and a recent framing in Artificial Intelligence known as Bayesian affect control theory (BayesACT). The general assumption of ACT is that humans are motivated in their social interactions by affective alignment: They strive for their social experiences to be coherent at a deep, emotional level with their sense of identity and general worldviews as constructed through culturally shared symbols. This alignment is used in BayesACT as a control mechanism to generate artificially intelligent agents that can learn to be functioning members of a social order (see bayesact.ca for further information).

We show in this article how such a model solves two basic problems in the social scientific study of groups and teams. First, because empirical research on groups relies on manual coding, it is hard to study groups in large numbers (the scaling problem). Second, conventional statistical methods in behavioral science often fail to capture the nonlinear interaction dynamics occurring in small groups (the dynamics problem). The ACT-based models we present allow for sophisticated machine learning techniques to be combined in a parsimonious way with validated social-psychological models of group behaviour such that both of these problems are solved in a single computational model.

The purpose of the present article is to discuss the promises of this cross-disciplinary, computational approach to the study of small group dynamics. We review computational methods for using large amounts of social media data, and connect these methods to theoretically informed models of human behaviour in groups. To use a metaphor, we are digging into digital group dynamics data with a sophisticated, artificially intelligent shovel, and showing how computational social science can be taken to a new level with this unique and novel combination of data-driven and model-based approaches. The work is an international collaboration called THEMIS.COG (themis-cog.ca) between researchers in Canada (University of Waterloo), the USA (Dartmouth College), and Germany (Potsdam University of Applied Sciences).

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