Aesthetic Rationality in Organizations

[We’re pleased to welcome author David Wasieleski of Duquesne University, USA. Wasieleski recently published an article in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled, “Aesthetic Rationality in Organizations: Toward Developing a Sensitivity for Sustainability,” co-authored by Paul Shrivastava, Gunter Schumacher, and Marco Tasic. From Wasieleski:]

As a rationale for what inspired us to get interested in this topic was the realization that the environmental crisis is in part caused by the emotional disconnection between humanJABS_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgs and nature. Art is a vehicle for emotional connection.  And, using art based values and methods we can emotionally reconnect people and organizations with nature.

Art influences the sustainability of companies through architecture, aesthetics of work-spaces, design of products and services, design of work and organizational systems, graphic art in advertising, and arts-based training methods. Self-expressiveness and authenticity that are hallmarks of art can also enhance organizational productivity and employee motivation. Sustainable organizations need arts to enhance employee creativity, innovation, attract creative workers, improve worker satisfaction, design eco-friendly and innovative products and services.   Arts also allows us to study those aspects of organizational sustainability which are a strength of aesthetics inquiry, such as sensory and emotional experiences often ignored in traditional management studies.
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The abstract for their article is below:

This article explains the coexistence and interaction of aesthetic experience and moral value systems of decision makers in organizations. For this purpose, we develop the concept of “aesthetic rationality,” which is described as a type of value-oriented rationality that serves to encourage sustainable behavior in organizations, and to complete the commonly held, “instrumentally rational” view of organizations. We show that organizations regularly exhibit not only an instrumental rationality but also an “aesthetic rationality,” which is manifested in their products and processes. We describe aesthetics, its underlying moral values, its evolutionary roots, and its links to virtue ethics as a basis for defining the concept of aesthetic rationality. We examine its links with human resources, organizational design, and other organizational elements. We examine these implications, identify how an aesthetic-driven ethic provides a potential for sustainable behavior in organizations, and suggest new directions for organizational research.

 

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Benefits and Costs of Covert Research: An Analysis

[We’re pleased to welcome author Thomas Roulet of King’s College, UK.  Roulet recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled Reconsidering the Value of Covert Research: The Role of Ambiguous Consent in Participant Observation, co-authored by Michael J. Gill, Sebastien Stenger, and David James Gill. From Roulet:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? We were inspired by recent ethnographic work relying heavily on covert observation – for example the recent work by Alice Goffman on low income urban areas, or the paper byORM_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg Ethan Bernstein on the pitfalls of transparency in a Chinese factory.Alice Goffman’s work was attacked for the ethical challenges associated with the work of ethnographer.

So we went back to the literature and looked at research in various fields that relied on covert observation – the observation of a field of enquiry by a researcher that does not reveal his or her true identity and motives. This methodological approach has progressively fallen into abeyance because of the ethical issues associated with it- in particular the fact that covert observation implies not getting consent from the people observed by the researcher.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? Our review of covert research reveals that:
– all observations have issues with consent to different extent. It is obtain the full consent of all subjects. We put forward a two dimensions
– covert research can be ethically justified when tackling taboo topics, or trying to uncover misbehaviors.
– there is a wide range of ways and practices that can be used to minimize ethical concerns and limit the harm to subjects.

How do you see this study influencing future research? We hope that the ethical guidelines of some associations can evolve to offer more room for covert or semi covert research, and acknowledge the difficulties of obtaining full consent. We also think that ethical boards in universities may be willing to offer a more flexible perspective on covert research.

Finally our work is a call to researchers to consider covert observational approaches… with care!

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Call for Papers: Organization & Environment

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Organization & Environment is currently accepting manuscripts for an upcoming special issue on the topic: Financial Markets and the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy.

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Website Stories in Times of Distress

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alexia Panayiotou  of the University of  Cyprus. Panayiotou recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Website Stories in Times of Distress,” co-authored by George Kassinis. From Panayiotou:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? My co-author and I have been interested in tmlq.jpghe use of corporate websites as a powerful communication strategy for several years. I was mostly interested in the power of visuality and George interested in questions of greenwashing. We had been following the BP website since 2005, as part of a larger project on the use of green imagery by oil companies. A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we were ready to submit a paper about BP’s website arguing, in fact, that BP’s commitments offered a novel way through which oil exploration and environmental responsibility could co-exist. We even classified various problems that could have “warned” us about BP’s practices as “accidents.” When Deepwater Horizon happened, our ready-to-be-submitted draft became irrelevant. After the shock we underwent both as researchers and as dedicated environmentalists who had clearly misread the greenwashing signs, we decided to reframe our research question vis-à-vis the disaster to study how a company changes its visual story in times of distress. Our realization that even we could be “hijacked” by the corporate story—the corporate agenda had clearly overflown into our own act of research—forced us to refocus our assumptions and questions. It is in this context that corporate power, enabled through website use, became critical to our investigation as our experience highlighted the dangerous potential of becoming “accomplices” to this power.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? The most “surprising” finding was not only the change in the visual story told but the way in which this new story was constructed on the website. In addition, as noted above, we were shocked by how the “liquid organization” had co-opted us in the telling of its story through our own act of navigating the website, making us potential “accomplices” in the telling of its corporate story. We saw this as problematic for many reasons, but mainly because the co-telling of a story through website navigation could result in (paradoxically) solidifying what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid power” or “the art of escape from all forms of social responsibility,” especially in cases of corporate hypocrisy.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? Corporate websites are surprisingly under-explored in organization studies, despite the so-called “visual turn.”  There are several reasons why website study should feature in our research agenda on management learning: First, websites serve as corporate “storytellers” as they transmit both high-level management messages and the corporate identity to outsiders. Second, , websites differ from other forms of corporate communication since the website user is dynamically involved in the “telling” of the corporate story through his or her navigation act; as such, the user is less a recipient and more a co-constructor of this story. Third, websites, as the most ‘fluid’ of all organizational constructs, may be the most appropriate means through which to study the non-committal, shifting organization of “liquid modernity.” Mobilizing website study in management practice and education can provide a better understanding of “corporate hypocrisy” in a liquid, modern world, especially in times of distress!

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Institutional Theory Needs to Rethink its Neglect of Morality

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Geoff Moore of Durham University, UK and Gina Grandy of the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Bringing Morality Back in: Institutional Theory and MacIntyre.” From Moore and Grandy:]

We have had an interest for many years in the work of the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and the ways in which, despite his highly critical approach to capitalism and corporate management, his work can be used to explain and explore what a virtue-based understanding of organizations means in both theory and practice. In particular, his distinctions between practices and institutions, and between two types of goods (internal and external) which are pursued by organizationJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgs has led to a series of papers exploring the implications of this approach. In this endeavour, we have been encouraged by a steady stream of articles, both theoretical and practical, which have explored this understanding of practices and organizations in such diverse settings as circuses, jazz, investment advising, banking, health and beauty retailing, and pharmaceuticals.

At the same time, we have noted the potential links with Institutional Theory and in particular its notions of logics and legitimacy and wanted to explore these links in greater depth. We were also concerned that new Institutional Theory lacks a positive account or morality and felt that this could be addressed by integrating it with MacIntyre’s work.

An empirical project involving an ecumenical study of churches in the north east of England led to some findings which we felt could be best explained by just such an integration of Institutional Theory and MacIntyre’s work. In particular, consistent throughout the empirical evidence was practitioners’ concern with the telos (overall purpose) of their organizations and the core practices of their faith, and their concern for the legitimacy of their organizations both to internal and external audiences, and hence of the moral nature of organizational life.

We argue that these findings can be generalized to any practice-based organization and conclude that ignoring or underplaying the moral dimension will give, at best, a diminished account of organizational life. Hence, we argue that Institutional Theory needs to rethink its neglect of morality and we suggest several implications for Institutional Theory as a result. We hope this might lead to further studies which follow up our lead and so to the bringing of morality back in to Institutional Theory. We also hope that a wider recognition of the moral dimension as an essential component in organizational life will impact practitioners and lead to organizations fulfilling their potential for the common good.

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Students as Protégés: Factors That Lead to Success

[We’re pleased to welcome author Stephen Bear of  Fairleigh Dickenson University. Bear recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Students as Protégés: Factors That Lead to Success,” co-authored by Gwen Jones. Below, Bear outlines the importance of this study:]

26111521686_8aeaf7a60a_z.jpgWe have established, in our undergraduate curriculum, a practitioner-mentoring program for all business students in our sophomore-level organizational behavior course. The intent of the program is that, early in the students’ business education, they will begin to link and apply the theories of organizational behavior to actual workplace situations through regular interactions with their mentor throughout the semester.  For many students the mentoring program is the highlight of the course, while for others the mentoring program is just another required course assignment.  This range of reactions led us to wonder what factors encourage satisfaction with practitioner-student mentoring relationships?  The level of satisfaction with a mentor is important because dissatisfaction can prompt a protégé to spend less time with a mentor and can reduce the quality of mentoring exchanges and the overall effectiveness of the mentoring relationship (Ortiz-Walters, Eddleston & Simone, 2010).

In our study we examined five independent variables that we believed could affect satisfaction:  networking to find a mentor, trust in the mentor, self-disclosure to the mentor, role modelling by the mentor and mentoring program understanding.  While each variable was positively related to mentoring relationship satisfaction, the most surprising finding of the study was the importance of student networking to find a mentor.  Many students initially have difficulty finding a mentor, and we have debated whether faculty should step in to ensure that each student has a high quality mentor.  Our study showed that when student’s network to find their own mentors this is positively associated with mentoring relationship satisfaction.  Students who found their own mentors were more satisfied with their mentoring relationships than students who relied on the professor to match them with a mentor.  We believe this finding is very relevant to faculty and to staff that establish mentoring programs as it suggests that whenever possible, student protégés not faculty should play the key role in the selection of their mentor.  Finally the relationship between networking and mentoring relationship satisfaction is likely complex and should be explored further in future research. In our study, 77% of students were successful in finding their mentors through networking, and analysis indicated that there were no significant differences in finding a mentor, as based on age, gender, or race/ethnicity. An opportunity for future research is to determine whether socioeconomic class or a student’s first-generation college status would influence the ability to network to find a mentor, as these students might have fewer networking contacts.

Reference
Ortiz-Walters, R., Eddleston, K. A., & Simione, K. (2010). Satisfaction with mentoring

Student photo attributed to the University of the Fraser Valley (CC).

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Measuring Organizational Legitimacy in Social Media

[We’re pleased to welcome author Michael Etter of the City University of London, UK. Etter recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “Measuring Organizational Legitimacy in Social Media: Assessing Citizens’ Judgments With Sentiment Analysis,” co-authored by Elanor Colleoni, Laura Illia, Katia Meggiorin, and Antonino D’Eugenio. From Etter:]

8583949219_f55657573e_z.jpgSocial media have given ordinary citizens the opportunity to freely express their opinions and feelings in any tone or style. The heated discussions around various topics from politics, sports, and corporations often evolve in parallel to news media coverage. Accordingly, we have developed the idea that a measurement of citizens’ judgment in social media can give researchers a new way to assess the legitimacy of organizations. Compared to existing measurements that, for example, assess judgments in news media coverage, a measurement based on social media would directly access the voices of ordinary citizens and therefore account for their heterogeneous norms and expectations.

In this article we describe and test how a measurement based on social media data can give indication for organizational legitimacy. We use the method of sentiment analysis that is based on computational linguistics and apply it to a case from the banking industry over a one year period.

Our findings show that, indeed, an analysis of 14’000 tweets reveals a different judgment than the analysis of 730 news articles. Compared to the news media, citizens judge the bank in a much more negative way. Also we find that the bank is discussed by 6000 citizens and for a broad variety of topics (around 400 hashtags). Clearly, social media data gives researchers access to different judgments than found in news media, which are written by a few journalists that adhere to professional norms and standards and are subject to various selection processes. We therefore encourage researchers to take into account social media, such as Twitter, in order to achieve a richer understanding of legitimation processes in a digital world. For practitioners, sentiment analysis of twitter data is a tool to monitor and identify issues and sentiment in a timely manner.

Cell phone photo attributed to Jason Howie (CC).

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