Edgar Schein at 90: A Celebratory and Exploratory Metalogue

[We’re pleased to welcome author David Coghlan of the University of Dublin Trinity. Dr. Coghlan recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Edgar Schein at 90: A Celebratory and Exploratory Metalogue,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Coghlan briefly describes the motivation for writing this article and the themes in the article.

On the occasion of Edgar H. Schein’s 90th birthday, we are acknowledging this occasion not only for Schein himself but for the field of applied behavioral science of organization development (OD). For sixty years he has creatively and systematically shaped theory and practice and he continues to be creative and reflective about the field and his work in it. In this article here Schein and I engage in a metalogue about our shared scholarship. A metalogue is a form of reflective dialogue where the mode of conversation reflects the topic being explored. Our aim is both celebratory and informative, with the latter seeking to offer JABS readers insights from our metalogue on how we engage as scholars.

Schein’s work has both informed and shaped both my philosophy of organization development (OD) and my teaching and practice over forty years. As I reflect on how Schein’s work has informed my own OD scholarship, three themes are clear to me and it is these that I explore in a metalogue with him. These three themes are: i) how OD scholars may draw on the data of their own thinking, what I call interiority, ii) how OD may ground itself in a philosophy of practical knowing, and iii) how engaging in OD involves OD scholars to be attentive in the present tense. These themes have emerged from my reflection on my work and I have published on them. I lay their foundations firmly in how I have learned from Schein, even though he does not use the terminology that I am using. In this article I introduce each of the three themes and engage Schein in a reflective dialogue on each one. The mode of presentation is direct first-and second-person speech, where I address him and invite him to reflect on what I have written and he responds. Finally we reflect on the metalogue process itself.

The aim of the article is celebratory and exploratory. In terms of the former marking Schein’s 90th birthday acknowledges his massive contribution to the field of applied behavioral science. In terms of the latter the engagement in a reflective dialogue on how his work has influenced me and seeks to stimulate further reflection on some core issues in the field of OD.

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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:]


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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Reconsidering Virtuality Through a Paradox Lens

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Radostina K. Purvanova of Drake University
and Renata Kenda of Tilburg University. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Paradoxical Virtual Leadership: Reconsidering Virtuality Through a Paradox Lens” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Purvanova speaks about the motivation and impact of this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

The academic literature largely paints virtuality in negative overtones, whereas more and more organizations embrace technology-driven work practices, such as virtual work and virtual teaming. This begs the question: If virtuality is so bad, then why do organizations continue to “go virtual”? Our central motivation in pursuing this research was to advance a new theoretical lens through which to view virtuality – that of paradox. Our paradoxical perspective details both the costs and the benefits that virtuality offers organizations; furthermore, it easily lends itself to practical applications, especially applications in the area of virtual team leadership. In our paper, we discuss how virtual leaders can find synergies between the various challenges and opportunities their virtual teams face. Specifically, our perspective suggests that virtual leaders should blend various, and even contradictory, leadership skills and behaviors, to address virtuality’s competing and paradoxical demands. Hence, our paradoxical virtual leadership model emphasizes the ideas of balance and synergy. This stands in contrast to traditional leadership models, such as transformational, relational, inspirational, and others, which advocate for an increased emphasis on such leadership functions in a virtual context.

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

Our article focuses on three main aspects of virtuality— technology dependence, geographic dispersion, and human capital—and identifies seven paradoxical tensions that virtual teams face. For example, one of the tensions that virtual teams experience due to their technology dependence is the touch tension: virtual team members’ interactions are simultaneously impersonal but also less biased. Practically, then, the role of the virtual team leader is to acknowledge and balance the two sides of this tension (and all other tensions their virtual team might face). Our article provides specific suggestions on how to tackle these paradoxical strains. Briefly, virtual leaders must first adopt a both-and mindset which would allow them to perceive virtuality through a paradox lens, and see both its challenges and its opportunities. Next, virtual leaders must devise strategies for simultaneously addressing competing demands. For example, in the case of the touch tension, a leader can encourage more personal and friendly communication, while at the same time implementing strategies to keep interactions professional.
Practically, then, our model suggests several applications. First, it suggests that organizations should select individuals for virtual leader assignments who are more likely to develop a synergistic leadership style. Second, organizations should train virtual leaders to reframe their assumptions about virtuality, seeing virtuality as a force to be harnessed, not feared. Finally, organizations should also instill a paradoxical view of virtuality in virtual team members, not just in virtual leaders, either through selection, or through training.

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

In keeping with the core question that provoked this research—If virtuality is so bad, then why do organizations continue to “go virtual”?—our advice to virtuality scholars is to focus their efforts on better aligning our science with the practice of virtual work and virtual teaming. Describing just the challenges or just the opportunities of virtuality only tackles one side of this complex issue. In contrast, understanding the interdependencies between virtuality’s costs and benefits allows scholars to advance and test theories with a stronger grounding in reality, and allows organizations to truly harness the power of paradox.

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategies

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Chelsie Hunt and Dr. Olaf Weber of the University of Waterloo. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Fossil fuel divestment strategies: Financial and carbon-related consequences,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the inspirations, challenges, and related papers to their research:]


The research on this paper has been motivated by the discussion about whether fossil fuel divestment decreases financial returns. This question is discussed controversially in academia and practice. Since the Canadian financial market is very fossil fuel heavy, it was interesting to understand both, financial and carbon related consequences of different fossil fuel divestment strategies.

Another influence is the intensive public discussion about how to mitigate climate change. As divestment is proposed as one way to address the problem, we wanted to understand the effect of this type of socially responsible investment that has been promoted by the NGO 350.org. However, divestment moved from being a niche political activity of NGO to the center of institutional investing with a number of big institutional investors announcing divestment from fossil fuels.

A challenging part of this research is the quality of climate related corporate data. Though many firms disclose their carbon related data, there are still gaps and the risk of biases because often those with higher carbon performance publish their data. However, I think we used an innovative approach that correlated both financial and carbon related performance to analyze whether divestment really has an effect on the decarbonization of financial portfolios.

The results might influence investors with regard to divestment decisions and also contributes to finance research by adding non-financial risks to the equation. Maybe they also influence younger scholar to conduct research in this field though it is still often seen as a niche in general corporate and financial performance research.

Finally, we would like to mention three other papers in the field that have been extremely interesting. First, it is a paper that discusses why financial implications of climate risks are not discussed in conventional financial journals (Diaz-Rainey, Robertson, & Wilson, 2017). Second, there are two more papers that discuss the consequences of fossil fuel divestment that suggesting no negative financial effects from fossil fuel divestment (Henriques & Sadorsky, 2017; Trinks, Scholtens, Mulder, & Dam, 2018)

Diaz-Rainey, I., Robertson, B., & Wilson, C. (2017). Stranded research? Leading finance journals are silent on climate change. Climatic Change, 143(1), 243-260. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1985-1

Henriques, I., & Sadorsky, P. (2017). Investor implications of divesting from fossil fuels. Global Finance Journal. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfj.2017.10.004

Trinks, A., Scholtens, B., Mulder, M., & Dam, L. (2018). Fossil Fuel Divestment and Portfolio Performance. Ecological Economics, 146, 740-748. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.11.036


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Utilizing Task Analysis to Identify Coordination Requirements in Three different Clinical Settings

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Sarah Henrickson Parker of Virginia Tech, Dr. Jan B. Schmutz of ETH Zürich, and Dr. Tanja Manser of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Training Needs for Adaptive Coordination: Utilizing Task Analysis to Identify Coordination Requirements in Three Different Clinical Settings” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Manser speaks about the motivation and challenges of this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

We were interested in understanding general principles of coordination in healthcare teams across different healthcare settings. All of the authors have conducted research in this area for quite some time but usually one study only allows us to study teams in a specific clinical setting. We were interested in seeing if there were any general principles that applied across clinical settings. If so, these could have a much larger impact on the training of healthcare professionals.

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

As this was a secondary analysis of existing data, we each had our own challenges with the initial data collection. It is always fun, exciting and challenging to work with healthcare providers in both real and simulated settings. One exciting finding of the current study is the overlap in coordination requirements across clinical settings and tasks. Triggers for re-coordination, anchoring points for coordination, and a deliberate transition from implicit to explicit coordination during unexpected clinical situations were all consistently noted as exemplars of excellent team coordination.

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

It is important to immerse yourself in the work context you are studying and to continue to build relationships with those that are doing the work. We believe that the interactions with healthcare providers allow us, as psychologists, to make sure our work is interpreted correctly from a scientific point of view but also relevant and used as intended from an applied point of view. Our experience this requires researchers to be able to speak the language of both clinical care and work psychology.

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The Emergence of “Solidarity Recycling” in Brazil

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Silvio Eduardo Alvarez Candido, Fernanda Veríssimo Soulé, and Mário Sacomano Neto of the Federal University of Sao Carlos. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “The Emergence of “Solidarity Recycling” in Brazil: Structural Convergences and Strategic Actions in Interconnected Fields,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Candido reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]


The paper is part of my PhD thesis, presented at the Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar) in 2016. I invited Fernanda Soule and Mário Sacomano, close colleagues who intensively participated in the elaboration of the argument, to co-author this specific result. The idea to study recycling is associated with my long standing interest in environmental and social issues. The perception that in Brazil environmentalism was very commonly tied to issues of social justice always impressed me and I decided to study one of the cases in which these two categories were also very entangled with economic practices, what lead me to recycling. I was lucky enough to be part of a Research Center very specialized in Bourdieu’s sociology, the Center of Economic and Financial Sociology of UFSCar, coordinated by Professors Roberto Grün, who actually studied with the French sociologist, and Julio Donadone, also a great specialist in his work. I was also lucky to read the book “A theory of fields”, from Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam, right after its release in 2012, while beginning the research, and discussing it in a group led by Professor Mauro Rocha Côrtes. The considerations of the authors about the little attention given by scholars to the issue of the interconnection of fields encouraged me to carry the “though experiment” of building my research object as an ensemble of fields. With the progress of the research, I also noticed that neither their approach or Bourdieu’s alone could account my case completely, what directed me to cross-fertilize the perspectives.

These choices implicated in great theoretical challenges, since the topic of the interconnection of fields is considered to be a very complicated one by the authors, implicating in extensive data collection about several different spheres of practice. The presentations and discussions of preliminary research results in meetings of the Society for Advancements of Socio Economics, in colloquiums of the European Group of Organization Studies, and in a period of six months I spent in the University of Alberta, under the supervision of Professor Michael Lounsbury, were certainly decisive so that these challenges could be overcome. I believe that in the paper we demonstrated that the concept of field may be used as a very flexible research tool, capable of capturing at the same time the more structural and situational dynamics of social life. The case of the rise of solidarity recycling in Brazil was actually very rich and great to demonstrate this. It was clear that this emergence process was conditioned by the broad social structures of Brazil. It was also very surprising to discover how the genesis of these very heterodox practices was attached to progressive branches of the Catholic Church, its spread depended on the collaboration of UNICEF and of critical academics and how its consecration is associated to the support of both left wing governments and beverage industry. I hope this put forward novel ways to understand the cultural-political dynamics underlying social change and, specifically, transitions to sustainability.

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The Relationships Between Stress, Drinking, and Complaints at Work

stress-2051408_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors Jeremy D. Mackey of Auburn University and Pamela L. Perrewé of Florida State University. They recently published an article in the Group and Organization Management entitled “The Relationships Between Hindrance Stressors, Problem Drinking, and Somatic Complaints at Work” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Mackey speaks about the motivation and challenges of this research:]

GOM_72ppiRGB_powerpointPam Perrewé and I were excited to publish our paper entitled “The Relationships between Hindrance Stressors, Problem Drinking, and Somatic Complaints at Work” in Group & Organization Management. We were motivated to conduct our study on the indirect effects of hindrance stressors on somatic complaints at work through problem drinking because we were interested in examining the impact of problem drinking on organizational stress processes. Our conceptualization of problem drinking examines alcohol consumption that is personally and/or socially harmful. Although problem drinking has been widely studied in psychology research, its effects have yet to be fully illuminated in organizational research. Thus, we sought to examine the effects of perceptions of workplace obstacles (i.e., hindrance stressors) on physiological strain (i.e., somatic complaints at work) through problem drinking. We hope our innovative conceptualization of problem drinking as a self-medication coping mechanism impacts research and practice by encouraging researchers and practitioners to examine the role of employees’ attempts to cope with organizational stress by engaging in problem drinking.

The most challenging aspect of conducting our study was how to appropriately examine problem drinking in organizational contexts. Problem drinking is a sensitive topic and there is little precedent for how to appropriately study it in organizational settings. Ultimately, we opted to examine employees’ frequencies of problem drinking because it was appropriate for our research question and study design. We recommend that other scholars who pursue this field of study consider the numerous ways of measuring problem drinking in order to choose appropriate ways to measure it for their research goals. For example, examining quantities of alcohol consumed, drinking to intoxication, the frequency/intensity of experienced hangovers, and problem drinking within the workplace all offer useful ways for future research to examine problem drinking and assess its effects on groups and organizations.

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Running photo attributed to geralt. (CC)