Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Robert Sroufe of Duquesne University Pittsburgh and Dr. Venugopal Gopalakrishna-Remani of The University of Texas at Tyler. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Management, Social Sustainability, Reputation, and Financial Performance Relationships: An Empirical Examination of U.S. Firms,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Sroufe discusses the motivations for this research:]

O&E_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe motivation for this study on Management, Social Sustainability and Reputation can be found in our profound interest in how innovative organizations integrate sustainability. We developed a unique sample of top ranked Fortune 500 multinational companies to better understand how sustainability practices lead to improved performance. In doing so, we propose new constructs and item development while testing relationships to tradition measures of financial performance. This study looks at exemplary MNCs as identified by Newsweek, The Corporate Knights, and Best Corporate Citizens rankings. Firm level performance is assessed during the time of country level cuts to GHG emissions set by the Kyoto Protocol, and during a period of time in which there was a difficult recession in the U.S. The uniqueness of our study and the results operationalize multiple dimensions of sustainability and ask the question has social performance lived up to the promises made on its behalf?

A challenging aspect of this study is the development of new sustainability constructs involving management, social performance and reputation. We were able to utilize multiple measures from both Newsweek and Bloomberg to develop and assess new constructs. We found there are significant benefits to sustainability management practices, yet there is more to explore and learn about the practices and relationships involving social sustainability performance. We hope this study provides a foundation for future research into social sustainability and evolving management practices.

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Argument Complexity and Discussions of Political/Religious Issues

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointPolitical and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.

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Eye-Tracking Methodology in Organizational Research

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Martin Meißner University of the Southern Denmark and Josua Oll of the University of Hamburg. They recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled “The Promise of Eye-Tracking Methodology in Organizational Research: A Taxonomy, Review, and Future Avenues,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Meißner recounts the events that led to the research and the significance it has to the field:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

Self-report methods continue to be widely used by organizational scholars, although their limitations are well-documented. Explicit calls have therefore been made for more frequent utilization of behavioral data and building on multi-method data sources. In this context, eye tracking (ET) represents one promising source of behavioral data. ET is widely employed in disciplines such as psychology and marketing, but only rarely used in organizational research. The paucity of ET studies in organizational research is surprising as other disciplines have used ET in areas of high relevance to organizational research, such as information search and decision-making, learning, training, and expertise. Furthermore, technological advances in recent years have greatly lowered the barriers for using eye tracking (ET) as a research tool in laboratory and field settings. Given that the costs for ET equipment are on a steady decline and that data quality and ease of use have also improved considerably over the years, we argue that the time is right to expand the standard methodological tool kit of organizational scholars by bringing ET to their minds and hands.

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

The most challenging aspect was the development of our integrative taxonomy for eye tracking research. Several ET taxonomies already circulate in the literature but these usually approach ET from a very specific and quite narrow angle. The challenging part was thus to bring those different perspectives together and integrate them in such a way that the full methodological scope of ET comes across clearly.

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

Our research is innovative in the sense that we introduce ET, and thus a new mode of behavioral data, to the field of organizational science. We further offer a novel taxonomy for ET research that integrates the more specific perspectives on ET as presented in prior work. Our paper serves as a knowledge brokering paper that reviews and synthesizes past research, and provides future avenues for the application of ET in organizational research. We therefore hope that our work will stimulate the organizational reader’s imagination and motivation for using ET and thereby contribute to the method’s future dissemination and to the advancement of organizational science alike.

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Centralized Organization and Distributed Trust

bitcoin-2729807_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Marc-David L. Seidel of the University of British Columbia. Seidel recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Questioning Centralized Organizations in a Time of Distributed Trust,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below,  Seidel reflects on the inspiration of his research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointTechnology has always fascinated me. This fascination led to many interesting opportunities including working for the creator of the first Campus-Wide Information System (CUInfo) and the first online counseling service (Dear Uncle Ezra) well before HTML and the web existed. I learned the true potential of networked communication at this point, and was always trying to figure out ways to get non-technical people interested – yet frequently failed miserably.

In graduate school, while I was procrastinating on my dissertation on the airline industry, I started reading about proposals of the HTML specification and I started to feel outdated technologically. It struck me that this new protocol may finally help bring the potential of the internet to non-technical people. So I decided to learn how to develop an HTML webpage to “get back up to speed.” This ultimately led to me creating the first online airline portal (Airlines of the Web) in 1994 prior to the consumer commercialization of the internet. As others entered the online travel space, a distributed community formed. This was highly collaborative at the start. As the consumer internet started to commercialize, I was fascinated by the interaction of those interested in online enabled communication and those interested in online profit. That experience of seeing how communities formed online around a common interest, led me a bit later to co-creating the first crowdsourced telecom consumer information rates and fees database (ABTolls) with a mission of helping people get the best consumer information possible. All of those experiences, combined with my strong academic interest in organizational theory, led to my interest in Community Forms (C-Forms) of organization. It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of organizations as technology has enabled inexpensive direct peer to peer communication.

Similar to when I first learned of HTML in the early 1990’s, when I first learned of blockchain I got a very similar feeling including the need to “get back up to speed” and have immersed myself in the growing communities of people working on the technology. Through learning about the technology, and distributed trust more broadly, I have recognized that many of our assumptions about formal organization are being fundamentally challenged by shifts to distributed forms of trust – where individuals previously unknown to each other can enter into direct peer to peer trusted interactions with no need for a central organization to vouch for either of them.

Removing the need for central organizations in many domains is a drastic shift to many underlying assumptions of the theories in our field. So my goal with this piece is to introduce the basic concepts of distributed trust to the non-technically inclined in our field, and to highlight how we need to address the future which is coming quickly. Implicit assumptions about the legitimacy and power of central network positions no longer ring true. Many core aspects of our field are being called into question at a fundamental level. I hope reading the Generative Curiosity piece helps other scholars to start to recognize what is coming, and how their own individual research domains will be impacted. As the technology develops, insights from organizational theory can help to shape our joint future so that the societal impact of this shift is designed in such a way to ensure a better more equitable future for all.

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Bitcoin image attributed to geralt. (CC)

Text Mining in Organizational Research

text-mining-1476780_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Stefan Mol, Vladimer B. Kobayashi, Hannah A. Berkers, Gabor Kismihok, and Deanne N. Den Hartog of the University of Amsterdam. They recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled “Text Mining in Organizational Research,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Mol recounts the events that led to the research and the significance it has to the field:]

07ORM13_Covers.inddWere there any specific external events that influence your decision to pursue this research?
One critical on-going event that lead us to pursue this research is the revolution and promise brought by the rise of big data to understand and enhance organizational processes. A large proportion of these data are comprised of texts that are generated every day at rates that imply that manual analysis of all of this data is no longer possible. The abundance of untapped text data suggest the existence of information with the promise of generating new knowledge that may be used to enhance both individual and organizational level outcomes.
Although, organizations already collect and store text data, many do not fully take advantage of the knowledge that can be gleaned from analyzing text. This may be due to a lack of expertise in conducting automatic text analysis or text mining. The mission of our work here is to empower organizational researchers by raising awareness of the possibilities afforded by text mining, helping them see how text mining might help them answer their research questions, and helping them to understand and use the text mining process and tools.
In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
With this article we hope to contribute by facilitating dialogue between data scientists and organizational researchers about the opportunities afforded by text mining. As an example, we illustrate the role that text mining of vacancies might play in job analysis. Previous approaches to job analysis rely on time consuming collection and analysis of survey and observation based data the results of which soon become outdated due to the fast changing nature of jobs. Using text mining we demonstrate how one can take advantage of other data sources such as online job vacancies to understand the requirements and skill demands of different types of jobs. Our goal is to not only apply text mining to the field of job analysis but more importantly to inform organizational researchers about the wide-ranging uses text mining could have in organizational research. We hope that this will spark an increase in the use of text data and machine learning in organizational research.
What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
Existing text mining solutions are technique and tool-oriented because most techniques and Big Data tools are currently primarily shaped by technical fields, such as statistics and computer science, that put greater emphasis on the computational and technological aspects. However, applying these in the field of organizational research holds great promise. Organizational researchers bring with them a repertoire of organizational theories. These theories provide domain specific information and requirements that can influence the selection of techniques and analytical strategy, and the way to evaluate the success of the particular application. Our advice for incoming organizational researchers wanting to explore text mining is to draw on their own theoretical expertise and from there start selecting the appropriate techniques and approaches to text mining. Also, as with using other analytical tools, we do need to pay careful attention to rigor in evaluation and validation of text mining based results.

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Business Cases for Sustainability – A Stakeholder Theory Perspective

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Stefan Schaltegger and Jacob Hörisch of Leuphana University, Luneburg and Edward Freeman of Darden Business School.  Schaltegger, Hörisch and Freeman recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Business Cases for Sustainability: A Stakeholder Theory Perspective,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, the three authors reflect on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

33048305825_efac4c4770_oWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

More and more private companies are voluntarily releasing statistics concerning how often they receive requests for their subscribers’ information, on what grounds the requests are made, and how many subscribers’ data has been disclosed. These statistics are bundled in transparency reports and their release has generally been seen as shedding light on otherwise secretive government activity, be it surveillance practices undertaken by intelligence agencies, by security intelligence agencies, or by law enforcement agencies. I wanted to understand a few things in my course of research: would companies that were not facing intense socio-economic pressures produce voluntary transparency reports that robustly revealed government surveillance practices? How effective are voluntarily produced transparency reports, generally, in shedding light on corporate and government activity? And what might be the impacts of standardizing these sorts of voluntary reports, and how might such standardization come about?

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

Countries around the world are grappling with the issue of government access to telecommunications data. The issue has become particularly poignant given revelations of international spying undertaken by Western countries, as well as a range of existing and proposed laws in Europe and North America that would facilitate police and security services’ access to communications information. However, governments have tended to be deeply secretive in how they use existing powers or how they would actually use proposed powers. Private companies’ voluntarily produced transparency reports, which provide statistics and narrative accounts of how often and on what grounds governments request access to companies’ data, act as a novel way of shining a light upon government practice. I was motivated to understand just how much these reports genuinely shed light on government practice and how much they cast shadows over the politics and policies of communications surveillance.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
There is an extensive literature on corporate social responsibility documents and the extent to which those documents make private firms transparent, as well as a literature discussing the importance of rendering government surveillance transparent to the public. What is novel about my research is it explores how private firms’ reports are produced in contravention of state desires or interests and, thus, how transparency reporting can happen outside of situations where the market or government are clamoring for revelations of firm behavior. Core to my findings is that voluntarily produced reports could potentially be standardized to enhance comparability across firms and the reports’ revelatory nature, but that any such standardization may conceal as much about firm behavior as it reveals. Ultimately, this research advances the scholarly and public policy debate over how (in)effective private firms’ reports’ are in advancing the state of knowledge of government surveillance activities versus concealing some aspects of such activities.


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Text Classification for Organizational Researchers: A Tutorial

baby-84626_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Stefan Mol of the University of Amsterdam. Dr. Mol recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled “Text Classification for Organizational Researchers: A Tutorial,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Mol reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

07ORM13_Covers.inddWhat motivated you to pursue this research?
Machine Learning assisted text analysis is still uncommon in organizational research, although its use holds promise. Most manual text analysis procedures conducted by researchers in this field are about the assignment of text to categories such as in thematic and template analyses. However, manual classification of text becomes laborious and time consuming (and sometimes subject to reliability issues) when one needs to do this for a sizeable amount (hundreds of thousands or millions) of pieces of text. An alternative is to use automatic text classification systems that can be constructed by researchers, which allow them to speed up the process of labeling or coding large sets of textual data. The design and building of text classifiers could be of use for various areas of organizational research. Our aim was to illustrate how this could be done and provide a tutorial. We used the example of building a text classifier to automatically sort job type information contained in job vacancies. The importance of validating the results of text classification was demonstrated through data triangulation, using expert input. We believe that the use of this procedure among organizational researchers can improve reliability and efficiency in analysis that involves classification.
What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?
Building classifiers involves several rounds of training, testing, and validation before they can be deployed in practice and the most challenging aspect is training the classifier and choosing the parameters in such a way that the results are valid from the standpoint of application. The classifier we built for the job analysis task was able to recover job task sentences with high precision as assessed by an expert in the field, although the classifier was initially trained with minimum expert input. Our results thus suggest that job vacancies are a reliable alternative source of job information that can augment existing approaches to job analysis. More generally, we believe this also suggests that wider use of text classification holds promise for organizational research in a broader sense.
What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?
One class of techniques that are now increasingly applied in the area of text classification are word embeddings. Word embeddings map each word to vectors of real numbers. The similarities among word vectors can be used to quantify and categorize the meaning of words in specific contexts. We initially planned to include a short discussion about this but we decided not to because these techniques warrant more in depth discussion which go beyond the scope of our current article. However, organizational researchers interested in recovering context specific meaning of words may benefit from the specific approach taken with word embeddings and we recommend them to get to know these techniques as well.

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