Communication Activities in the 21st Century Business Environment

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dale Cyphert, Corrine Holke-Farnam, Elena N. Dodge, W. Eric Lee, Sarah Rosol of the University of Northern Iowa. They recently published an article in the Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Communication Activities in the 21st Century Business Environment,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the motivations and innovations of this research.


What motivated you to pursue this research?

Most faculty view assessment as a chore to be accomplished with the least amount of effort or involvement. The business faculty at the University of Northern Iowa approach things a little differently, so when I say this research was motivated by the assessment process, I mean that in all the right ways. The authors were selected for the team because our courses included writing or communication instruction, so right off the bat we were interested in doing research that would enhance our own classroom experience. Besides that, conducting research that has an impact in the classroom is valuable in the College’s AACSB accreditation process, so we knew that our work would be recognized and rewarded. Finally, with our integrated assessment and curriculum process, we knew that our results couldn’t just be tossed aside. Our shared governance model ensures that when faculty discover a need for curriculum change, instructional resources, or professional development, administration will address the challenges constructively. With good processes in place, we were motivated to conduct rigorous, cutting edge research on our communication learning goals.

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

Our innovation was avoiding the traditional, academic mindset and embracing the employer’s perspective with a customer-oriented methodology for evaluating quality in service industries. We’ve used the model several times, but this was the first time with communication skills. So, our first step was to review the previous research on business students’ communication skills. The glaring issue was the on-going nature of employer complaints about lack of student preparation, which struck us as precisely the sort of problem that service companies face when they lack a good understanding of customers’ expectations. So, our real contribution was that we took the crucial step of finding out what communication behaviors our graduates are really expected to perform. We didn’t just define the perfect communication education from our academic mindset—which is rather like a professional chef defining the perfect dining experience based on his or her own whims and preferences. Some elite chefs can afford to run tiny exclusive restaurants, but as a public university, we can’t afford to provide education that serves only employers who just happen to need the skill set that we envision as perfect preparation. Instead, we asked a range of business employers what educational service they actually expect us to provide. The menu turned out to be quite different from what we’d been serving!

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

This is no different from any other field of study: be sure you find out what’s already been done and build on that! Business professionals regularly call for educators to do a “better” job of educating students in communication, but this doesn’t mean that educators haven’t been working on the problem! In fact, the first attempts to design a professionally relevant curriculum date back to the 1840’s. It’s a complex problem with a long history of research. There’s no sense in repeating work that’s already been done, and plenty of important research questions that still need to be answered.

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The Heptalogical Model of Entrepreneurship

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Patrick J. Murphy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Anthony C. Hood of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Jie Wu of the University of Macau. They recently published an article in Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy entitled “The Heptalogical Model of Entrepreneurship,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss the motivations and innovations of this research.]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

It all began in 2003, when I taught my first entrepreneurship courses. I designed my early courses based on textbooks, cases, and published research, but it was difficult for me to deliver high-impact, transformational lessons that way. Students would launch new ventures (or join existing ventures) and we would notice disconnections between what they had learned and what they eventually experienced. Excellent entrepreneurship courses must prepare learners to perform in jobs, vocations, occupations and other contexts that have literally never existed before. How does one do that? This question originally motivated me to pursue this research.

Strategic outreach and instilling an indelible entrepreneurial mindset in students are hallmarks of excellent entrepreneurship programs. Regarding outreach, one cannot merely make external cases part of a class; one must actually make a class part of those ventures. In other words, one flips the whole scenario so that students are managing real projects that just happen to be coursework. However, two problems with that approach are a lack of conceptual rigor and learning outcomes that are not universal enough. Practice is balanced by a conceptual foundation; a formal entrepreneurial mindset, grounded in the distinct theoretic domain of entrepreneurship. We have designed a framework that synthesizes these two complementary realms.

The Heptalogical Model is the product of applications by many people. It has evolved across contexts and countless trials and errors. In the last five years, as I have moved into various administration and leadership roles, the model has guided the development of a range of courses, curricula, majors, minors, and programs in different countries. These applications generated richer feedback for its evolution. My two co-authors (Anthony Hood and Jie Wu) and I represent diverse cultural backgrounds and they have been extremely helpful in this regard.

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

We want entrepreneurship educators and scholars to adapt the Heptalogical Model for their own purposes. Modify the labels, redefine the stages, and extend the framework if possible. The model itself is intended to be entrepreneurial.

Problems are not usually regarded as sources of positive value generation. But this model begins with problems. Issues of culture usually emerge when applying such universal concepts, and we designed the framework for relevance across cultural settings. For example, the Chinese word for “problem” (问题) is the same word for “question.” The difference is only in context. Problems call for solutions, questions call for answers. Each of the model’s seven stages is a similarly universal concept and thus amenable to many kinds of entrepreneurial action in many settings.

Our delineation of opportunities and ideas remains relevant throughout the model in a unique way that can affect venture operations even years later. As well, casting a venture’s mission subsequently to its operations is unique. A clear mission might seem to come first but our model, by contrast, takes a “ready, fire, aim” approach. The values implied by the original problem are what actually come first.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

The catalyst for writing this paper came from my assistant. She managed the teaching assistants for a large online graduate seminar based on the model. She told me that the model was exposed to thousands of learners via the university’s online learning partner and that a number of teams were using the model to actively launch new venture projects. I thought that was fantastic. She said, “Yes it’s good, but you should publish this model!” Finally, we have many project examples utilizing the model that go back over a decade, but only a couple are in the paper. The history of application and the model’s evolution are interesting.

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Student Assessment of Venture Creation Courses in Entrepreneurship Higher Education

[We’re pleased to welcome author Helena Wenninger of Lancaster University Management School. Dr. Wenninger recently published an article in Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy entitled “Student Assessment of Venture Creation Courses in Entrepreneurship Higher Education—An Interdisciplinary Literature Review and Practical Case Analysis,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Wenninger discusses the motivations and impact of this research.]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

Living in the 21st century brings huge opportunities but also responsibilities for today’s graduates. Requirements from employers, quickly changing economic conditions, global competition, and environmental concerns highlight the need for people having a vision, being resilient, and have no fear of making decisions under uncertain conditions. Thus, entrepreneurial skills are more relevant than ever not only for creating a venture but also to contribute to a meaningful business environment and to society as a whole. However, students’ performance is mainly measured and benchmarked by their grade point average, which comprehensively gives assessment high priority in students’ considerations. Based on those observations, the idea was born to investigate how I as an assistant professor teaching e-business venture creation in one of my courses can contribute to a better match of these two aspects and spread the insights.

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

This research offers insights into student assessment for experiential entrepreneurship education. Entrepreneurship programmes are mushrooming around the world, but research is lacking behind regarding the impact that assessment has on student learning in this area. I hope my work will further direct attention on the importance of assessment methods for students’ experience and learning for action-oriented, experiential, and learning-by-doing approaches.

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

Drawing from my personal experience as a lecturer in Information Systems, investigating the work from experienced scholars in the Entrepreneurship field, and discussing the topic with colleagues from the Educational Research department of my university was an encouraging and stimulating process for me to develop this work. Thus, I would recommend considering various sources of inspiration across relevant disciplines.

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Dynamics of Power, Obedience, and Resistance in a Classroom Restructure

[We’re pleased to welcome author Todd Bridgman of Victoria University of Wellington. Dr. Bridgman recently published an article in the Management Teaching Review entitled “Overcoming Compliance to Change: Dynamics of Power, Obedience, and Resistance in a Classroom Restructure,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Bridgman discusses the genesis of this research.]

The idea for this paper came from my experiences teaching change management to undergraduates as well as graduates. In my change management classes we examine topics like ‘resistance to change’ from both mainstream and critical perspectives. Within the mainstream, resistance by employees is often portrayed as an inevitable and undesirable response to planned change that managers must attempt to overcome. Critical perspectives, in contrast, are more likely to see resistance as positive, by prompting deeper analysis of a change, or by preventing an ill-advised or unethical one. It is recognised, however, that it might be difficult for employees to voice their concerns about change, especially if implemented from the top down, because of the power relationships involved. Therefore, we should encourage students to think about how to overcome compliance to change and not just how to overcome resistance to change.

Over time I found my MBA students could relate easily to both perspectives. Most are mid-career and have experienced multiple organizational restructures. Often they viewed these structural reorganizations as change for change’s sake by new managers seeking to make their mark on the organization and demonstrate their capabilities as leaders of change. In contrast, the undergraduates, with their limited work experience, were much more likely to accept without question the mainstream assumption that change is good and resistance is bad. After all, they have spent most of their lives in educational institutions where obedience to authority figures is encouraged, rewarded and valued.

To address this, I created a classroom activity that simulates an organizational restructure, requiring students to reorganize themselves around the room multiple times on the order of the instructor. I ask them to change their seating position in the room and once they have complied I ask them to change again. And I keeping moving them until they refuse.

The paper gives instructions for running the activity and a list of questions that can be used to debrief the exercise with students, together with their likely responses. The debrief gets them to reflect on their compliance and resistance, group dynamics that influenced their behavior and the ethical issues raised. It concludes with a discussion on how organisations can foster cultures that encourage employees to speak up.

I’ve used this activity successfully for more than 10 years and have received positive feedback on it from students. So I decided to write the paper to share my experience with other management educators.

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Media Artefacts as Public Pedagogy for Women’s Leadership Development

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Valerie Stead of Lancaster University and Carole Elliott of the University of Roehampton. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Pedagogies of power: Media artefacts as public pedagogy for women’s leadership development,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe this research and its significance to the present:]

This research is set within the context of an increased media spotlight on workplace gender equity and the enduring challenge of women’s progression into senior roles. The media holds a powerful global presence and is influential in shaping our values and beliefs about who can, and should be, a leader. In this article we use the example of media Power Lists to draw attention to the educational force of media artefacts. We argue that adopting the conceptual lens of public pedagogy to media artefacts grants leadership developers awareness of the pervasiveness of gendered social and cultural norms; they influence the organisation of the workplace and shapes attitudes towards women in leadership roles. The article is innovative in its theorisation of the pedagogic significance of media artefacts through the public pedagogy lens. This theorisation creates two significant forms of impact for the field. First, it demonstrates how media artefacts such as Power Lists have ‘pedagogical force’. That is, they shape our learning informally so we can use them to interrogate embedded gendered assumptions and asymmetries in power relationships. Second, the article illustrates how the informality of public pedagogies can be mobilised as pedagogical resources in formal learning settings. We do so by developing and applying an analytical framework that can be used on leadership development programmes. Our article is situated within the context of women’s leadership development. However, the analytical framework can be adapted to interrogate other structural inequalities, such as racialised misrepresentations of leadership.

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Journal of Management Education Special Issue: Behavioral Ethics

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgThe August 2017 Special Issue of the Journal of Management Education is now online! The eight new articles in this issue cover specific key topics including but not limited to moral awareness, cognitive biases, student self-assessment, and thoughtful decision making in an educational setting. Guest editors Jacob Park of Green Mountain College and Priscilla Elsass of Clark University help summarize the need for behavioral ethics research in pedagogy in their Editor’s Corner piece entitled “Behavioral Ethics and the New Landscape in Ethics Pedagogy in Management Education.” Below is an excerpt from their introduction:

Recent developments in the field of behavioral ethics, defined as “a field that seeks to understand how people actually behave when confronted with ethical dilemmas” (Bazerman & Tenbrunsel, 2011, p. 4), opens up the possibilities of teaching and studying ethics in new ways. Behavioral ethics research suggests that people are prone to predictable ethical lapses due to psychosocial and organizational influences, power differentials, and cultural practices (e.g., clan and in-group favoritism). For those who teach business ethics, a behavioral ethics perspective presents new challenges, including the need to develop students’ moral awareness, and their ability to recognize and effectively respond to both personal and organizational ethical dilemmas….Clearly, there is an urgent need to consider how ethics curricula and pedagogies may provide more effective approaches to understanding—before, during, and after—ethical lapses in this era of cross-cultural and global business enterprises with varied forms of institutional governance and corporate values.

Click here to continue reading the full introduction to the special issue. Visit the JME homepage to sign up for email alerts so you stay current with the latest management research!

Enhancing Student PsyCap in an Online Learning Environment

computer-room-314632-m[We’re pleased to welcome Joshua J. Daspit of Mississippi State University. Dr. Daspit recently published an article in Journal of Management Education with T. C. Mims of Texas Woman’s University and Staci M. Zavattaro of Mississippi State University entitled “The Role of Positive Psychological States in Online Learning: Integrating Psychological Capital Into the Community of Inquiry Framework.”]

The abstract:

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

My colleagues and I found this topic interesting because in addition to conducting research, a large portion of our jobs is dedicated to working with students. Each of us uses online components within our classes or teaches courses that are fully online – as many instructors do today – and the idea started from a simple desire to understand how we can enhance student learning within an online environment.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

To understand how learning occurs within the context of an online environment, we used the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to conceptualize how learning occurs. The CoI suggests three presences exist within an online learning environment. First, there is a teaching presence that consists of course development and facilitation by the instructor. Second, a social presence exists when individuals interact with peers within the online context. Last, the CoI suggests that the other two factors influence an individual-level cognitive presence. In other words, the teaching and social presences influence student learning.

In this study, we extend the CoI framework to account for an additional presence. Specifically, we suggest that an additional, individual-level factor drives the student’s learning, and that factor is the individual student’s psychological capital (or PsyCap). PsyCap cJME_72ppiRGB_powerpointonsists of the student’s self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. Without these, we suggest, the student is likely to have difficulty learning.

After testing the relationships among PsyCap and the components of the CoI framework, we find that instructors are able to positively influence the student’s PsyCap via the teaching presence. Additionally, the student’s PsyCap has a positive influence on the social presence within the online environment, and most notably, PsyCap positively influences the student’s learning (i.e., cognitive presence).

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

In the article, we offer suggestions for specific ways that instructors of online courses can enhance the student’s PsyCap and thereby enhance the student’s learning. For example, instructors may utilize an online PsyCap training session early in the semester as such trainings are shown to positively enhance the PsyCap of individuals.

We look forward to suggestions from other instructors who have found innovative ways to enhance student PsyCap and learning in online courses.

You can read “The Role of Positive Psychological States in Online Learning: Integrating Psychological Capital Into the Community of Inquiry Framework” from Journal of Management Education by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research from Journal of Management Education? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Josh DaspitJoshua J. Daspit, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Management at Mississippi State University. His research interests include examining firm capabilities and innovation with a primary focus on absorptive capacity and family business. His work has appeared in Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Journal of Managerial Issues, and other outlets. Prior to joining academia, he worked as a senior consultant for an international consulting firm and served as Director of Community Affairs for a member of Congress. (Follow him on Twitter: @JoshDaspit.)

TC MimsTina C. Mims, Ph.D., is currently serving as a Visiting Lecturer at Texas Woman’s University. Dr. Mims is a recently vetted PhD in Marketing after practicing marketing as VP & Director roles at Fortune 1000 firms. She is passionate regarding the preparation of both graduate and undergraduate students to have a competency based learning experience transferable to their chosen careers.

Staci ZavattaroStaci M. Zavattaro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of public administration at the University of Central Florida. Her main research interests include place branding and marketing, as well as social media use within the public sector. Her books include Cities for Sale (SUNY Press), Place Branding Through Phases of the Image (Palgrave Macmillan), and Social Media in Government: Theory and Practice (CRC Press). She serves as managing editor of Administrative Theory & Praxis and belongs at the Public Administration Theory Network, the Public Management Research Association, and the American Society for Public Administration.