How Surveys Provide Integrated Communication Skills

“Excuse me, can you spare a  a few minutes? We’re conducting a survey and would greatly appreciate your responses.” You’ve most likely heard these two sentences presented to you as you’re walking briskly down a crowded street. The Internet is also a crowded street full of news, but we hope you can spare a few minutes to read about the latest research from Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

Author Anne Witte of EDHEC Business School, France, recently published a paper in BCQ entitled “Tackling the survey: A learning-by-induction design,”where she outlines the different learning outcomes that surveys afford. Below, Witte describes her inspiration for the study:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Our world is filled with surveys, yet surveys are often a negl4453697565_dcacd29f08_z.jpgected area in business training and often taught as a kind of mechanical application task which has more to do with software than with thinking.  As qualitative and quantitative data are the basis for business and organizations today, I wanted to train students more in the “art” rather than the “science” of the survey.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Students are often overconfident in their ability to do a survey task from A to Z.  When you challenge them with an interesting question to answer through a survey, they discover on their own how difficult it really is to obtain quality data that can be used to make decisions.

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

I love testing new teaching paradigms with advanced business students and especially using interdisciplinary thought experiments that oblige students to draw from previous knowledge and varied skills sets.

Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts on the BCQ homepage. 

Survey photo attributed to Plings (CC).


Communities as Nested Servicescapes

jsrrr.JPG[We’re pleased to welcome Xiaojing Sheng from the University of Texas at Rio Grande. Sheng co-authored a recently published article in the Journal of Service Research  entitled “Communities as Nested Servicescapes” with Penny Simpson and Judy Siguaw. From Sheng:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

From groups of four to sixteen sipping margaritas in local restaurants to dancing at a beach or Mexican fiesta, retired winter migrants are a ubiquitous presence in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas each winter. These migrating consumers repeatedly come to the area in large numbers each winter to enjoy the warm tropical weather, to participate in the many available activities, and to enjoy each other in their highly social living environment of mobile homes and recreational vehicle communities. These senior citizens also become an inseparable part of the region by routinely going to restaurants, events, shows and stores where they seem to exude a comradery and enjoyment of life not seen by typical residents of any community. For these migrants, winter life in the Valley seems to be a fun-filled, months-long vacation. Through casual observation of the lifestyle of these hundreds of thousands of active retirees, we were driven to understand their experiences as they become immersed in the broader servicescape of the Valley and in the nested servicescapes of their mobile home/recreational vehicle communities in which they reside for extended periods of time.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The finding that servicescape engagement weakened the positive effect of perceived servicescape satisfaction on loyalty intention is unexpected and surprising. This is probably because high levels of activity engagement become all-consuming, making perceived servicescape satisfaction itself less important in loyalty intention. For example, consumers may be willing to overlook a rundown beach villa if the beach activities are exceptional. On the other hand, lower levels of engagement strengthened the impact of perceived servicescape satisfaction on loyalty intentions, conceivably because consumer attention is less distracted by activity involvement, and therefore, more focused on servicescape factors.

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

An interesting finding from our study is that, when consumers interact with two servicescapes of which one is nested within another, their experiences are shaped by the effects of the individual servicescape, the compounding effects of both servicescapes, and by the transference effects between the two servicescapes. Consequently, marketers need to take a holistic approach to managing servicescapes at all levels to create an overall positive consumer experience. We hope that our research serves as a catalyst for future studies that examine effects of nested servicescapes. Moreover, we hope our work encourages other researchers to investigate less conventional servicescapes, such as regions, towns, and neighborhoods, because there is so much more to be learned about how the places in which we live, work, and play affect and transform our lives.

Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts through JSR’s homepage so you never miss a newly published article.

Notes on the Origin of “The Normalization of Corruption”

[Wjmie’re pleased to welcome back J.S. Nelson, Senior Fellow at the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at Wharton, and an Advisor in the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Nelson recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “The Normalization of Corruption.” Notes from Nelson:]

My forthcoming article on “The Normalization of Corruption” in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Management Inquiry started in a fairly unusual way. I am an attorney—a former prosecutor and commercial litigator—who has taught in business schools for nearly ten years. My work focuses on both entrepreneurship and business ethics.

But the differences between law and business still surprise me. At the 2016 Western Academy of Management meeting in Portland, a group of us were lingering over the end of breakfast at a conference table. As we described what we were working on, and I mentioned my articles about the incentives for wrongdoing within organizations leading to the 2007-08 financial crisis and scandals since, someone at the table stopped me mid-stream. “What are you doing sitting here? You need to be in the session happening now on corruption,” she told me. I protested that I didn’t work on corruption. For lawyers, corruption is the paying of bribes to government officials. But the management, finance, and organizational behavior people at the table envisioned corruption much more broadly—they saw corruption as the misuse of organizational resources by anyone who hijacks the proper purpose of the corporation. Yes, under this definition, the financial crisisthe VW emissions scandal, and today’s headlines about fraud at Wells Fargo are all corruption.

So I ran over to the room where the corruption symposium was mid-stride. And, lo and behold, a defense lawyer spoke to the crowd about white collar crime. Other people described the loss of positive “voice” that they had seen in corporate scandals. I was writing the Oxford University Press’s book on Business Ethics. These people were speaking my language. As the session drew to a close, I raised my hand to make a comment about the sorry state of the law and how middle management is often where the details of large scandals originate in order to protect top executives who don’t want to ask the questions that they should while on the job.

My comment and question drew Paul Hirsch’s attention. Paul is, as you know, the James L. Allen Professor of Strategy & Organizations in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is also passionate about new ideas and what we can do about corruption in this country. We sat down for an impromptu talk perched at a small table outside the meeting room to compare notes about how decisions in the courts are helping to fuel the patterns of corruption that we both study. We talked about the work that I was doing on the prevalence of corruption industry-by-industry, and how behavioral ethics helped explain the tipping points beyond which corruption became a norm.

Paul looked at me hard. I could tell he was coming to a decision. “Okay, do it,” he said. “Write this up for me as a guest editor of the issue—let’s put this in the Journal of Management Inquiry’s special issue on Corruption.” I protested—I came from a different discipline, the deadline was two weeks away, I had other publishing commitments, it just wasn’t possible. But Paul had seen the links between my work and his field. We cared about the same things. He knew that the management community needed to hear from additional perspectives, and he knew that the synergies would be worth pursuing.

And he was exactly right. The “Normalization of Corruption” article wrote itself.  The management material told part of the story, and the additional keys were in law and behavioral ethics. There is a pronounced cycle: the fact that misconduct is perceived by individuals to be so widespread has led to a normalization of corruption within companies and industries. The contribution of the law—and this part is particularly vicious—is that the normalization of corruption, in turn, helps to defeat attempts to prosecute the misconduct and to prevent its spread. Normalizing corruption tells individuals not only that it is acceptable to cheat, but that cheating is the behavior now expected of them and for which they will be rewarded.

So read the paper. Let me know what you think. Lawyers don’t usually talk about cultures and norms, and business professors don’t usually talk about doctrine and cases. But it’s time to put the pieces together. These synergies are shaping the world we live in, and—unless we have the conversations that we need to change that world—they are reciprocally creating the normalization of corruption.

Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts for the new articles published in the Journal of Management Inquiry. 

Wide Research, Narrow Effects: Why Interdisciplinary Research – and Innovation – is Hard

[This blog post was originally featured on Organizational Musings, written by Administrative Science Quarterly‘s Editor, Henrich R. Greve. Click here to view the original post.]

Interdisciplinary research is seen as very valuable for society and economy. Some of that could be hype, but there are some good examples of what it can do. You have probably noticed that oil is no longer 100 dollar per barrel, and the US is no longer a big importer. This is a result of fracking, a result of interdisciplinary research. And if you don’t like fracking, a good alternative is photovoltaic energy, which comes from the sun, and from interdisciplinary research.

So some interdisciplinary research has been good for society. Is it also good for the scientists who are supposed to do it? The answer to this question is very interesting, and is reported in an article in Administrative Science Quarterly by Erin Leahey, Christine Beckman, and Taryn Stanko. The start is easy to explain: interdisciplinary research is less productive, but it gets more attention. The answer got more complicated, and more interesting, when they started looking at why that happened.

Current Issue CoverThe first step was to look at whether interdisciplinary research is more difficult to do, or whether it is because it is harder for it to gain acceptance and get published. The answer is clear: it is not harder to gain acceptance, but it is harder to do, especially early on. The second step was to look at why this research got more attention. Here many factors played a role, but one stood out to me: Actually what increases especially much is the variation in how much attention interdisciplinary research gets, and that helps explain the increased average. So interdisciplinary research is related to fracking in one more way – few reap the awards from it.

This paper doesn’t really result in career advice for scientists, because everyone will be interested in different kinds of research, and have different ideas on how much risk to take on. But has important insights on how innovations are made. Building on closely related ideas is much easier to do, so no wonder much of what scientists – and companies – do is incremental. And this is true even though we often tell stories of the great successes of interdisciplinary research and integrative innovations, while forgetting all those who tried and didn’t succeed. Whether that means we cross-fertilize knowledge too little, too much, or just enough is hard to tell.

You can read the article, “Prominent but Less Productive: The Impact of Interdisciplinarity on Scientists’ Research” from Administrative Science Quarterly free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay up to date on all of the latest research from Administrative Science QuarterlyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

The Chrysalis Effect: Publication Bias in Management Research

14523043285_2235b0dbb4_zHow well do published management articles represent the broader management research? To say that questionable research practices impact only a few articles ignores the broader, systemic issue effecting management research. According to authors Ernest Hugh O’Boyle Jr., George Christopher Banks, and Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, the high pressure for academics to publish leads many to engage in questionable research, thereby leading the resulting published articles to be biased and unrepresentative. In their article, “The Chrysalis Effect: How Ugly Initial Results Metamorphosize Into Beautiful Articles,” published in Journal of Management, O’Boyle, Banks, and Gonzalez-Mulé delve into the issue of questionable research practices. The abstract for the paper:

The issue of a published literature not representative of the population of research is Current Issue Covermost often discussed in terms of entire studies being suppressed. However, alternative sources of publication bias are questionable research practices (QRPs) that entail post hoc alterations of hypotheses to support data or post hoc alterations of data to support hypotheses. Using general strain theory as an explanatory framework, we outline the means, motives, and opportunities for researchers to better their chances of publication independent of rigor and relevance. We then assess the frequency of QRPs in management research by tracking differences between dissertations and their resulting journal publications. Our primary finding is that from dissertation to journal article, the ratio of supported to unsupported hypotheses more than doubled (0.82 to 1.00 versus 1.94 to 1.00). The rise in predictive accuracy resulted from the dropping of statistically nonsignificant hypotheses, the addition of statistically significant hypotheses, the reversing of predicted direction of hypotheses, and alterations to data. We conclude with recommendations to help mitigate the problem of an unrepresentative literature that we label the “Chrysalis Effect.”

You can read “The Chrysalis Effect: How Ugly Initial Results Metamorphosize Into Beautiful Articles” from Journal of Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Journal of ManagementClick here to sign up for e-alerts! You can also follow the journal on Twitter–read through the latest tweets from Journal of Management by clicking here!

*Library image attributed to Apple Vershoor (CC)


How are Research Methods Taught?

[This blog post was originally posted on the SAGE Connection – Insight blog. To read the original blog post and find more content from SAGE Connection – Insight, click here.]

How can librarians better support faculty who teach research methods? What materials do students look for in their libraries? Sharlene Hesse-Biber, a celebrated research methods author and faculty member at Boston College, sought out the answers to these questions by working closely with her library to teach research methods to students. In this clip, Hesse-Biber shares insight on the type of research instruction that students receive in the classroom and where library research resources and support can fit into that process. Watch as she addresses several big questions surrounding research methods instruction such as:

  • How can faculty and librarians provide students with good exemplars of great research?
  • How can faculty and librarians support students conducting their first research project?
  • What do students learn at various levels of their academic careers?

For more information on research methods check out MethodSpace, home of the research methods community.

via How are Research Methods Taught? — SAGE Connection – Insight

Bringing Foundational Research in from the Cold

[This post features an interview originally featured on the Social Science Space blog. You can find the original blog post here.]

Like a favorite quote that turns out not to have passed the lips of Churchill or Twain, foundational research often is honored as its interpreters see it and not as the original author presented it. That’s one premise of a new paper from the journal Human Relations that examines how secondary research, in this case on Kurt Lewin’s change management theory, has frozen out Lewin’s original insights (which appeared in the first paper in the then-new journal Human Relations in 1947, the same year Lewin would die of a heart attack).

The authors –Stephen Cummings and Todd Bridgman of Victoria University of Wellington and Kenneth G. Brown of the University of Iowa – trawled through Lewin’s archives at the University of Iowa tracing the history of his famed three-step change management ideas, and found a corpus of subsequent work littered with misquotes, mis-citations, and possibly even fabrications, alongside a popularity in management textbooks and pop-management books on change management.

While they focus on the misapprehension of Lewin, in the following email interview the authors discuss how this sort of myopia is surprisingly common – and often pernicious – in academe, and offer a prescription for combating it: dig deeper into the past and look at what the founders actually wrote.

As Cummings told Social Science Space, “In the instance of Lewin, they would find far more thoughtful and nuanced ideas than what currently passes for best practice in change management today – ‘best practice’ that is based on overly simplistic reductions of what Lewin supposedly wrote, but didn’t — a fact not seen because nobody bothers to check.

I’d like to ask you about the idea behind your article, “Unfreezing change as three steps: Rethinking Kurt Lewin’s legacy for change management,” and what you are saying about the concept of ‘attention decay.’ But I think before we discuss the general case we should address the specific case, specifically your argument that Kurt Lewin’s now-classic ‘changing as three steps’ approach to managing change has been codified, into something other than what Lewin himself wrote. 

We argue that a small summary statement by Lewin, buried in one of his last articles, a Kurt Lewinstatement about how change could be thought of in three steps unfreezing, moving and freezing, was developed into something far more simplistic and linear (a three phase, a-b-c, one-size-fits-all framework for intervening to direct change) and grander (one of the main pillars of Lewin’s research). Over time, this became a convenient foundation for the fledgling field of change management. The notion that as great a scientist as Lewin, the ‘great experimenter’ as he was known, would have laid down this framework as a solid foundation stone is a useful one for those who sought to build change management into something important.

In the 1970s and 80s management textbooks reinforced this view, formatting the ‘Three Steps of Change’ into the diagram that many people who were management students during and after this time will recall, and naming it ‘Lewin’s classical model.’ More recently, the emphasis on encouraging research outputs and the digitization of research has led to two further things that have discouraged people looking back to see what Lewin might have actually written. One, the sheer proliferation of writing on this (and any) subject makes it hard to take everything in. Second the digitization of recent research outputs makes it easier to search the ‘archives’ from one’s own terminal rather than go look at the ‘hard copies’ of older works.

This leads to the notion of ‘attention decay’ that you mention in your question. It’s been shown that citation patterns in research outputs are broader (more references) but shallower (the average time between the publication of the article and the works it references is shrinking): greater immediacy but less depth, in other words. We argue that it has consequently become less likely that people would actually go back and look at primary sources, making the proliferation of misinterpretations, of the forgetting of what was originally written, more likely.


If that is the case, for Lewin and for others, I might ask what’s the harm? But you suggest, apart from doing violence to the original ideas, that this could actually work against substantive innovation and might even hem in the frontiers of knowledge. 

Yes. We argue that this isn’t just a historical curio. We are fighting against a lazy understanding of history in our field in general, as well as fighting against how we have ignored the potential of the specific ideas that Lewin would be more likely advocating today were he alive.

First, we would suggest the specific misinterpretation of Lewin may be harmful because it blinkers us from seeing the other, more substantive, insights that Lewin provided. In our article we look at the one empirical study of organization change that Lewin was heavily involved with, which has come to be known as the Harwood study. Perhaps the major conclusion from this study is that change management is more effective if it is based on plural conversations that involve those who will be affected by the change right from the outset, as opposed to a unitarist approach were change is directed by consultants, or the like, employing their model. We would argue that if change practice, following Lewin’s Harwood experiments, was more inclusive, we’d see less change fatigue and cynicism about change programs in contemporary organizations.

In addition, our article goes back to the original Lewin paper from the first ever issue of Human Relations that the ‘three steps’ statement is taken out of. This article was titled “Frontiers of Group Dynamics.” It was partly a review, partly a challenge to researchers to move the field forwards. The two major challenges that Lewin laid down were to focus on ‘groups’ within organizations as the unit of analysis, rather than individual or the organization as a whole; and relatedly, to develop the application of statistical analysis to enable us to better analyze multiple variables relating to individual and group responses to change as a system. One of the reasons that we haven’t made as much progress on these challenges as we could have is that we looked beyond them and alighted and focused attention on the idea that Lewin said we should base change interventions on a three-phase model.

Second, and more generally, what is the harm in mis-attributing or at least exaggerating the genesis of ideas? The harm is that it propagates simplistic understanding of the history of ideas, which makes it less likely that we can robustly assess what has gone before, debate different views and make true progress rather than just enjoy the illusion of progress. If we don’t know what Lewin really said, then how can we be challenged by it, learn from it and build on it or against it?


Current Issue CoverAs a corrective, I notice that you want to buck the apparent trend of academics citing lots of references that only go back a shorter time – what’s been termed attention decay by those documenting its existence — by advocating academics instead look back and dive deeper.

We can adapt the popular analogy of the ‘glass ceiling’ to illustrate this point. Let’s say that attention decay in this regard creates an ‘ice floor.’ We can really only see down a little way, skate across this surface and develop variations on the ‘foundation’ we are skating across (there’s a diagram in our article that shows how recent change frameworks can be seen as just elaborations of the three stage unfreeze-change-refreeze model).

The reflection makes us look pretty clever, and it justifies present ideas as advances on what feels like a solid foundation. But in justifying present ideas, this shallow view of the past makes it less likely that would we really challenge present ideas and seek new ways of operating, or substantive innovation.

The prospect that the ice that change management is skating on may be thin and a bit illusory is a scary one, and we’ve already got some flak about our article by people who are challenged by it. But we’re hoping that we might promote innovation in change management by starting a conversation that thaws out that ice enough to make some people think twice. Diving deeper and reading all of Lewin’s 1947 article, for example, could provide researchers with a lot of inspiration for developing new ideas. Probably more inspiration, we would argue, than reading everything that has been written on the topic in the last three years.


I’m intrigued by your concerns that digitization can in effect close pathways that it presumably might have opened. Do you expect this might self-correct as musty volumes or yellowing journals grudgingly make their way to digital formats, or is the temptation to draw from the shallowest and freshest pools too great?


It’s not that digitization closes pathways. Rather, digitization makes it easier to scan large amounts of current literature and this is what researchers have tended to do with the new technology. You can understand why. Often authors are criticized for not including enough up-to-date references to other works in the field when they submit work to academic journals or PhD committees. Very seldom are they criticized for not including well-referenced quotations from many decades ago.

Given that two of us are based in New Zealand and one in Iowa, it’s not that easy to visit the archives we want to see in person, so we use digital archives to scan large amounts of data and focus our searches a lot. We’d be crazy to suggest that digitization is not a great tool. It can preserve and improve access to older, hard copies of papers and correspondence. But it takes interest from users and effort and money from providers to facilitate the continued development of this. Last year we visited archives at the Stevens Institute in New Jersey and Brandeis and Harvard universities in Boston: all three hold fascinating ‘musty volumes’ and the librarians could not be more helpful. But it was a contrast. Institutions like Harvard have a great interest in to preserving and promoting their legacy and they have more money than others to do so.

So digitization is to be encouraged, but there is nothing quite the same as being able to see original hard copies and we are losing these every day as libraries with limited resources look at what people are using and make resourcing decisions accordingly. Invest in the archives, or better Wi-Fi? It’s hard to make a case for the archives if people aren’t using them. We would urge people to support local libraries to both maintain and digitize their collections by using them, engaging librarians, and providing support in other ways where they can.


I assume your thesis applies beyond Lewin’s case and beyond management theory, even if his academic afterlife makes a good case study. Do you have other examples where classic theories get lost? Other disciplines?

We’ve written on how Max Weber is subject to convenient re-assignment in management textbooks as an old German who madly promoted bureaucracy, which he didn’t. Rather, he saw that their development fitted with mechanized times and worried about their spread in this regard. (However, an understanding of Weber’s principles of how good bureaucratic controls had many strengths, might have worked against some of the worst vestiges of the recent GFC – if people were aware of what Weber wrote about this). And John Hassard and others have done great work debunking many of the foundational myths surrounding Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne experiments.

But looking more broadly, perhaps the historical misinterpretation that has had the biggest impact on our times has been the development of the myth that Adam Smith founded economics by advocating a laissez faire approach, whereby progress would come when governments get out of the way and leave the ‘invisible hand’ of the market to sort things out.

Smith did examine how the division of labor led to progress in Book I of The Wealth of Nations. But much in the latter books of TWON was devoted to how governments should best intervene to protect people against the unfortunate consequences of the division of labor and free markets. But most have conveniently forgotten about those later books. And they’ve forgotten that Smith never once used the term ‘laissez faire.’ And that the term ‘the invisible hand’ was only used once by Smith in the context that it is attributed now, and it was not original. For example, it was a phrase that Daniel Defoe had his character Moll Flanders use decades earlier.

And yet, the world’s most influential economics textbook, by Paul Samuelson, has told generations of students that Smith’s message is, verbatim, this: “You think you are helping the economic system by your well-meaning laws and interferences. You are not. Let be. The oil of self-interest will keep the gears working in almost miraculous fashion. No one need plan. No sovereign need rule. The market will answer all things.” Samuelson’s faux-archaic style here leads the student to believe that this is what Smith must have written. But none of these sentences are Smith’s. It’s all made up.

In fact, many economists and politicians who may have been forced to read Samuelson or its equivalent often pay homage to Smith as ‘the father’ of their thinking, without ever having seen a copy of TWON, let alone reading it. This, we would argue, is the sort of shallow thinking worth continuing the fight against.


Do you have hope then that your field, and others, will see researchers and theorists reaching back to the original work? Or is the ice too thick?

It’s not that the ice is too thick. It’s more that if we’re only interested in looking at the past to justify current views, or seeing our present reflection looking good in the ice as it were, we’re not motivated to look down into or through that ice to really see what’s behind it. So the ice itself is not the main barrier, it’s the way we look. All it requires is a shift in emphasis from seeing the past in terms of the present, toward seeing history as a source of challenging ideas and a way of inspiring us to think differently.

Young researchers, quite rightly, want to discover new knowledge. Because we tend to see history and innovation as opposites they often don’t see much value in historical research. But realizing that thinking critically about the history of ideas can in fact be a greater spur to innovation than just collating all that’s been written on a subject in the last five years, should be a great motivator. Recognizing that we forget so much about what has been previously thought about, or that great ideas get sidetracked as we focus on other things, means that there’s challenging ideas and spurs to innovation waiting to be rediscovered in the archives. Because the research itself, going back to original sources and correspondence, is not too difficult to do once your motivated to do it (it’s easier to get ethics approval, easier to ‘interview’ librarians and original sources than schedule interviews with busy business people), we are very hopeful that this stream of critical historical research, critical historical that inspires innovation in the social sciences, will grow over the next decade.

*Books image attributed to faungg’s photos (CC)