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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Self-Organizing Into Winning Teams: Understanding the Mechanisms that Drive Successful Collaborations

workplace-1245776_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Amy Wax of California State University, Long Beach, Leslie A. Dechurch, and Noshir S. Contractor of Northwestern University. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Self-organizing into winning teams: understanding the mechanisms that drive successful collaborations,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Wax reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

SGR_48_3_Covers.inddWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

This paper is based on my dissertation research. Throughout graduate school, I was interested in studying team composition and diversity in teams. So, the topic of team self-assembly was very interesting to me (being that it has a lot to do with team composition), and I decided to make it the primary emphasis of my dissertation.

Specifically, I decided to focus on self-assembled teams using a sample of Chinese online gamers because I was granted unique access to a large digital trace data set that could potentially inform my research questions.

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

One of the most challenging (but also most fun/rewarding) parts of conducting this research was spending the summer of 2014 in Shanghai, working on data mining and analyses. It was mainly challenging because of the language barrier. Overall, it was an amazing experience!

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

Unfortunately, a series of semi-structured interviews that we conducted with Chinese and American online gamers ended up getting cut from the paper. Look out for a future publication with these results!

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Small Family Firms: How Knowledge is Shared

One could imagine that every small family firm has their particular habits when knowledge sharing, especially when the success (or failure) of the business relies on effective communication.

A recent study published in Family Business Review analyzes the different leadership approaches to knowledge sharing, and we are pleased to welcome one of the authors, James Cunningham, who reflects on the foundation and findings of the research. The paper, entitled “Perceptions of Knowledge Sharing Amongst Small Family Firm Leaders–A Structural Equation Model,” is co-authored by Claire Seaman and David McGuire. From Cunningham:]

Family firms are known for the unique ways in which they view and run their business. This has led many to believe that firms with a family influence behave differeFBR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgntly to their non-family counterparts. While a lot of research focuses on the many implications of this difference for the economic impact family firms, in terms of strategi
c direction, longevity, etc., we were more curious to know how the influence of family impacts what it is like inside the firm.

In this respect, knowledge is increasingly becoming the most important internal resource for a competitive organisation in the contemporary business environment. Integrating and exploiting the knowledge of people in the business has become one of the key activities of the modern business leader. The impact of leadership on how the firm manages knowledge is long established in the broader management literature, but our instincts would tell us that family firms will have their own way of approaching and managing knowledge. In this article, we uncover the different leadership behaviours played out in small family firms and how these behaviours are related to the leader’s perception of knowledge sharing in the firm. Essentially, we ask the question, does family influence help or hinder the development of a knowledge resource?

Unsurprisingly, we found a variety of leadership behaviours employed by family firm leaders. We present a choice in how the family firm views its knowledge resource. We suggest that a greater level of family influence implies more guidance-based leadership when it comes to knowledge. Knowledge here is considered a quality the family leaders have, which must be ‘distilled’ to other organisational members. While, the alternative is a participative approach to knowledge in the firm, one more accepting of input from others, but with the potential to reduce family control.

This choice of leadership approach is important for family business leaders to consider, as there are important implications for the development of their knowledge resource. We see these findings as part of a research direction which moves away from viewing family firms as a homogenous group, subject to the overbearing influence of family. Instead, we present the behaviours inside these organisation as choices, and these choices at the most basic level represent the business intentions of family firm leaders.

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CEO Characteristics That Influence A Firm’s Investing Strategy

[We’re pleased to welcome author Bruce C. Rudy of The University of Texas at San Antonio. He recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Chief Political Officer: CEO Characteristics and Firm Investment in Corporate Political Activity,” co-authored by Andrew F. Johnson. From Rudy:]

In setting outB&S_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg to study what drives organizations to engage in corporate political activity (CPA), my coauthor (Andrew F. Johnson, Ph.D.) and I were struck by how little was known about the role that the firm’s leader played in this regard.  This was especially surprising considering that we have a well-researched theory on the influence of the firm’s leader on its strategic choices (i.e., Upper Echelons Theory).  When we combined the concepts underpinning CPA and Upper Echelons Theories, a number of novel ideas emerged and we knew we had the opportunity to make important contributions to both theories.  The data we collected supported many of these ideas.  We are thrilled that Business & Society has provided us the opportunity to share our research with you.

The full abstract to their article is below:

Research on corporate political activity has considered a number of antecedents to a firm’s engagement in politics. The majority of this research has focused on either industry or firm-level motivations that lead to corporate political activity, leaving the role of the firm’s leader noticeably absent in such scholarship. This article combines ideas from Upper Echelons Theory with research in corporate political activity to bridge this important gap. More specifically, this research utilizes CEO demographic characteristics to determine (a) whether a firm will invest in political activity and (b) how these characteristics influence the particular approach to political activity the firm undertakes. Considering 27 years of data from large U.S. firms, we find that a CEO’s age, tenure, functional, and educational backgrounds influence whether and how the firm invests in political activity.

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Learning Effective Business Communication Through LeBron James’s Career

[We’re pleased to welcome author Alperen Manisaligil of Case Western Reserve University, who recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Taking Your Talents to Business Communications: Analyzing Effective Communication Through LeBron James’s Career Moves,” co-authored by Diana Bilimoria. Below Manisaligil explains the inspiration for the research, and surprising conclusions. From Manisaligil:]

3408889046_b3188df44e_z.jpgI came to Cleveland in 2011 from Turkey to pursue my PhD in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, and I observed how sorry most of the Clevelanders were because LeBron James left the Cavs for the Miami Heat and how happy and hopeful most of Clevelanders (including myself) felt after LeBron’s return in the Summer of 2014. In the Fall of 2014, I was asked to prepare and teach a required undergraduate class that covered business communications and all functional areas of business (accounting, finance, human resources management, management information systems, marketing, and operations management). The first class was on August 26, 2014, the summer LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs).

One of the first principles of effective business communication is to draw the attention of your audience at the beginning of the communication. I wanted to come up with an interesting activity so that I can demonstrate what I teach at the very start. I thought I could transform the communication of LeBron James and the Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert during LeBron’s career moves into an engaging in-class activity by using their publicly available videos and open letters. When I took the idea to one of my teaching mentors, Diana Bilimoria, she thought it was a brilliant idea and that I could even turn this activity into a publication (she later become the co-author of the article).

With the goal of publishing the activity for the benefit of other management educators, I prepared a case study and enriched the activity with media richness and channel expansion theories. I wanted to add academic depth to an event that everybody was talking about and take the conversation to a whole new level, focusing on what we all could learn from it. I designed and taught the activity for the first time, and it was well received by my students—I was even nominated for a university-wide as well as a school-wide teaching award at the end of the semester for teaching the course. Then, we wanted to see test potential modifications for this activity and Dr. Bilimoria used the activity in her elective graduate course on leadership, emphasizing LeBron’s growth as a leader most particularly.

What surprised me about the findings is that gender and nationality did not impact students’ learning from the activity, and students from different backgrounds were similarly engaged during the activity. Maybe we owed it to the fact that we taught the activity in a university in Cleveland, so I would be curious to learn management educators’ experiences using this activity in other geographical locations.

Media choices are increasing rapidly, adding new challenges for managers as they complete business communication tasks. I hope with the help of this activity, we can help practitioners make better-informed decisions in choosing the most appropriate medium to communicate and enrich their use of the chosen medium.

I and my co-author received excellent guidance from the action editor Jen Leigh, as well as two anonymous reviewers. I’m also thankful to Rachel Messina King, Phil Thompson, and Stacey Chung for their comments to earlier drafts.

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LeBron James photo attributed to: Keith Allison (CC)

#OSEditorPicks: Temporary Organizing and Institutional Change

org[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

Much of today’s work is accomplished within projects. In Temporary Organizing and Institutional Change, recently published in Organization Studies, Sampo Tukiainen and Nina Granqvist investigate how people engage in temporary project work that ultimately holds potential for institutional change. They analyzed how events unfolded over time within a project designed to establish the “Innovation University” that contributed to a nationwide university reform in a European country. The article shows how the process of establishing this university took many twists and turns, and highlights the way that “lock-ins” can occur and promote change.

I particularly like this article because the authors show us the real messiness of such project work, while also giving attention to the temporal aspects of institutional change. Tukiainen and Granqvist develop a theoretical model of institutional project work that shows how actors engage in interactions while scoping and specifying the change. In addition, their case study suggests that successful institutional projects build on previous change attempts; the odds of success are improved by finding ways to build on previous activities and learning, even those arising from previous failures. This is an important article for everyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of temporary organizations and how they can drive institutional change.

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You can read “Temporary Organizing and Institutional Change” from Organization Studies free for the next 30 days by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Organization Studies? Visit the homepage here and sign up for email alerts!

Is it a ‘home run’ for vertical integration? Organizational Form in Professional Baseball

At first glance, the organizational form of major league and minor league baseball teams may appear straightforward–minor league teams provide training and experience for players, which provides major league teams with a strong recruitment pool. However, a recent paper published in the Journal of Sports Economics by F. Andrew Hanssen, James W. Meehan Jr., and Thomas J. Miceli, entitled “Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball,” the authors suggest that the relationship between major league and minor league baseball teams is more dynamic than previously thought.

The abstract for the paper:

In this articleCurrent Issue Cover, we investigate changes over time in the organization of the relationship between Major League Baseball and minor league baseball teams. We develop a model in which a minor league team serves two functions: talent development and local entertainment. The model predicts different modes of organizing the relationship between majors and minors based on the value of these parameters. We then develop a discursive history. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that when the value of minor league baseball’s training function was low but the value of its entertainment function was high, major and minor league franchises operated independently, engaging in arms’-length transactions. However, as the training function became more important and the local entertainment function less important, formal agreements ceded control of minor league functions to major league franchises. Finally, as the value of local entertainment rose once again in the late 20th century, the two roles were split, with control of local functions accruing to local ownership and training functions to major league teams. This analysis helps shed light on factors that influence the boundaries of the firm.