A Space for Place in Business Communication Research

As technology allows more employees to have a “mobile” workplace, what happens to effective business communication overall? Should more businesses adopt an open-concept floor-plan to foster better collaboration?

Author Deborah Andrews of the University of Delaware addresses the emerging millennial habits of group collaboration and workplace design in her recently published article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “A Space for Place in Business Communication Research.” From Andrews:

I’m inspired a lot by things, by objects and spaces and what they can make happen. For ye2392869301_65bb870ab9_m.jpgars, too, I have focused my research and teaching on business communication. So when my university started talking about the new “integrated science and engineering” laboratory it was building to fosterinnovation and creativity through collaboration, I wondered: can a building do this? Curious, I looked at some other campuses and, sure enough, many such buildings were being constructed and promoted with similar rhetoric. Because it’s essentially a matter of communication, I was particularly interested in the many occurrences of collaboration in these statements about how the building would deliver on its promise. I saw that term invoked as well in real estate columns, the marketing reports of design consultancies, and popular business articles about new offices being created, for example, by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. I knew then that I had an enticing research project: matching the rhetoric of these new laboratories and offices to results on the ground.

It’s becoming a commonplace of material culture studies that objects create subjects, the things we live with make us the people we are, maybe even more than the other way around. But I’ve been surprised about the extent to which academic administrators, corporate CEOs, and entrepreneurs believe that the right arrangement of plan and furnishings in an office can foster the achievement of organizational goals.

Examining that fit between the rhetoric of the office or lab as a transformative space and results on the ground is an inviting area for communications research. As one anthropologist notes, we often overlook the things in our environment because they are “blindingly obvious.” We take them for granted. My International Journal of Business Communication article aims to encourage researchers to take another look at the physical environment of a 21st Century workplace as it relates to the communication needed to get work done there. We know that the environment shapes us. But can it shape us in desired ways? And how can we tell?

 

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Office image attributed to Jesus Corrius (CC).

The Brain Basis for the Digital Daze of Millennials

6858063937_1fb1b7685c_z[We’re pleased to welcome Tim Brown of University of California, San Diego. Tim recently published a rejoinder to the article “Digital Technology and Student Cognitive Development: The Neuroscience of the University Classroom” entitled “On the Brain Basis of Digital Daze in Millennial Minds,” published in Journal of Management Education. Tim’s interview for the piece:]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

As a neuroscientist who studies child brain development, I strongly support the promotion of public policies that will help edify the minds and brains of our youngest citizens. So I’m quite interested in the recent widespread use of digital media by children and adolescents and the possible cognitive effects this phenomenon might be having on them. Scientifically, it’s a difficult question to pin down, but with our widely available new noninvasive brain imaging and recording tools (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging— fMRI, electroencephalography— EEG, magnetoencephalography— MEG) it should be possible.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

One of the most surprising aspects of this topic to me is how very little peer-reviewed neuroscientific evidence there is (if Current Issue Coverany!) for this “digital daze” phenomenon. This is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that the phenomenon has been well documented behaviorally and because there seems to be a general consensus that the amount of time youngsters spend being “techno-tethered” is worrisome from a psychological health standpoint. It seems that some are taking for granted the idea that these brains are actually being “re-wired” to be shallower processors of information without the scientific evidence required to make this inference.

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

I think the issue is certainly an important one and I hope that some of the points I have chosen to emphasize will lead to more and better research on the possible brain effects of purported “screen addiction”. At the same time, as I suggest in the article, I also believe that brain measures are simply neither necessary nor sufficient for making informed decisions about many such public policy issues. Cognitive, behavioral, and academic measures should remain the stalwarts for assessing potential problems like this and for measuring the success of solutions that we put into practice.

An excerpt from the rejoinder:

Given what we know about how brains work, activities performed at such lengths must have some effects on the young brains involved. At all phases of human development and aging, our brains reflect within their structural and functional organization aspects of the activities, both mental and physical, in which we are engaged (Poldrack, Desmond, Glover, & Gabrieli, 1998; Ungerleider, Doyona, & Karnic, 2002). But as Cavanaugh and colleagues articulate, the concern is precisely that these youngsters’ brains are not really engaged during many of these tasks. And one principle that has emerged from developmental cognitive neuroscience research is that the growing brain shows a progressive commitment of resources with increasing age and decreasing plasticity overall (Stiles, Brown, Haist, & Jernigan, 2015; Stiles, Reilly, Levine, Trauner, & Nass, 2012). So in addition to fears that these protracted digital activities might be bad for students, we can also certainly imagine that some of this time might be better spent devoted to any number of activities that we know or suspect are good for developing minds and brains.

You can read the article “Digital Technology and Student Cognitive Development: The Neuroscience of the University Classroom” and Tim Brown’s rejoinder “On the Brain Basis of Digital Daze in Millennial Minds” from Journal of Management Education free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Image attributed to Campus Party Brazil (CC)

How Do Societal Institutions Affect Organizations and the Way That Work Is Organized?

5999449329_023f404bbd_z[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

There is a wealth of information in studies categorized as Comparative Institutionalism that can provide important insights into current questions about the collective organizing of work. In the latest virtual Perspectives issue of Organization Studies, authors Jasper Hotho and Ayse Saka-Helmhout provide an overview of the literature on comparative institutionalism and show how key themes within this body of research can make important contributions to current debates in organization theory. For example, by paying more attention to the institutional differences across societies, researchers can respond to calls for a more contextualized and holistic understanding of organizations. Current Issue CoverBecause institutional scholars have recently been focused on the organizational field level, they have almost ignored previous studies showing how organizations and society tend to reflect each other structurally. Hotho and Saka-Helmhout explain how established knowledge about the connections between societal institutions and organizations can facilitate new organizational insights.

More specifically, Hotho and Saka-Helmhout identify three themes in the comparative institutionalism literature that can inform our understanding of organizational behavior. Theme 1: Societal differences in modes of organizing have consequences for organizational work practices. Theme 2: Relationships between societal institutions impact economic organization and the market structure within which organizations pursue multiple paths to performance. Theme 3: Different societal institutions hold significant implications for multinational enterprises because they must straddle the variety.

These themes are elaborated on with particular attention to eight previously published articles that have contributed to the development of key ideas and turning points within comparative institutionalism. These articles are available to access for free online in the Comparative Institutionalism Perspectives issue, which you can access here.

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*Building image attributed to Peter Alred Hess (CC)

Will Intelligent Machines Take Over Decision Making in Organizations?

20445410340_c1a0fe6a6a_z[We’re pleased to welcome Sukanto Bhattacharya of Deakin University. Sukanto recently published an article in Group & Organization Management with co-authors Ken Parry and Michael Cohen, entitled “Rise of the Machines: A Critical Consideration of Automated Leadership Decision Making in Organizations.”]

What if it is a machine that provides an organization’s vision for the future instead of a visionary human? Are you willing to accept a machine as your boss? What might happen if your next promotion is decided by a robot?

Intelligent machines, from automobiles to dishwashers, are increasingly making forays into every conceivable dimension of human life with a promise of making things better but perhaps not always quite delivering on that promise. Machine intelligence has permeated various levels of organizational decision-making ranging from robotic technology on production shop-floors to intelligent decision support systems for top management.

Current Issue Cover

In their recent article published in Group & Organization Management, authors Ken Parry, Michael Cohen and Sukanto Bhattacharya hypothesize a scenario where it is possible for an intelligent machine to assume the role of an organizational leader and carry out the decision-making tasks. Without engaging in a debate as to the likelihood of such a scenario, the authors present an overview of the current state of the art in artificial intelligence research, allowing readers to form their own opinion on the plausibility of such a scenario. Assuming the eventuation of such a scenario, the authors then proceed to critically consider some of the potential outcomes, both positive as well as negative, from automated organizational leadership. They posit a design framework for developing an intelligent leadership decision-making system with the objective of ensuring the positive outcomes while thwarting some of the negative (and in some cases, outright dangerous) ones. Their article aims to open up a new line of intellectual deliberations, involving organizational and management sciences on one hand and artificial intelligence as well as systems development on the other, in addressing a number of important moral/ethical issues that they identified.

The abstract for the paper:

Machines are increasingly becoming a substitute for human skills and intelligence in a number of fields where decisions that are crucial to group performance have to be taken under stringent constraints—for example, when an army contingent has to devise battlefield tactics or when a medical team has to diagnose and treat a life-threatening condition or illness. We hypothesize a scenario where similar machine-based intelligent technology is available to support, and even substitute human decision making in an organizational leadership context. We do not engage in any metaphysical debate on the plausibility of such a scenario. Rather, we contend that given what we observe in several other fields of human decision making, such a scenario may very well eventuate in the near future. We argue a number of “positives” that can be expected to emerge out of automated group and organizational leadership decision making. We also posit several anti-theses—“negatives” that can also potentially emerge from the hypothesized scenario and critically consider their implications. We aim to bring leadership and organization theorists, as well as researchers in machine intelligence, together at the discussion table for the first time and postulate that while leadership decision making in a group/organizational context could be effectively delegated to an artificial-intelligence (AI)-based decision system, this would need to be subject to the devising of crucial safeguarding conditions.

You can read “Rise of the Machines: A Critical Consideration of Automated Leadership Decision Making in Organizations” from Group & Organization Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Binary code image attributed to Christiaan Colen (CC)

Does Family Management Inhibit the Technological Innovation of Family Firms?

9595272759_0f40945def_z[We’re pleased to welcome Julio Diéguez Soto of Universidad de Málaga. Julio recently published an article in the September 2016 issue of Family Business Review with co-authors Montserrat Manzaneque and  Alfonso A. Rojo-Ramírez, entitled Technological Innovation Inputs, Outputs and Performance: the Moderating Role of Family Involvement in Management.”]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

The enormous impact of innovation on economic growth and job creation worldwide and their particular importance for family SMEs.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Family management reduces the efficiency in converting R&D into technological innovation outcome. However, Current Issue Coverfamily management more effectively leverages technological innovation, thereby increasing long-term performance.

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

Given the importance of R&D to firm performance, family managers should understand the potential pitfalls that attempting to protect their socio-emotional wealth can have on technological innovation outcomes. Simultaneously, family businesses should consider the competitive advantages associated to family managers, who are more efficient in exploiting their given technological innovation outputs, which in turn increases long term performance.

Although this study considers family-managed firms as a particular group, future research should take into account that there is heterogeneity among them and should evaluate the differences among family-managed firms with regard to long-term innovation strategies.

The abstract for the article:

The aim of this research is to study the moderating role of family management in the relationships between the intensity of research and development and the occurrence of continuous technological innovation and between the existence of technological innovation outcomes and long-term firm performance. The results show that family management reduces efficiency in the conversion of research and development expenses into technological innovation outcomes over time. Our findings also suggest that the influence of family management significantly contributes to improving the effect of the achievement of technological innovation on long-term performance.

You can read “Technological Innovation Inputs, Outputs and Performance: the Moderating Role of Family Involvement in Management” from Family Business Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. There’s also still time for you to read Family Business Review‘s inaugural review issue, which closes at the end of August–click here to read it!

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*Technology image attributed to Cory M. Grenler (CC)

Sparking Dialogue: Organizational Communication through Digital Storytelling

8711865159_50ff14eaaa_zIn recent years, technology and the Internet have simultaneously expanded and reinvented the way we communicate. The change in how we communicate has been pervasive, impacting all communications in the personal and professional sphere. Advances in technology has led multimedia content to become a new frontier for organizational communications, bringing with it new potential for organizational storytellers to reach broader audiences and engage in more dialogical communication. In the recent Journal of Management Inquiry article “Digital Organizational Storytelling on YouTube: Constructing Plausibility Through Network Protocols of Amateurism, Affinity, and Authenticity,” authors Emma Bell and Pauline Leonard try to better understand how plausibility plays into the dialogical nature of digital organizational storytelling. The abstract for the paper:

In this article, we focus on “digital organizational storytelling” as a communicative practice that relies on technologies enabled by the Internet. The article explores the dialogical potential of digital organizational storytelling and considers how this Current Issue Coveraffects the relationship between online storytellers and audiences. We highlight the importance of network protocols in shaping how stories are understood. Our analysis is based on a case study of an organization, which produces online animated videos critical of corporate practices that negatively affect society. It highlights the network protocols of amateurism, affinity, and authenticity on which the plausibility of digital organizational storytelling relies. Through demonstrating what happens when network protocols are breached, the article contributes toward understanding digital organizational storytelling as a dialogical practice that opens up spaces for oppositional meaning making and can be used to challenge the power of corporations.

You can read “Digital Organizational Storytelling on YouTube: Constructing Plausibility Through Network Protocols of Amateurism, Affinity, and Authenticity” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Image attributed to Sergio Perez (CC)

Book Review: Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology

Technology ChoicesDiane E. Bailey, Paul M. Leonardi : Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 288 pp.$32.00/£22.95, cloth.

Asaf Darr of University of Haifa recently reviewed Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology in Administrative Science Quarterly. An excerpt from the book review:

Bailey and Leonardi are leading ethnographers of work who acquired their reputations through meticulous fieldwork, comparative research designs, and insightful use of general themes emerging from the data to develop middle-range theory. All these qualities are demonstrated in this book, which summarizes a decade of research into the engineering profession, with an emphasis on product design work. The book compares the work of automotive design engineers, software engineers, and structural engineers; the technologies they choose to employ in their daily work; Current Issue Coverand the division of labor that structures their work.

The book contributes to organizational literature in at least three meaningful ways. First, it provides an important description of design engineering work, highlighting its heterogeneity. Second, it identifies key factors that shape the choices engineering specialists make regarding their work tools. Third, it lays the grounds for a theory that can explain and even predict why and how occupations make decisions about the technologies they will use in their daily work. This theory is grounded in core elements of occupations, such as distinct skills and local divisions of labor, as well as in the surrounding environment, where variables such as market forces and institutional factors influence technological choice.

You can read the rest of the book review from Administrative Science Quarterly by clicking here. Want to stay up to date on all of the latest content published by Administrative Science QuarterlyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!