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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Immediate Survival or Long-term Growth, What Should Be The Focus Now?

Cover image for latest issue of VikalpaOn a January morning in 2014, Mr Amit Kapoor, the Managing Director (MD) of Automotive Equipment Manufacturing Limited (AEML)1—a state government enterprise in India—was found in serious discussions with his senior management officials about the deteriorating condition of the company and how to devise a turnaround blueprint while working through many bottlenecks. The team seemed to be unable to reach any concrete decision about the future course of action.

Just the previous day, Kapoor was told in the Board of Directors’ meeting that the state government was unable to continue providing financial support to the sinking company, which had been incurring losses since 2008 (Exhibit 1). It was decided in the meeting that funds for employee salaries for the next six months would be provided by the government only under the condition that a revival plan would be produced to the Board within the next three months. The Board would decide the future course of action after evaluating the proposed plan and the financial condition of the company.

So far, the company had managed to focus only on immediate survival like earning next month’s salaries for the employees. This put the long-term survival of the company in question. The crisis management team had an idea for the revival of the organization, but that would essentially require capital flow for immediate breathing. The organization was already in adverse financial leverage condition. The only option to acquire working capital was government support. The condition of the organization would worsen if no relief fund was allotted to AEML in the next state government budget.

Kapoor and his team were appointed to the organization with the objective of bringing about a turnaround of the company. The financial health of the state government did not allow it to continue financial support to the organization. However, neither the state nor the union government, led by the ruling party of the state, was in favour of divestment due to hidden political agendas. Thus, the crisis team faced a new challenge of redesigning the revival plan under the provision of minimal external financial assistance. The state government did promise Kapoor that it would provide minimum support for the company revival if the turnaround blueprint was realistic.

A host of external and internal factors had led to the decline, and Kapoor and his team understood that some of the root causes required immediate focus. However, if the crisis team focused on these root causes, it would hold back the long-term strategy since finances would get redirected. Therefore, the team was in a dilemma about what to focus on in designing the revival plan—the immediate survival or the long-term growth of the company.

What according to you should be their focus now?

Click here to read this full Case Study from the Journal ‘Vikalpa’.

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Beyond Developmental: The Decision-Making Applications of Personality Tests

5529311561_4ba9be7419_zThe use of personality assessments in organizations has often been limited to developmental applications. However, growing support for data-driven decision-making in recent years has made it apparent that personality assessments could also become a resource for talent management decisions. In a recent paper from Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Does Purpose Matter? The Stability of Personality Assessments in Organization Development and Talent Management Applications Over Time”, authors Allan H. Church, Christina R. Fleck, Garett C. Foster, Rebecca C. Levine, Felix J. Lopez, and Christopher T. Rotolo investigate the consistency of personality data over time and whether the changing application of personality assessments changes their validity. The abstract for the paper:

Personality assessment has a long history of application in the workplace. While the field of organization development has historically focused on developmental aspects of personality tools, other disciplines such as industrial-organizational psychology have emphasized its psychometric properties. The importance of data-driven insights for talent management (e.g., the identification of high potentials, succession Current Issue Coverplanning, coaching), however, is placing increasing pressure on all types of applied behavioral scientists to better understand the stability of personality tools for decision-making purposes. The current study presents research conducted with 207 senior leaders in a global consumer products organization on the use of personality assessment data over time and across two different conditions: development only and development to decision making. Results using three different tools (based on the Hogan Assessment Suite) indicate that core personality and personality derailers are generally not affected by the purpose of the assessment, though derailers do tend to moderate over time. The manifestation of values, motives, and preferences were found to change across administrations. Implications for organizational development and talent management applications are discussed.

You can read the paper, “Does Purpose Matter? The Stability of Personality Assessments in Organization Development and Talent Management Applications Over Time,” from Journal of Applied Behavioral Science free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by Journal of Applied Behavioral ScienceClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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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)

Read the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies’ May Issue!

The May 2016 special issue of Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies is now available 8280699806_d5bdff2252_zto read for free for the next 30 days! The special issue features articles on issues and decisions in international management. From the introduction for the special issue:

This special issue addresses the subject of issues and decisions in international management, primarily in emerging markets and in some cases developed markets. It does so from a number of perspectives, and from three levels of analysis including the individual manager or employee, the firm, and the national economy.

…One particular insight emerges from having multiplearticles, many of which focus on a particular level of analysis. It is that regardless of the level of focus, all levels clearly become involved in the issues and decisions being considered. This is especially evident in the articles involving Russia, but on closer analysis can be seen in all seven of the articles in the special issue. Whatever level is the central focus, all issues and decisions affect firm policies and strategies, individual productivity and satisfaction, and the overall prosperity of the national economies involved.


Adding to the richness of this special issue, and contributing to the overall topic of issues and decisions in emerging markets, is the range of countries covered. The breadth stems from a single country view of Chinese firms’ market entry strategies to coverage of the broader internationalization strategies of firms from Russia, India, and China.

Articles published in the special issue include “Subsidiaries of Multinational Corporations: A Framework for Analyzing Employee Allegiances” by Snejina Michailova, Zaidah Mustaffa, and Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen, and “Institutional Erosion and Its Effects on Russia’s Corporate Leadership” by  Ruth C. May, Gregory R. Rayter, and Donna E. Ledgerwood.

In the article, “Organizing for Innovation Ambidexterity in Emerging Markets: Taking Advantage of Supplier Involvement and Foreigness,” authors Denise Dunlap, Ronaldo Parente, Jose-Mauricio Geleilate, and Tucker J. Marion examine two types of innovation ambidexterity in the emerging market of Brazil. The abstract for the paper:

Firms struggle to be ambidextrous in the sense of being able to successfully manage both new and incremental innovation activities simultaneously. Applying the knowledge-based view, we examine the important moderating influences of supplier involvement and foreignness on the relationship between innovation ambidexterity and performance. We test our hypotheses at the business-unit level of analysis in the emerging market of Brazil. We examine two types of innovation ambidexterity: the balanced dimension and the combined dimension. We found that firms possessing greater supplier involvement reap higher performance benefits from the combined dimension of innovation ambidexterity. Last, foreign subsidiaries also achieved higher levels of performance than domestic firms from the combined dimension of innovation ambidexterity.

The May 2016 special issue of  Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies will be free to access for the next 30 days–click here to access the table of contentsWant to know all about the latest from Journal of Leadership & Organizational StudiesClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*World map image attributed to Nicolas Raymond (CC)

Mindfulness Leads to Positive Outcomes at Work

3752743934_586c123f3c_zMindfulness training can help individuals increase their attention and awareness, but how can this present-centered mindset help in the workplace? The recent article published in Journal of Management entitled, “Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: An Integrative Review” from authors Darren J. Good, Christopher J. Lyddy, Theresa M. Glomb, Joyce E. Bono, Kirk Warren Brown, Michelle K. Duffy, Ruth A. Baer, Judson A. Brewer, and Sara W. Lazar delves into the applications of mindfulness at work. Their findings suggest that mindfulness training can have a broad, positive impact across key workplace outcomes. The abstract from the paper:

Mindfulness research activity is surging within organizational science. Emerging evidence across multiple fields suggests that mindfulness is fundamentally connected to many aspects of workplace functioning, but this knowledge base has not been systematically integrated to date. This review coalesces the burgeoning body of JOM 41(3)_Covers.inddmindfulness scholarship into a framework to guide mainstream management research investigating a broad range of constructs. The framework identifies how mindfulness influences attention, with downstream effects on functional domains of cognition, emotion, behavior, and physiology. Ultimately, these domains impact key workplace outcomes, including performance, relationships, and well-being. Consideration of the evidence on mindfulness at work stimulates important questions and challenges key assumptions within management science, generating an agenda for future research.

You can read “Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: An Integrative Review” from Journal of Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from  Journal of ManagementClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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*Rock tower image credited to Natalie Lucier (CC)


Innovation and Inclusion: The Role of Shared Stories in Family Firms


[We’re pleased to welcome Nadine Kammerlander of University of St. Gallen. Dr. Kammerlander recently published an article in the December 2015 issue of Family Business Review with co-authors Cinzi Dessi, Miriam Bird, Michela Floris, and Alessandra Murru, entitled “The Impact of Shared Stories on Family Firm Innovation: A Multicase Study.”]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Over the last years, researchers have dedicated a lot of effort to understand how organizations should be set up and managed to foster innovation – also in the family business context. But hardly anyone has taken a closer look at the family side. This is a pity, because there is so much anecdotal evidence that, especially in small family firms, a lot of informal stuff is going on. Spouses, kids, and other family members are, for instance, asked before important strategic decisions are taken – but this never gets recorded in any official document. So we wondered how the “informal dinner conversations” might influence firm behavior (and in particular firm innovation, which is the core research area of my co-authors and myself). We felt that the Sardinian winery context is a perfect research setting because there are many small and traditional family-owned and –managed countries that recently faced the pressure to innovate. Conducting in-depth interviews with two thirds of all Sardinian family-owned wineries allowed us to not only get deep insights into their innovation behavior but also their family dynamics.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?FBR_C1_revised authors color.indd

Of course we expected that the private conversations of family members might influence firm innovation – that was why we started out this research project. We were very much surprised, however, that really all our interviewed families put a lot of emphasis on sharing stories about the family firm with their children. We were even more surprised to see two clear categories: Those families that shared “myths” about a referenced founder had traditionally run family firms that were reluctant to change. Those families, however, whose stories focused on the family itself and the positive values and emotions associated with the family were much more open to innovation and introduced new products and processes.

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

First, we believe that the findings of our study are highly influential for practice. For advisors trying to help family businesses and making them “fit for future” one of the questions to ask is: What do you tell your children about your family firm? And also family firm owners and managers should reflect about their dinner conversations. Sharing stories about family firms can be great – those stories increase the family members’ interest in and commitment to the family firm. But it is the content that matters! Only if the content of the stories leaves the children with flexibility to act, innovation will occur.

With respect to future research, we hope that studies will continue to take a deeper look into what is happening within the family. We also hope that the topic of “how values and beliefs are shared across generations” gains more attention of researchers worldwide.

The abstract:

Innovation is a key determinant of long-term success for family firms. We apply a multiple case study research design to investigate the relationship between stories that are shared among family members across generations and the family firms’ innovations. We derive a set of four propositions suggesting that founder focus in stories is negatively and family focus is positively associated with innovation. We further propose that these relationships are mediated by the scope of decision-making options, the distribution of decision-making power between generations, and the role of conflict in the families.

You can read “The Impact of Shared Stories on Family Firm Innovation: A Multicase Study” from Family Business Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. You can also listen to a podcast interview with co-author Nadine Kammerlander and Family Business Review assistant editor Karen Vinton by clicking here.


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Nadine KammerlanderNadine Kammerlander is an assistant professor of management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She received her PhD in management from the University of Bamberg, Germany, and holds a master’s degree in physics from the Technical University, Munich. Prior to joining academia, she worked as a senior consultant for an international consulting firm. She has published articles in leading journals (e.g., Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal). Her research interests include innovation and entrepreneurship in family firms, governance, and succession.

Cinzia Dessi

Cinzia Dessì is an assistant professor of management in the Department of Economic Sciences and Business Administration, University of Cagliari, Italy. She received her PhD in management and holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Cagliari. Prior to joining academia, she worked as manager in the business of her family. Her current research interest is in the areas of entrepreneurship and family firms, and focuses on growth, innovation, governance, and succession.

Miriam BirdMiriam Bird is postdoctoral researcher in management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She received her PhD in business administration from the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. Prior to joining academia, she was involved in several ventures in the tourism industry as well as in multiple projects with the International Labour Organization (United Nations) in Geneva. She has published articles in leading journals (e.g., Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice) and is particularly interested in entrepreneurship, innovation, and family business research.

Michela Floris

Michela Floris is an assistant professor of management in the Department of Economic Sciences and Business Administration, University of Cagliari, Italy. She received her PhD in management and holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Cagliari. She has been teaching family business management for several years. Her main interest of research focuses on organizational goals and goal-driven behaviors in family firms, including entrepreneurship, marketing, innovation, and growth.

Alessandra Murru is a PhD candidate in management in the Department of Economic Sciences and Business Administration, University of Cagliari, Italy. She received her master’s degree in economics from the same university. Her research interests concern entrepreneurship and governance with a special focus on family firm.