Nothing happened, something happened: Silence in a makerspace

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. François-Xavier de Vaujany
of the Université Paris-Dauphine, and Dr. Jeremy Aroles of Durham University Business School. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Nothing happened, something happened: Silence in a makerspace,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the motivations of this research and its significance to the present:]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

Over the course of our research, we had the opportunity to visit a wide range of collaborative spaces located in ten countries. During these visits, we were particularly surprised by the role and importance of silence in these different spaces. The collaborative orientation of these spaces, together with the idea that collaboration is a noisy endeavour, made the prevalence and centrality of silence rather counterintuitive. This prompted us to look more closely into silence and its manifestations. In particular, it seemed that there was more to silence than meets the eye: we began to appreciate how silence is not an emptiness or an absence but rather both a space and process full of potentialities, possibilities for learning and creative endeavours. In our paper, we explore this initial intuition through an ethnographic study of a makerspace located in Paris.

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

Silence is a topic that is rarely featured in management and organisational studies. Fewer studies still have investigated silence in a ‘non-coercive context’, that is when silence is not directly forced upon people but rather chosen and actively sought. Our research is an invitation to consider the role of silence in new working configurations, and more precisely, the complex and multifaceted relation between silence and embodied forms of learning. We contend that silence creates the conditions for co-created and embodied learning. It gives visibility to the learning process of the workers and re-centres expression around gestures as well as focused conversations, highlighting how a silence ‘immediately felt’ in a physical space is not necessarily an absence of conversation.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

This is a difficult question to answer; in our case, this entailed rediscovering some fundamental texts published some seventy years ago. As our research progressed, our attention revolved increasingly more around the work of the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. In particular, we rediscovered The Visible and The Invisible as well as Phenomenology of perception. In addition, we found Glen Mazis’ book (Merleau-Ponty and the Face of the World: Silence, Ethics, Imagination, and Poetic Ontology) particularly useful when reading Merleau-Ponty’s work. We discovered, in Merleau-Ponty’s work, a wealth of concepts and sensibilities that are particularly well suited to the study of the ‘new’ world of work. More precisely, his work invites us to rethink our perceptions and experiences through an engagement with the notions of embodiment, flesh and inter-corporeity.

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Dealing with Learning–Credibility Tension

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Alaric Bourgoin and Jean-François Harvey of HEC Montréal, Canada, who recently published the article, “Professional image under threat: Dealing with learning–credibility tension,” in Human Relations. Below they discuss the results and implications of their research.]

huma_71_2.coverHow does one learn and build credibility simultaneously? Today’s professionals often find themselves entering new organisations where they are expected to bring their knowledge to bear on shifting situations. Entering new settings generates uncertainty because knowledge is socially embedded and context-dependent, such that it may not be possible to simply transfer knowledge developed in a previous context and apply it to a new one. Despite this difficulty, professionals must project an image of competence to be regarded as experts, and preclude sceptical clients from withdrawing completely. Faced with an uncertain new setting, they may encounter a conflict between their professional image and their ability to fulfil their role. This challenge is faced by an increasing number of professionals and managers alike, who are no longer seeking linear careers and instead move in and out of complex projects on a regular basis.

To address this puzzle, Professors Alaric Bourgoin and Jean-François Harvey draw on data from 21 months of participant observation during consulting assignments, and interviews with 79 management consultants. They adopted an original method – auto-ethnography with an insider-outsider research team – insofar that Bourgoin worked as a consultant to collect first-hand data for almost two years, which was regularly discussed and analysed with Harvey. They gained an unparalleled access to the minutiae of the work practices and inner feelings of consultants repeatedly adjusting to new settings under high-pressure conditions from their clients.

The main finding of this research is the construct that Bourgoin and Harvey call “learning–credibility tension” – a discrepancy between a newcomer position that requires professionals to learn, and a role-based image that requires professionals to maintain their credibility as experts. The authors discovered that this tension is a salient and costly issue for professionals during organisational entry. Specifically, they find that consultants experience three threats to their professional image during interactions with clients: competency, acceptance, and productive threats. Whereas most recruits are given time for socialisation, and granted some trial-and-error leeway in the process, the high costs of consulting services ratchets up clients’ expectations with respect to practitioners’ capacity to solve complex problems, fit in the sociopolitical context of their firm, and create value for money within a few days through the assignment.

While consultants emphasise the pressures of learning–credibility tension, they also use three tactics to mitigate it: (1) crafting relevance, (2) crafting resonance and (3) crafting substance. Such tactics include back- and front-stage behaviour and allow professionals to keep face as experts while seeking the information they require to adjust to new settings. If performed successfully, the tactics allow consultants to reduce the anxiety associated with learning–credibility tension, and support their relationship with clients.

The study builds new theory in socialisation by bridging information needs and image concerns, revealing original tactics that are highly relevant to a wide variety of people. It also contributes to substantive debates on management consulting by relating insights from the sociology of professions to contemporary knowledge workers and overturning the critique of consultants as professionals of persuasion.

You can read  Professional image under threat: Dealing with learning–credibility tension from Human Relations free until the end of March by clicking here.

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Evaluating Social Marketing Campaigns

[We’re pleased to welcome author Diogo Veríssimo of Johns Hopkins University. He recently published an article in Social Marketing Quarterly entitled “Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Veríssimo provides insight on impact evaluation and behaviour change:]

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Measuring change is hard. But it is also critical to programs hoping to influence human behaviour towards more positive societal outcomes. In a newly published paper, Does It Work for Biodiversity? Experiences and Challenges in the Evaluation of Social Marketing Campaigns, we tackle the challenge of evaluating social marketing campaigns targeting fishing communities in the Philippines with the goal of driving the adoption of more sustainable fishing practices at the community level.

Research on impact evaluation is vital to improve implementation, particularly in high uncertainty high complexity environment such as those in which social marketing operates. By measuring our impact we can first ensure we do no harm and then learn what works, to improve with each iteration. This is even more pressing in the environmental context, as we have lagged far behind sectors such as public health or international development in impact evaluation. Therefore, our goal with this paper was to showcase how we can raise the bar on the evaluation of behaviour change efforts, in this case social marketing, in a particularly changing subject, that of fisheries management in the tropics.

Our work focused on the evaluation of three social marketing campaigns in the Philippines, using a quasi-experiments design of match campaign and control sites. We measured both social indicators through surveys and biological indicators using underwater ecological surveys. We found limited evidence of behaviour change amongst fisherman and no evidence of change in fish biomass as a result of the campaigns. Yet, we also discussed the fact that this last result is fully expected, given how long fisheries take to recover, a timeline often measured in decades, not years. This has implications not only for the way that we plan and implement social marketing campaigns but also for donors who should be aware that expecting biological change in the often short project cycles may just be unrealistic.

Moreover, our research hopes to highlight the difficulties of carrying out competent impact evaluations in a context where both social and biological indicators need to be measured and where both terrestrial and in-water data is needed. This has obvious implications in terms of cost, not only in terms of money, time and staff but also in terms of required technical expertise. Project budgets need to reflect this reality if we are to be truly evidence-based and take responsibility for the interventions we implement. After all it is not about success and failure, it should most of all be about learning.

Laissez-Colbert: Using The Colbert Report to Teach Macroeconomics

512px-rally_to_restore_sanity_andor_fear_-_colbertIt is not often that economics and comedy come together, but for professors looking to infuse their macroeconomics courses with comedic appeal, look no further than The Colbert Report. A recent article from The American Economist from author Gregory M. Randolph entitled “Laissez-Colbert: Teaching Introductory Macroeconomics with The Colbert Report” outlines how the Comedy Central show can be useful tool to engage students and teach lessons about macroeconomic principles, including GDP, supply and demand, and unemployment. The abstract for the paper:

The Colbert Report combines comedic entertainment and current events, two pedagogical sources that have the potential to increase student interest in classes and improve student learning. This article offers suggestions on the use of segments from The Colbert Report to teach introductory macroeconomics. Segments Current Issue Coverare included that relate to comparative advantage, supply and demand, externalities, GDP, unemployment, classical versus Keynesian theory and the Great Depression, fiscal policy and economic stimulus packages, monetary policy and the Federal Reserve, money, taxes, and foreign aid. Guidance is provided regarding the use of the clips in an introductory macroeconomics class.

You can read “Laissez-Colbert: Teaching Introductory Macroeconomics with The Colbert Report” from The American Economist free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research published by The American EconomistClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Stephen Colbert image attributed to Cliff (CC)

Read the New Issue of Journal of Management Education!

10740098824_efe1d316b7_zThe October 2016 issue of Journal of Management Education is now available online, and can be accessed free for the next 30 days. The October issue features a new provocative conversation for the article “Isn’t It Time We Did Something About the Lack of Teaching Preparation in Business Doctoral Programs?” by authors Robert D. Marx, Joseph E. Garcia, D. Anthony Butterfield, Jeffrey A. Kappen, and Timothy T. Baldwin. The rejoinders for the article include rejoinders from Roy J. Lewicki, James Bailey, Graham Gibbs, Dianne Minh Le, and Denise M. Rousseau.

In the rejoinder “A Deeper Dig,” Roy J. Lewicki and James Current Issue CoverBailey delve into the supply side, demand side, and throughput process of management doctoral programs to fully understand the lack of teaching preparation. Their rejoinder suggests that institutions would be resistant to the suggested changes, but a shift in the supply and demand for skilled teachers could potentially force the hand of institutions to address this issue.

In the rejoinder “On the Call for Action,” Dianne Le discusses the role of AACSB and hiring institutions in addressing the lack of teaching preparation. Her rejoinder raises the question of when and where teacher training should begin, considering teaching expectations differ quite a bit from one institution to the next.

You can read all of the rejoinders and more from the October 2016 issue of Journal of Management Education free for the next 30 days–click here to view the table of contents! You can also read through past provocative conversations published on the Journal of Management Education website here.

Want to stay current on all of the latest research and rejoinders published by Journal of Management Education? Click here to sign up for e-alerts! 

*Lecture image attributed to University of Liverpool (CC)

Shifting the Blame: Mistakes As Learning Opportunities for Employees

5783612156_21ff40ee84_zAlthough making mistakes is a part of the human experience, mistakes can be embarrassing, sometimes leading individuals to cover up and keep errors secret. This behavior likely has its origin in our socialization. Errors can be perceived by others to be a lack of competency, and making mistakes can lead one to have a negative self-assessment, as well as an increased expectation of penalties as a direct consequence of a mistake.

Organizational failure culture, which is an integral part of corporate culture, may encourage these negative perceptions of mistakes. In reality, the perception and response to errors made by individuals is not so limited and altogether negative. The perception of errors is more of a continuum between two stances, error avoidance and error management. In the perspective of error avoidance, errors are viewed as an unnecessary risk. This is where the Current Issue Cover“culture of blame” comes in. It is characterized by a high importance placed on identifying the person responsible, rather than identifying the cause for the error.

In contrast, error management views errors as an inevitable phenomenon in corporate environment, which are impossible to avoid. Each error is recognized as a potential resource and learning opportunity. In this perspective, errors can support complex learning processes and expand possibilities toward further development and options for action. Contrary to problem-oriented error avoidance, the error management approach is solution-oriented and reflective.

Since organizations can learn from both good and bad outcomes, employers should reconsider how they perceive and respond to employee errors. A company can encourage employees to learn from failure by establishing a culture that supports employees and highlights the importance of communicating about errors. A constructive “learning from failure culture” should enable employees to talk about mistakes, deal with them constructively, learn from them, and, if possible, to take advantage of them. The goal is not about looking for someone to blame or ruminating on past mistakes. Rather, the goal is to reduce fear while increasing security and stability, ultimately leading to error minimization.

The article “From a ‘Culture of Blame’ to an Encouraged ‘Learning From Failure Culture'” from Business Perspectives and Research delves further into this issue. You can click here to read the article free for the next two weeks. You can also click here to sign up for e-alerts and receive email notifications for the latest research from Business Perspectives and Research!

*Image attributed to Project Morpheus (CC)

Read the August 2016 Issue of Journal of Management Education!

4537055943_82352d7853_zThe August 2016 issue of Journal of Management Education is now available online and can be accessed free for the next 30 days. The August issue features a provocative article from authors J. Michael Cavanaugh, Catherine C. Giapponi, and Timothy D. Golden, entitled “Digital Technology and Student Cognitive Development: The Neuroscience of the University Classroom,” which delves into how digital technology is changing the way students learn on a neurological level, and how management educators should reevaluate their approach to teaching as a result. In particular, the article highlights the negative impact digital technology has on students “deep thinking” capabilities. The authors argue that management education should help students develop multiple literacies across contexts, teaching students reading, comprehension, and complex thinking that may be lost if teachers focus wholly on technology and digital media. The abstract for the article:

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Digital technology has proven a beguiling, some even venture addictive, presence in the lives of our 21st century (millennial) students. And while screen technology may offer select cognitive benefits, there is mounting evidence in the cognitive neuroscience literature that digital technology is restructuring the way our students read and think, and not necessarily for the better. Rather, emerging research regarding intensive use of digital devices suggests something more closely resembling a Faustian quandary: Certain cognitive skills are gained while other “deep thinking” capabilities atrophy as a result of alterations in the neural circuitry of millennial brains. This has potentially profound implications for management teaching and practice. In response, some advocate that we “meet students where we find them.” We too acknowledge the need to address student needs, but with the proviso that the academy’s trademark commitment to penetrating, analytical thinking not be compromised given the unprecedented array of existential challenges awaiting this generation of students. These and rising faculty suspicions of a new “digital divide” cropping up in the management classroom represents a timely opportunity for management educators to reflect not only on how today’s students read and learn, but equally, on what and how we teach.

The issue also features a rejoinder from author Caroline Williams-Pierce, who offers an interesting counterargument to Cavanaugh, Giapponi, and Golden’s article, arguing that given their autonomy, students can engage in deep interest-driven learning through digital media.

You can read the August 2016 issue of Journal of Management Education free for the next 30 days by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Journal of Management EducationClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Ipad image attributed to Gustav Holmström (CC)