Studying Organization Theory “As If Matter Mattered”

[We’re pleased to welcome Bruno Dyck of University of Manitoba. Bruno recently published an article with co-author Nathan S. Greidanus in Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory: A Study of Organization Theory as if Matter Mattered.” From Bruno:]

From environmental concerns like climate change to social issues like economic inequality, sustainable development presents this century’s greatest challenges and opportunities for businesses.  Yet, businesses remain trapped by old paradigms and approaches to the business-society-environment interface. To break free of these chains, we start with a simple question: what would a theory of business look like if matter mattered?  In answering this question, we turned to the field that is focused on the fundamental building blocks of all matter, quantum physics.

Do you remember the first time you heard about the unbelievable findings coming Current Issue Coverfrom quantum mechanics? Maybe it was research on entanglement, which shows that two quantum particles (e.g., two electrons) are interconnected in such a way that a change in one will have an instantaneous change in another, even if it is light years away. Or do you remember hearing about the results from the double slit experiments—perhaps the most famous experiment in all of physics—which shows that observing a photon changes it from acting like a wave into acting like a particle (If you want to watch a simple video about this, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc). Perhaps the most amazing variation of the double slit experiment shows that information is being sent backward in time. It has taken a century, but quantum physics has today become a dominant paradigm in the world of physics, even if we in the social sciences remain “stuck” in a Newtonian space-time box.

As co-authors we were fascinated by quantum research, and were curious about its implications for organization theory, and especially for sustainability. We believe that the ideas of entanglement and indeterminism provide a welcome and necessary framework to develop organizing theory that addresses key socio-ecological issues facing humankind, and which break free from the constraints associated with (Newtonian) notions of separateness, determinism and externalities. Moreover, a quantum perspective, which suggests that matter matters, provides a welcome counterpoint to the problematic fixation on socio-material well-being (e.g., money) that characterizes conventional theorizing.

We were pleasantly surprised by how readily the fundamental principles associated with the quantum world can serve as the basis to develop sustainable organization theory, As the sustainability issues facing humankind grow in urgency, we expect such non-Newtonian thinking to become as dominant in our field as it is in physics, but if this takes a century to happen then it may be too late.

The abstract for the paper:

We draw on quantum physics ideas of “entanglement” and “indeterminism” to introduce and develop “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory” (QSOT). Quantum entanglement points to the interconnectedness of matter in ways that defy Newtonian physics and commonsense assumptions that underlay conventional organizing theory. Quantum indeterminism suggests that uncertainty is an inherent feature of reality and not simply a lack of information that impedes rational decision making. Taken together, these quantum ideas challenge the assumptions of conventional organizational theorizing about the boundaries between a firm and its natural and social environment, the importance of self-interested individualism and (sociomaterial) financial measures of performance, the emphasis on competitiveness, and the hallmarks of rational theory and practice. We discuss implications for sustainable organizing in particular and for organization theory more generally.

You can read “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory: A Study of Organization Theory as if Matter Mattered” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Journal of Management InquiryClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

Employees and the Environment: Promoting Eco-Friendly Behavior in the Workplace

blue-truck-recycle[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas of Babson College. Jennifer recently published an article in Organization & Environment with co-authors Eric Lamm and Tom E. Thomas entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees’ Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior Toward the Environment.” From Jennifer:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ­ OCB-Es for short ­ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think O&E_Mar_2012_vol26_no1_Cover_Final.inddsustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn¹t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.

The abstract for the article:

Scholars and managers have raised the question of how to encourage employees to perform discretionary pro-environmental behaviors at work, termed organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment (OCB-Es). This study examined how rationales for organizational sustainability relate to employees’ OCB-Es. We considered two rationales—eco-centric and organization-centric—and two sources—employees’ rationales and their perceptions of their employers’ rationales. Results from 489 working adults across a variety of organizations and occupations revealed that both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales at both individual and perceived organizational levels related to employees’ OCB-Es. Furthermore, we found interactive effects, such that employees’ perceptions of their organizations’ rationales were more important than their own rationales in determining OCB-Es. These findings contribute to a theoretical understanding of the complex and interrelated factors motivating employees to perform voluntary sustainability behaviors in organizations. In addition, our results are valuable for managers looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors.

You can read the article “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees’ Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior Toward the Environment” from Organization & Environment free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Truck image attributed to MIKI Yoshihito (CC)

How Coca-Cola Uses Social Media to Promote Corporate Social Initiatives

19792301106_fa09faba36_zWhat is the most effective way for companies to implement corporate social marketing (CSM)? In the Social Marketing Quarterly article “Examining Public Response to Corporate Social Initiative Types: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Social Media,” authors Lucinda L. Austin and Barbara Miller Gaither suggest that the effectiveness depends upon the the corporate social initiative (CSI) type and the message content more than anything else. The abstract for the paper:

Corporate social initiatives (CSIs) are increasingly important in boosting public acceptance for companies, and emerging research suggests corporate social marketing (CSM) could be Current Issue Coverthe most effective type of CSI. However, scholars caution that CSM is not a one-size-fits-all. Through a content analysis of Coca-Cola’s social media posts on potentially controversial topics related to sustainability, health, and social change, this study explores how CSI type and message content influence public response to an organization’s social media corporate social responsibility posts. Posts emphasizing socially responsible business practices generally received the most favorable public response, while posts focused on cause promotion were received the most negatively. Findings also suggest that CSM is less effective when the issue and advocated behavior change appears to be acting against the company’s interests.

You can read “Examining Public Response to Corporate Social Initiative Types: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Social Media” from Social Marketing Quarterly free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Social Marketing Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Coca-Cola image attributed to Aranami (CC)

The Business of Bumble Bees: A Look at the Relationship Between Business and Biodiversity Loss

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Small though they may be, bumble bees play a large part in the environment. As pollinators, bees assist in the reproductive process of flowering plants, including crops that produce food, fiber, drugs, and fuel. More than a third of the world’s crops rely on bees as pollinators, which makes the population decline of bees in recent years particularly alarming. In their article, “Invisible Compromises: Global Business, Local Ecosystems, and the Commercial Bumble Bee Trade,” published in Organization & Environment, authors Carol Reade, Robin Thorp, Koichi Goka, Marius Wasbauer, and Mark McKenna use the bumble bee trade as a lens to explore the complex relationship between global business and ecosystem health, including biodiversity loss. In addition, the article explores ways that businesses can adopt more sustainable practices.

The abstract:

The purpose of this article is to challenge organizational scholars, management educators, and business leaders oae coverto consider more deeply the impact of global business activities on local ecosystems. Drawing on the management, sustainability, and entomology literature, we illustrate the complex relationship between global business and biodiversity loss through the lens of the commercial bumble bee trade. Global firms in this trade rear and supply bees for greenhouse crop pollination. We build on a well-known global strategy framework used in management education by adding a sustainability dimension, and offering propositions for the relationship between global business strategy and the strength of environmental sustainability. We conclude that a locally responsive, place-sensitive business strategy supports the strongest degree of environmental sustainability, and addresses the invisible compromises to ecosystem health that may result from the efforts of global firms to provide otherwise beneficial products and services.

You can read “Invisible Compromises: Global Business, Local Ecosystems, and the Commercial Bumble Bee Trade” from Organization & Environment by clicking here. Want to be notified of all the latest research like this from Organization & Environment? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Food Banking and Hunger in the United States

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint[We’re pleased to welcome Michael Elmes of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Professor Elmes published an article entitled “Food Banking, Ethical Sensemaking, and Social Innovation in an Era of Growing Hunger in the United States” with Karla Mendoza-Abarca and Robert Hersh in the Journal of Management Inquiry.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

For the past 10 years I have been very interested in food, and more recently hunger. Through my involvement with the Sustainable Food Systems Center at WPI founded by Bob Hersh (one of the authors of our paper), I became more interested in causes of hunger and the role that food banks are playing in trying to mitigate hunger. This led me to the area of food justice and how some food banks, including the Worcester County Food Bank, have started to experiment with food justice practices or social innovations, including mobile farmers markets to serve low income communities, partnerships with local farms, and engagement in educational activities, especially with inner city youth. The fact that hunger and food insecurity is an enormous and growing problem in the US is a shock to many people and is partly what motivated us to write the paper; that these experiments are happening in Worcester County and across the world is inspiring.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

It was surprising to learn hunger is a growing problem in the US and that food banks have become routine sources of food, rather than infrequent sources of emergency food assistance. It was also surprising that some food banks continue to use a food in/food out approach–that is, accruing as much donated food as possible and providing it to as many people as possible–rather than experimenting with more sustainable, regional approaches that”shorten the line” at food banks. I also found myself admiring food bank managers who live in both of these worlds–the world of food justice and experimentation with new approaches to solving hunger, and the world of providing donated food to as many people as need it. Working in the paradox of these competing processes is challenging.

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

I see this research as an effort to theorize under what conditions some leaders engage in ethical sensemaking, and how food banks can work effectively filling the short-term gaps in the emergency food system while building new practices that solve the problem of hunger at regional levels. The next step is conducting case studies at more innovative food banks across the US and understanding how they decided to engage in social innovation with an ethical orientation.

The abstract:

This article considers the critical role that food bank leaders play in sensemaking around the ethical and justice dimensions of hunger and food-related illnesses in the United States. It presents the discourses of industrial agriculture and food justice and, using an illustrative case study, proposes a preliminary model of ethical sensemaking. This model serves as a starting point for understanding how some (but not all) food bank leaders in the United States have been triggered to engage in ethical sensemaking and adopted a variety of innovative, sustainable, and just approaches to food banking that try to address the root causes of growing levels of hunger in the United States. The article concludes with an invitation to consider this investigation through the lens of Dewey’s moral imagination and Gergen’s forms of inquiry that generate practices to solve social problems and that invite researchers to participate in world-making.

You can read “Food Banking, Ethical Sensemaking, and Social Innovation in an Era of Growing Hunger in the United States” from Journal of Management Inquiry by clicking here. Did you know that you can have all the latest research from Journal of Management Inquiry sent directly to your inbox? Just click here to sign up for e-alerts!


Michael B. Elmes is a professor of organization studies and director of the New Michael ElmesZealand Project Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. His current research interests include social innovation and food systems, place in organization studies, sensemaking and organization change, and governance challenges in cooperative organizations. In 2005, he was a Fulbright Scholar at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he studied constructions of nature and biotechnology. His research has appeared in Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Human Relations, Organization Science, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Management Learning, Information and Organization, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Management Inquiry, and Journal of Organizational Change Management, among others. He is also the coeditor of Managing the Organizational Melting Pot: Dilemmas of Workplace Diversity (SAGE Publications, 1997) and is an associate editor for the Essays section of the Journal of Management Education. He teaches courses on leadership ethics and organizational change. When not teaching or writing, he can often be found in his garden.

Karla Mendoza-Abarca

Karla Mendoza-Abarca is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She obtained her PhD in marketing and entrepreneurship from Kent State University. Her research interests include social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial opportunities. Her work within social entrepreneurship focuses on the creation of social ventures and the strategies these organizations use to fulfill their social mission, achieve financial sustainability, and enable social innovation. She is also interested in how food-related organizations develop and implement social innovations to address food insecurity. Her research on entrepreneurial opportunities includes investigations regarding the use of creative cognitions in the opportunity identification process, cross-country studies about the role of human agency in opportunity recognition, and studies regarding the pursuit of multiple opportunities by new social ventures. Her work has been published in Journal of Business Venturing and Journal of Social Entrepreneurship. She teaches courses in entrepreneurship and innovation, and social entrepreneurship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Robert Hersh

Robert Hersh, before coming to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2004, worked for a number of years as a fellow at Resources for the Future (http://www.rff.org/), a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., that conducts research an d policy analysis on environmental quality and natural resources, and as the Brownfields Director at the Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO). At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, he directs the Center for Sustainable Food Systems. His broad substantive interests include regional food systems, contaminated site cleanup and revitalization, and community participation in environmental decision making. He has published extensively in the scholarly literature and has written reports for federal and state regulatory agencies. Research sponsors have included a range of foundations, think tanks, and federal agencies.

 

Do Marine Animals Make Effective Mascots?

whale-1406956-mIf you grew up in the United States, there’s a good chance that you were educated about preventing forest fires by Smokey the Bear. Smokey the Bear first debuted in 1944, following on the heels of Disney’s “Bambi” which had been successful in garnering attention for the dangers of wildfires. Over the years, Smokey’s story developed more and more with the scout hat-wearing bear appearing in radio programs, books, comics and on TV. According to the Ad Council, Smokey’s Forest Fire Prevention campaign has helped reduce the number of acres lost annually from 22 million to 8.4 million. But how much of Smokey’s success was due to the fact that he was a cute, cuddly mascot? Could a marine animal accomplish just as much for ocean conservation as Smokey did for forest fire prevention? Daniel Hayden and Benjamin Dills explore this topic in their article “Smokey the Bear Should Come to the Beach: Using Mascot to Promote Marine Conservation” from Social Marketing Quarterly.

The abstract:

home_coverThere is an open question among conservation practitioners regarding whether using flagship specifies to market marine conservation is less effective than using terrestrial species in the terrestrial context. A flagship species is a species selected to act as an ambassador, icon, or symbol for a defined habitat, issue, campaign, or environmental cause. A mascot species has many of the same attributes as a flagship species, but is selected for its communications value instead of its ecological value. Our research indicates that mascot species can be as effective a marketing tool for marine conservation as they have been for terrestrial conservation. Based on our study, there is no evidence that the use of marine mascot species or that confront threats based on fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources perform any differently from other social marketing campaigns that address terrestrial issues.

You can read “Smokey the Bear Should Come to the Beach: Using Mascot to Promote Marine Conservation” from Social Marketing Quarterly for free for the next week by clicking here. Want to get all the latest research like this from Social Marketing Quarterly sent directly to your inbox? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Listen to the Latest Podcast from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly!

cqx coverIn the latest podcast from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, Robert E. Pitts discusses his article “The Influence of Message Framing on Hotel Guests’ Linen-Reuse Intentions.” The study, conducted with article co-authors Julie E. Blose and Rhonda W. Mack in Charleston, SC, examined participants’ opinion of how they would respond to various message frames.

You can click here to download the podcast. You can also read the article for free by clicking here.

Like what you hear? Click here to browse more podcasts from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and here to subscribe to the SAGE Management and Business podcast channel on iTunes. You can also sign up for e-alerts and get notifications of all the latest research from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly sent directly to your inbox!

port-blosejuliaJulia E. Blose received her PhD from Florida State University. She is currently an associate professor of Marketing in the Department of Management and Marketing in the School of Business at the College of Charleston.

Rhonda MackRhonda W. Mack received her PhD from the University of Georgia. She is currently professor of marketing and associate dean of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Management and Marketing in the School of Business at the College of Charleston.

120x160xport-pittsrobert.jpg.pagespeed.ic.LOznHRJl4BRobert E. Pitts received his PhD from the University of South Carolina. He is currently a professor of marketing in the Department of Management and Marketing in the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He has served as dean of the School of Business and Economics at the College of Charleston and the College of Business Administration at Creighton University, Omaha.