Winner of the 2017 ONE Emerging Scholar Award

On August 7, 2017, I received the 2017 ONE Emerging Scholar Award from the Organizations and the Natural Environment (ONE) Division of the Academy of Management. The award “recognizes early career academics who have already made outstanding research contributions in the area of organizations and the natural environment, and who appear to have a strong potential to continue making such contributions in the near future.”

To be eligible, a nominee generally must be within six years of receiving her/his Ph.D. (or other terminal degree), pre-tenure (or equivalent), and a member of good standing in the ONE Division for the past three years. The award committee assesses each nominee’s corpus of work for its relevance, its academic contribution, theoretical and methodological rigor, and practical implications. Continue reading

Upcoming Talks

I and my co-authors (denoted ## below) will be presenting a variety of research projects over the coming months. Hope to see you at one or more of these events…

“Category Promotion: How B Corporations Respond to the Competing Demands of Fitting In and Standing Out” (with Matthew Grimes)

  • Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference, University of Maryland, USA, May 8-9, 2015.
  • Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability Conference. Northwestern University, USA, May 14, 2015.
  • Center for Social Impact Workshop. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, USA, May 15, 2015.##
  • Industry Studies Association Conference. Kansas City, MO, USA, May 26-29, 2015.

“An Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing Well Siting in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Boom” (with Dror Etzion) 

  • ESSEC Business School (École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales), France, May 2015.##

“Patently Secret? The Use of Hydraulic Fracturing Patents to Contain Public Risk Information” (with Zhen Lei, Dan Cahoy & Siavash Varasteh)

  • Wharton Technology & Innovation Conference. University of Pennsylvania, USA, April 17-18, 2015.

“Conflicting Institutional Logics and Organizational Identities: How Spinouts Handle Parent Affiliation” (with Daniela Bolzani, Ricardo Fini and Antonio Giuliani)

  • Fourth Triennial Alberta Institutions Conference. Banff Springs Hotel. Banff, AB, Canada, June 12-14, 2015.
  • European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium. ALBA Graduate Business School, Greece, July 2-4, 2015.##

“Betwixt and Between: The Problematic Emergence and Bounding of the Nanotoxicology Field” (with M. Paola Ometto and Michael Lounsbury)

  • Fourth Triennial Alberta Institutions Conference. Banff Springs Hotel. Banff, AB, Canada, June 12-14, 2015.##
  • European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium. ALBA Graduate Business School, Greece, July 2-4, 2015.##
  • Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Vancouver, BC, Canada, August 2015.##

Other events:

  • Panelist. Where Are Values? A Relational Perspective. Macro Perspectives on Behavioral (Macro) Ethics Symposium. Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Vancouver, BC, Canada, August 2015.
  • Panelist. OMT New and Returning Member Networking and Research Forum Professional Development Workshop. Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Vancouver, BC, Canada, August 2015.
  • Organizer. Cultural Entrepreneurship in Action: Innovative Methods and Research Designs Professional Development Workshop (with Vern Glaser & Jochem Kroezen). Presenters included Joep Cornelissen, Peer Fiss, Matthew Grimes, Mark Kennedy, Hovig Tchalian. Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Vancouver, BC, Canada, August 2015.
  • Organizer. Developing a Research Agenda to Advance Perspectives on Performativity. Professional Development Workshop (with Vern Glaser). Presenters included Daniel Beunza, Laure Cabantous, Raghu Garud, Jean-Pascal Gond, Wanda Orlikowski, and Susan Scott. Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Vancouver, BC, Canada, August 2015.

2015 Research Internships

For the second year, I have hired research interns through the University of Alberta Research Experience. In 2013, I supervised Christopher Lee from McGill University. This summer, I am supervising Chloe Prosser from the University of Wisconsin, Kailun Hong from Technische Universität München, and Songjingyi Liang from Fudan University. Hard to believe, but it is already time to begin recruiting for summer 2015! I will be recruiting students for the following positions.

  • MySQL Database Assistant
  • Social Media Programmer
  • Mediawiki Programmer
  • Stata Research Assistant
  • Legal Research Assistant
  • Sustainability Research Assistant
  • Literature Review Assistant
  • WellWiki Content Writer

Institutions participating in the University of Alberta Research Experience include: UNICAMP, USP, UFRJ, Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), Technische Universität München (TUM), Seoul National University (SNU), ITESM Guadalajara, University of Western Australia (UWA), Auckland University, Penn State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Texas Austin, IIT Bombay, IIT Kharagpur, University of Hyderabad, Fudan University, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang Univeristy, Sichuan Univeristy, East China Normal University (ECNU), and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST).

Sustainability and the AACSB

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits business schools around the world. As of December 2013, 687 schools were AACSB accredited in 45 countries and territories (or less than 5% of the estimated number of schools offering business degrees worldwide).

Recently I was perusing the AACSB’s Business Standards, which are the basis for business school accreditation, and was surprised at the extent to which sustainability and related themes (e.g., corporate social responsibility) are an integral to the revisions adopted in 2013, from the opening paragraph of the document, through to the AACSB’s three core values and guiding principles, and into its expectations regarding undergraduate educational content. Below are some excerpts:

From the Preamble:

The business environment is undergoing profound changes, spurred by powerful demographic shifts, global economic forces, and emerging technologies. At the same time, society is increasingly demanding that companies become more accountable for their actions, exhibit a greater sense of social responsibility, and embrace more sustainable practices. These trends send a strong signal that what business needs today is much different from what it needed yesterday or will need tomorrow.

From Part 1: Core Values and Guiding Principles:

The following three criteria represent core values of AACSB. There is no uniform measure for deciding whether each criterion has been met. Rather, the school must demonstrate that it has an ongoing commitment to pursue the spirit and intent of each criterion consistent with its mission and context.

A. The school must encourage and support ethical behavior by students, faculty, administrators, and professional staff. [ETHICAL BEHAVIOR]

B. The school maintains a collegiate environment in which students, faculty, administrators, professional staff, and practitioners interact and collaborate in support of learning, scholarship, and community engagement. [COLLEGIATE ENVIRONMENT]

C. The school must demonstrate a commitment to address, engage, and respond to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues (e.g., diversity,  sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and globalization of economic activity across cultures) through its policies, procedures, curricula, research, and/or outreach activities. [COMMITMENT TO CORPORATE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY]

 Diversity, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, and other emerging corporate and social responsibility issues are important and require responses from business schools and business students.

 The school fosters sensitivity to, as well as awareness and understanding of, diverse viewpoints among participants related to current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues.

Guidance for Documentation

 Demonstrate that the school addresses current and emerging corporate social responsibility issues through its own activities, through collaborations with other units within its institution, and/or through partnerships with external constituencies

From Standard 9: Curriculum content is appropriate to general expectations for the degree program type and learning goals. [CURRICULUM CONTENT]

Curriculum content refers to theories, ideas, concepts, skills, knowledge, etc., that make up a degree program. Content is not the same as learning goals. Learning goals describe the knowledge and skills students should develop in a program and set expectations for what students should do with the knowledge and skills after completing a program. Not all content areas need to be included as learning goals.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs and Higher

General Business and Management Knowledge Areas

 Economic, political, regulatory, legal, technological, and social contexts of organizations in a global society

 Social responsibility, including sustainability, and ethical behavior and approaches to management

In sum, sustainability and related themes are now apparently integral to the AACSB business school accreditation process. Given the disciplinary power of ratings agencies, it will be interesting to see whether and how business schools respond.

Management and the Problems of Overdetermination and Underdetermination

The Wall Street Journal has posted a story entitled: Management Research Is Fishy, Says New Management Research. The article is based on a paper, “The Chrysalis Effect: How Ugly Initial Results Metamorphosize into Beautiful Articles.” According to the WSJ, the paper is forthcoming from the Journal of Management (note, however, that as of this writing, the paper was not available from the JOM website).

As reported by the WSJ, the paper finds that at the dissertation level, 82 hypotheses were supported for every 100 that were unsupported (i.e., 45% of hypotheses were supported), meaning that researchers’ theories were disproven by their findings more often than not. However, by the time the papers made it into journals, the ratio shifted to 194:100, meaning that some 65% of hypotheses were supported. This is commonly known as publication bias. In a prior version of the paper, the authors interpreted this finding as evidence of “questionable research practices” (QRP).

Implicit in this logic is an assumption that every dissertation should be published in a journal. How else could we resolve the QRP problem? It also seems to imply that both supported and unsupported hypotheses are inherently unproblematic, and require no further qualification. In essence, all hypotheses are intrinsically fit to print, and they are assumed to give us some kind of direct access to the “truth” of the matter. But what does it mean when a hypothesis is supported or not supported?

This discussion prompted me to reflect a bit on the problems of overdetermination and underdetermination. “Overdetermination” refers to situations in which a particular effect could arise from any one of many possible causes (Hannan, 1971; Meyer & Goes, 1988). Or as Weick (1996: 308) put it: “Overdetermination is simply another way of stating Thompson’s first point that people have multiple, interdependent, socially coherent reasons for doing what they do.” Other organizational theorists have described such circumstances in terms of mean-ends ambiguity, or situations when there are multiple plausible alternatives (Hambrick, 2007). Overdetermination also can occur when mechanist notions of causality overwhelm alternative plausible explanations for what is happening (Boje, 2001).

“Underdetermination” refers to situations in which the “facts” are not clear or strong enough to establish a definitive explanation (Giddens, 1979; 1984: 17). This could be because facts themselves posses “interpretive flexibility” (Pinch and Bijker, 1987), meaning they are open to more than one plausible reading. Or, it could be that the available empirical evidence is limited or derived from narrow contexts (Shrivastava, 1986). In both cases, the available evidence is compatible with more than one theory or explanation. However, more facts may not resolve the problem; “science” can even make matters worse (Sarewitz, 2004). As Giddens (1979: 243) put it: “no amount of accumulated fact will in and of itself determine that one particular theory be accepted and another rejected, since by the modification of the theory, or by other means, the observations in question can be accommodated to it.”

One famous example, Allison’s (1972) analysis of the Cuban missile crisis, has elements of both overdetermination and underdetermination. In this case, “the same event is explained by three completely different theories, each of which nevertheless is able to highlight clear and distinct insights into the origin, unfolding, and resolution of the crisis” (Burgelman, 2011: 597). More generally, viewed through the lenses of overdetermination and underdetermination, we might hypothesize that not every study will work out. Some hypotheses will be supported, some will not. But if they are to be useful, any such findings will need to be translated. After all, we don’t live in a world of variables.

But in that case, how do we know if a study is fit to print? In a widely cited paper, Davis (1971) offered one explanation, arguing that “interesting” studies are more likely to be published and popular. No doubt other explanations are possible. Whether such circumstances are evidence of questionable research practices, depends on the meaning that is given to the evidence. Can a question such as this even be put to a hypothesis test? My sense is that it cannot. Instead, questions such as these entail what I have called values work. Conclusions and their sustenance depend on the network of values practices in which one is entangled and on the continued performance of the implicated social and material network.

Selected References

Allison, G. T. 1972. Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Little Brown & Co.

Boje, D. M. 2001. Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Burgelman, R. A. 2011. Bridging History and Reductionism: A Key Role for Longitudinal Qualitative Research. Journal of International Business Studies, 42: 591–601.

Davis, M. S. 1971. That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1: 309–344.

Giddens, A. 1979. Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure, and Contradiction in Social Analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Giddens, A. 1984. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hambrick, D. C. 2007. The Field of Management’s Devotion to Theory: Too Much of a Good Thing? Academy of Management Journal, 50: 1346–1352.

Hannan, M. T. 1971. Aggregation and Disaggregation in Sociology. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Meyer, A. D., & Goes, J. B. 1988. Organizational Assimilation of Innovations: A Multilevel Contextual Analysis. Academy of Management Journal, 31: 897–923.

Pinch, T. J., & Bijker, W. E. 1987. The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other. In W. E. Bijker, T. P. Hughes, & T. J. Pinch (Eds.), Social Construction of Technological Systems: 17–50. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Sarewitz, D. 2004. How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse. Environmental Science & Policy, 7: 385–403.

Shrivastava, P. 1986. Is Strategic Management Ideological? Journal of Management, 12: 363–377.

Weick, K. E. 1996. Drop Your Tools: An Allegory for Organizational Studies. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 301–313.

B-School Roundup

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a trio of articles on b-schools.

In Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major, we learn that business majors now account for a whopping 20% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, but that a number of companies are finding such graduates increasingly lack the critical thinking, debating, writing and communication skills that come from exposure to the liberal arts. Last month, the Aspen Institute brought together more than 20 U.S. and European business schools to discuss how to better integrate liberal arts education into the business school curriculum. Participants included George Washington University, Georgetown University, Santa Clara UniversityFranklin & Marshall College, Babson College and ESADE.

According the the article, bachelor’s awarded by field for the 2008-09 academic year:

  • Business: 347,985, or 21.7%
  • Social sciences and history: 168,500, or 10.5%
  • Health professions and related clinical sciences: 120,488, or 7.5%
  • Education: 101,708, or 6.4%
  • Psychology: 94,271, or 5.9%
  • Visual and performing arts: 89,140, or 5.6%

Source: National Center for Education Studies

According to New Lures for ‘Quants’: Wharton Rebrands Itself, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is, well, rebranding itself. “The new marketing materials rely heavily on charts and graphs, including an infographic with concentric circles to show how far students travel to study at the school and another with colorful vertical bars to represent finance professors’ years of experience.” In addition to the new marketing campaign, Wharton is investing in three strategic areas: innovation, social impact and global presence, each of which is headed by a vice dean.

Finally, in Dean of Cornell’s Johnson School: Reflecting on Five Years of Tenure, Cornell University’s Joe Thomas reflects on his five years of tenure at the Johnson Graduate School of Management. According to the article, his biggest challenge was shepherding the school “through a financial crisis that cut into endowment payouts and temporarily devastated the finance industry.” Whereas 44.5% of the class of 2007 took jobs in finance, only 36.9% of the class of 2010 and 36.2% of the class of 2011 went into finance. “When the crisis first hit, we put extra funds into [job] placement activities, instead of other activities. We hired more [career service] staff, we started paying for buses to drive people back and forth to New York City, [we did] more job treks.”