Who has voice in economics research? Rankings of the most influential researchers

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In today’s virtual world, the power of one’s voice and influence is equated with the degree to which one is noticed online. This is also true for economics reseach. Over recent weeks, the NZZ has published three rankings of the most influential economics researchers online; for Switzerland, Germany/Austria, and worldwide. Here are the results:

The most influential economics researchers in Switzerland

The most influential economics researchers in Germany & Austria

The most influential economics researchers worldwide

You might want to check out the works and ideas of these fellows, given their influence on the current disourse!

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Diversity not Always Leads to Innovation and Creativity: The Damaging Effects of Indirect Cultural Disharmony

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Organizations strive to be innovative and creative. For that reason, they invest in diversity management, because innovation and creativity can be increased through diversity. This means that the more different perspectives, opinions, and experiences are considered in a work process, the more innovative and creative work results can become.

However, intercultural tensions within the organization prevent firms to benefit from diversity in this manner. A new Harvard Business School study has shown that cultural disharmony decreases innovation and creativity. This means that, in an atmosphere of intercultural tensions, intercultural diversity brings about less innovative and creative work results than in a non-diverse setting. The study further highlights that the indirect effects of cultural disharmony are even more damaging than the direct effects. This again means that individuals and teams directly involved in a situation of intercultural conflict can deal with this conflict, usually remaining as innovative and creative. Those, however, who experience intercultural tension indirectly, by hearing and being told about it, or by observing it in other areas of the organization, become less innovative and creative.

The greater impact of an indirect involvement in intercultural conflict can be explained as follows: individuals and teams with direct involvement have direct information about the sources of conflict, and usually tend to blame one or more individuals for the conflict, rather than the intercultural difference prevalent in the situation. On the other hand, when individuals or teams only observe intercultural tension and conflict, they are likely to blame the intercultural differences for the disharmony, rather than individual behavior. As a result, they form negative views of intercultural difference in general, believing that cultures are generally not compatible. As a result, having less confidence in the benefit of intercultural diversity, they tend to use diversity to a lesser extent during the work process, resulting in a lower degree of innovation and creativity.

To counter this effect of the indirect effects of intercultural conflict, organizations need not only manage the diversity of teams or the intercultural sensitivity of individuals. The diversity culture of the organization in general needs to be managed, so that an atmosphere of cultural harmony becomes prevalent in the organization. Such a cultural harmony within the organizational setting is even more important than cultural harmony between individuals and teams. Individuals and teams have been shown to deal with cultural tensions in a way that does not affect innovation and creativity. When encountering cultural tensions indirectly, however, innovation and creativity indeed decreases. These results should encourage organizations to not only focus on individual and team skills when it comes to diversity management. Rather, organizations need to have an organizational understanding of cultural harmony. Thus, intercultural tensions very well can exist on the individual and team level. These individual and team tensions, however, need to be embedded within such a strong organizational understanding of cultural harmony.

What Organizations can Learn from Ants: Facing Complexity with Distributed Intelligence

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The impact of individual leaders on organizational success is often overrated. Rather, organizations succeed due to the genius of the organization itself. An organization is a living organism, a separate entity apart from the sum of individuals who collectively form the organization, with its own ‘distributed intelligence’. Organizations need to identify and deliberately build their distributed intelligence for being able to tackle the increasing complexity and ambiguity of business challenges today.

How does the distributed intelligence of an organization differ from traditional notions of intelligence? By giving up the notion of brainpower for the sake of the power of networks.

The task of solving problems is traditionally attributed to a brain, where intelligence is assumed to reside. In this frame of reference, a problem is tackled by an intelligent individual who uses brainpower to select the fitting course of action amongst various alternatives. In an organization then, the assumption is that intelligent people combine and share their intelligence to create answers to organizational problems. This assumption of combination and sharing has powerful implications. The management literature is full of talk around how to best share and manage information, how to best recruit, retain, and develop the needed knowledge and skills, and how to enable creative thinking while still pursuing a concise strategy. In summary, the management literature focuses on how to best manage brains for solving organizational problems.

When we focus on networks rather than brains, we might find more efficient and effective ways to tackle organizational challenges, especially those almost too complex and ambiguous to capture. It is these challenges that organizations increasingly face today.

In a network frame of reference, organizations are seen as living entities, alive and with a separate form of intelligence, apart from the sum of the more or less intelligent individuals inhabiting the organization. This separate form of intelligence comes about through complying with system rules, and can be described as a distributed kind of intelligence. It is exactly this distributed intelligence that is often required for tackling the most complex challenges that individuals are unable to grasp and capture.

Let’s take the swarming of birds as an example. An individual bird flying within a swarm of birds does not think about the movement of the whole swarm, and indeed would be unable to grasp and capture this quite complex swarming movement. Rather, the individual bird follows only a few simple rules, such as keeping a prescribed distance from its neighbors. By complying with these simple rules, the individual bird does not bump into its neighbors, and plays its important part within the larger system. As a result of complying with the simple rules on an individual basis, the swarm of birds executes a very complex and coordinated swarming behavior. Again, an individual bird would not be able to orchestrate such behavior in this sort of rapidity, complexity, and beauty. The swarming is therefore not governed by individual intelligence, combined and shared in some sort of exchange. Such a combining and sharing of information and knowledge would be too slow and inefficient for the swarming situation. Rather, the individual birds create only local solutions, corresponding to simple, local rules, without capturing the whole systems. These local solutions again create automatic coordination that benefits and shapes the success of the entire system.

When managing the complex and ambiguous challenges large organizations face today, the reliance on distributed intelligence can be very efficient and effective. Let’s observe an anthill to make that clear. The ants are able to collectively execute tasks that an individual ant neither can do nor conceive. They build elaborate housing structures, they raise their offspring, they locate food, they fight their enemies. An individual ant does not have enough brainpower to do and plan all this. Through creating a network of units, made out of thousands and thousands of individual ants that each comply with local and simple rules, a distributed intelligence emerges that brings about the needed solutions. For example, when locating a source of food, the ants quickly form an ant trail to that particular source. This ant trail is not formed as a result of a conscious awareness residing in each individual ant that food is available at the end of the trail. Rather, the trail is again formed by local and simple rules. The rule each individual ant complies with is to follow odor markers left by other ants. The ant then walks from marker to marker, without having a greater awareness of the overall purpose. From the systems perspective, however, we can clearly see that the ants have formed the ant trail in order to collect food. Each individual ant has played an essential part in bringing about this purpose; yet, without the intention to do so. Rather, the overall purpose has been brought about by the compliance with local and simple rules. In summary, the ants solved a challenge too complex to master given the brainpower at their disposal. Rather, to understand the success of the ants when organizing their survival in the midst of situations an individual ant must conceive as too complex and ambiguous, the notion of distributed intelligence is essential.

To an increasing degree, organizations face challenges that appear too complex and ambiguous to master. Nevertheless, organizations often are resilient regarding these challenges, and do find the right course of action; just like the ants collectively know what to do. This too often happens by chance, however: instead of crediting the organization’s distributed intelligence, a hero is chosen who supposedly led the organization to success with her/his specific skills and genius. This is detrimental. Organizations should rather learn to identify their specific quality of distributed intelligence, and to continuously build it. Only then will organizations react and act successfully when the next challenge appears. In the end, it is about providing local and simple rules to the individual parts of the organization that allow for appropriate reaction, without necessarily even knowing the end goal or the purpose of reacting. Only then do organizations gain the skill if finding appropriate answers to those changing circumstances that more often than not are too complex and ambiguous to master without distributed intelligence.

For Growing Cultural Intelligence, Stop Working Already!

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Millions are spent by corporations on assignments abroad, international job rotation, or global trainee programs, in order to develop the cultural intelligence of associates. A recent study has shown, however, that international non-work experience is much more conducive for developing cultural intelligence than spending time abroad for work purposes.

When you think about it, this is not that surprising. Managers sent abroad tend to approach the new target culture from a business perspective. This for sure triggers cultural learning, but this learning (1) does not reflect the full complexity of the (cultural) paradigms and interrelationships at play in a particular situation; (2) favors cognitive and rational processes of stimulation and reflection, rather than deeper attitudinal or behavioral changes. As a result, existing patterns of thinking and interpretation are less challenged and less reconfigured when only interacting in business contexts, which again leads to lower levels of cultural learning.

The study has shown that international experiences not related to work are more conducive for developing cultural intelligence. This has two implications: (1) When hiring people to positions that require cultural intelligence, the importance of having spent time abroad in non-work related contexts should trump work-related international experience; (2) when developing cultural intelligence, corporations might want to begin to think about releasing their associates to non-work related development programs, or at least to design international assignments that contain rich learning components outside the workplace.

What Leadership Behaviors are Universal Across Cultures

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We people interested in culture tend to see the world through the lense of intercultural difference. Therefore, we also tend to claim that the characteristics of good leadership depend on the cultural context in which they are shown. On the one hand, this is true, as for example the GLOBE Study has shown: Leadership behaviors are indeed dependent on the cultural context. On the other hand, next to this emphasis on intercultural differences in leadership, are there commonalities in leadership behaviors found across cultures? A recent study has shown that there are. The authors have identified 10 effective leadership behaviors and 9 ineffective leadership behaviors valid across cultural contexts.

According to the study, effective leadership behaviors across cultures are:
1. Providing help and support to associates
2. Giving recognition
3. Delegating to and empowering associates
4. Being responsive to personal/work situations of associates
5. Fighting in the interest of own department and associates; addressing development needs
6. Being open and approachable to associates; building trusting relationships
7. Including associates in decision-making and problem-solving
8. Good at planning and organizing
9. Using a personal approach to managing and leading associates
10. Keeping associates well informed on decisions, changes, and other matters affecting them

Ineffective leadership behaviors across cultures are:
1. Showing lack of care and concern for well-being of associates
2. Autocratically making and imposing decisions without involvement
3. Being unfair, inconsiderate, inconsistent, selfish and self-serving
4. Engaging in activities that undermine associates or others
5. Showing lack of ownership, accountability, and willingness to take responsibility
6. Withholding important information and feedback
7. Exhibiting a close mind and a negative approach
8. Intimidating or de-valuing people
9. Depriving associates of praise, encouragement, support, training, or development

These results were found based on a review of previous leadership-studies conducted in Germany, the UK, and Romania; countries with varying cultural dimensions, e.g. regarding power distance and individuality. Nevertheless, the number of countries considered is rather small, and no non-European countries were considered. Therefore, the results need to be read with some caution.

The Triple Impact of Service-Learning

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Service-learning (1) has positive effects on understanding social issues, (2) generates personal insights, and (3) leads to cognitive development; as confirmed by a recent meta-analysis. This is the strongest support you can get, because a meta-analysis reviews all relevant research studies, and looks for the core findings in these studies. In this meta-analysis, 40 research reports about service-learning have been analyzed. The results are clear: service-learning has a triple impact.

Service-learning occurs,
1. when the learner is actively engaged in a service experience that meets a real social need
2. the service enhances what is learned and has to be learned in the workplace
3. the experience provides time for reflection and discussion

With the emphasis on real-life experiences and deep involvement in achieving a relevant outcome, service-learning has shown to lead to three areas of impact:

Understanding social issues, which includes cultural awareness and sensitivity, ethical decision making, interpersonal skills, understanding the needs of a particular audience, and feelings of responsibility and ownership.

Personal insights, including awareness of oneself in terms of strengths and weaknesses, awareness of career aspirations, self-efficacy, self-esteem, determination, and persistence.

Cognitive development, including management skills, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking skills

Studies conducted in both business and non-business organizational contexts showed the same triple impact of service-learning. Thus, with a tendency these days to create learning opportunities away from the classroom, in the real-world, the format of service-learning can be a very effective and rewarding learning experience, with triple benefits for both the learners and their organization.

Preventing Experiential Learning Shock, thereby Increasing Learning Impact

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The concept of experiential learning is becoming ever more popular. More and more organizations abandon traditional classroom programs when developing their employees, and invest in learning through real-life experiences. The assumption is that when employees actually experience a situation, and live through a real-life problem, the learning outcomes are greater.

The consequence is, however, that many organizations now throw their employees into complex and challenging situations they often cannot handle, because the particular experiential situation is too far removed from the prior experiences of the employees. This means that the trainees don’t have the tools for being able to begin to process the experiential learning experience. Under these circumstances, learning does not occur, because learning takes place when new entities of knowledge can be integrated into existing knowledge structures. When being overwhelmed, such a structured process becomes interrupted, trainees become frustrated, and learning outcomes get impaired.

This does not mean that experiential learning interventions should be discontinued. After all, experiential learning truly promises to bring about better learning outcomes. However, current research suggests that if trainees have the opportunity to first observe others perform in the experiential learning situation, and thereby think through their prospective experiential learning task before actually engaging in the experience, they do much better when handling the experience. This has been shown to lead to better and deeper learning outcomes.

The implication therefore is: Continue to invest in experiential learning. It is indeed a promising approach. Make sure, however, that the trainees have the opportunity to observe role models before engaging with the experiential learning situation. Therefore, at the beginning of experiential learning, there needs to be a structured approach that eases the trainees into the situation. The easing-in happens through offering opportunities to observe role models that actually engage in the prospective experience. The use of prior classroom simulations of the prospective experience might hereby be helpful . Also, starting to go into the experience with the guidance of a subject matter expert enables observation/reflection. Finally, in case a particular experiential learning experience has been conducted before, trainees who already went through the experience can be used for offering insights into how to best approach the prospective learning situation.

How to Best Use Your International Experience for Intercultural Learning

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With many of us having ever more international experiences, wouldn’t it be nice if we used it for intercultural learning? After all, we all call out for interculturally sensitive and global leaders, right? Recent research indicates how we can best use an international experience to become such leaders.

Well, first it is about the duration of the experience. The message is clear: The longer the international experience, the deeper the potential for intercultural learning. So is there nothing that can be done except staying abroad longer? There is, as the way you approach your international experience, and the way you strive to learn from the experience influences your degree of intercultural learning.

A divergent learning style has been identified as best for developing intercultural intelligence. People with such a learning style crave for real-life experiences: they like to do things, to carry out plans and tasks, to interact with people from different cultures. However, they also tend to be imaginative and emotional. They can view a situation from many perspectives, check assumptions and adjust mental maps, are sensitive to meaning and values, and connect their feelings closely to their immediate international experience.

This learning style is set apart from three other learning styles, which have not been found effective for the purpose of using an international experience for developing intercultural intelligence. The accomodative learning style also cherishes real-life experience, but lacks reflection. The focus here is more on intuitive trial-and-error behavior, and on relying on other people for information, rather than on an analytical or reflective review of the international experience. Both the assimilative and convergent learning styles prioritze abstract conceptualization instead of real life-experience, thereby often preventing deep direct contact with cultural knowledge. Whereas individuals with assimilative learning styles do not seem to possess high motivation to interact with people of other cultures at all, individuals with convergent learning styles tend to focus on technical tasks and problems rather than social and interpersonal issues when interacting with people from other cultures.

The challenge now is to bring divergent styles to the forefront. First, it is important to understand one’s own preference for a particular learning style. With this awareness, an assessment can be made about the degree to which one already applies learning techniques conducive for intercultural learning. If these techniques are not sufficiently used, an effort can be made to acquire these techniques, through deliberate and planned behavior in the mode of a divergent learning style, or through modeling the behavior of individuals with this particular learning style. Also, resources can be recruited that help acquire the learning techniques needed, through training programs as well as coaching and mentoring processes.

So let’s all use the international experiences we have for developing intercultural learning. Wouldn’t it be a waste of effort and time otherwise?

Ming Li, William H. Mobley, & Kelly Aidan (2013). When do global leaders learn best to develop cultural intelligence? An investigation of the moderating role of experiential learning style. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12(1), 32-50.

When Managing Corporate Citizenship, Two Clashing Leadership Styles might Compromise Success

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Common leadership styles employed when managing corporate citizenship (CC) often clash, compromising the successful translation of corporate citizenship policy into practice. Transformational leadership is required to really create CC impact.

In a recent study published in the ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, common leadership styles when managing CC were analyzed. The authors of the study found conflicting leadership styles at play, depending on whether CC was conceived as ‘explicit’ or ‘implicit’.

Implicit CC practices are considered as a result of personal values and strong norms, “which all parties recognize and in which all participate”. As a result, leadership styles employed to advance this type of CC are encouraging discussion, independent thinking and personal inspiration.

Explicit CC practices are implemented as a result of deliberate and often strategic decision made by a corporation. As a result, leadership styles are more autocratic, and objectives, reports, targets and public indices are promoted.

In most corporations, both implicit and explicit CC practices are at play. The fact that these two practices are co-existing is often not clear to those managing CC. Thus, the conflicting and mostly unconcious use of different leadership styles considerably compromises the impact of CC policy, because CC remains an unintegrated theme in the organizational context.

Transformational leadership styles help translate CC policy into CC practice, because they account for the complex interrelationships that this translation entails.

Tamsin Angus-Leppan, Louise Metcalf, & Sue Benn (2010): Leadership Styles and CSR Practice: An examination of sensemaking, institutional drivers and CSR Leadership, Journal of Business Ethics, 93 (2), 189-213.

Insights into the International Landscape of Business Ethics

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You want to know what business ethics means in different countries and regions of the world? A new article provides a good and brief overview. With the results provided, you might be better equipped for developing business ethics in your international organization.

The article has three assets:

(1) The results presented are based on both a comprehensive review of literature and the quantitative analyses of large data sets, ensuring validity of the results.

(2) It provides brief introductions to business ethics in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, China, Japan, Western and Central Europe, Latin America, Saudi Arabia, and India. For example:

  • Anglo countries are significantly different from other countries, with a higher emphasis on senior management in promoting and modelling high ethical standards, and more formalized processes, i.e. clear policies for reporting ethical violations.
  • Germany and the Netherlands show a greater uncertainty regarding the issue of business ethics.

(3) The article cautions against false generalizations: “It would be a mistake to make generalizations about similarity of ethical business practices in organizations from different countries based on similarity in economic development, geographic proximity, and/or perceived cultural similarity”. For example

  • China and Japan are quite different regarding business ethics; Japan has been found to be more alike with Italy (!; reasons for that are given in the article)
  • India espouses values of business ethics similar to the Anglo countries

Overall, the article allows for considering international differences when promoting business ethics. This ensures a more impactful translation of business ethics policies to organizational practice.

Alexandre Ardichvili, Douglas Jondle, & Brenda Kowske (2010). Dimensions of ethical business cultures: Comparing data from 13 countries of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, Human Resource Development International, 13 (3), 299-315.