Category Archives: Organizational Behavior

Why Leaders Don’t Learn from Success

Source: Francesca Gino and Gary P. Pisano, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 no. 4, April 2011

Failures get a postmortem. Why not triumphs?

From the brief:
The annals of business history are full of tales of companies that once dominated their industries but fell into decline. The usual reasons offered–staying too close to existing customers, a myopic focus on short-term financial performance, and an inability to adapt business models to disruptive innovation–don’t fully explain how the leaders who had steered these firms to greatness lost their touch.

In this article we argue that success can breed failure by hindering learning at both the individual and the organizational level. We all know that learning from failure is one of the most important capacities for people and companies to develop. Yet surprisingly, learning from success can present even greater challenges. To illuminate those challenges–and identify approaches for overcoming them–we will draw from our research and from the work of other scholars in the field of behavioral decision making, and focus on three interrelated impediments to learning.

The first is the inclination to make what psychologists call fundamental attribution errors. When we succeed, we’re likely to conclude that our talents and our current model or strategy are the reasons. We also give short shrift to the part that environmental factors and random events may have played.

The second impediment is overconfidence bias: Success increases our self-assurance. Faith in ourselves is a good thing, of course, but too much of it can make us believe we don’t need to change anything.

The third impediment is the failure-to-ask-why syndrome–the tendency not to investigate the causes of good performance systematically. When executives and their teams suffer from this syndrome, they don’t ask the tough questions that would help them expand their knowledge or alter their assumptions about how the world works.

“The Worse You Behave, The More You Seem, to be Rewarded”: Bullying in Nursing as Organizational Corruption

Source: Marie Hutchinson, Margaret H. Vickers, Lesley Wilkes, and Debra Jackson, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Published online: 18 February 2009
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From the abstract:
This paper reports findings from the first, qualitative stage of a national sequential, mixed method study of bullying in the Australian nursing workplace. Twenty-six nurses who had experience of workplace bullying were recruited from two Australian public sector health care organizations. Examining the narrative data from the viewpoint of bullying being a corrupt activity we present an alternative perspective on group acts of bullying. By exploring bullying as corrupt behaviour, this paper challenges the assumption that bullying can be principally considered a series of isolated events stemming from interpersonal conflict, organizational pressures, or poor work design. Corruption in organizations has not previously been linked with or compared to bullying. In revealing the manner in which actors can engage in corrupt conduct that includes bullying, the findings from our study offer important implications for the management of workplace bullying as a serious and corrupt activity.

Examining Local Government Service Delivery Arrangements Over Time

Source: Scott Lamothe, Meeyoung Lamothe, Richard C. Feiock, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 44 No. 1, September 2008
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From the abstract:
While scholars of local service delivery arrangements are fully aware the process is dynamic, research has tended to take the form of cross-sectional studies that are inherently static in nature. In this article, the authors model the determinants of production mode accounting for past delivery decisions. They find, not surprisingly, that there are strong inertial effects; previous delivery mode is a strong predictor of the current service delivery arrangement. More interestingly, the impact of the transaction cost nature of services on production choice is conditioned on past decisions, such as the extent of contracting and the type of vendors used. There is also evidence that contract management capacity and the competitiveness of the contracting environment are influential.

Workplace Organization and Innovation

Source: Cindy Zoghi, Robert D. Mohr, and Peter B. Meyer, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Working Paper 405, May 2007

This study uses data on Canadian establishments to test whether particular organizational structures are correlated with the likelihood of adopting process and product innovations, controlling for the endogeneity of the predictors. We find that establishments with decentralized decision-making, information-sharing programs, or incentive pay plans are significantly more likely to innovate than other establishments. Larger establishments and those with a high vacancy rate are also more likely to innovate. These findings are consistent with a model in which workers hold information about production inefficiencies or consumer demands that can lead to productive innovations and that workplace organization attributes facilitate the communication and implementation of those ideas.