Experimental Management Research – Using experiments in cross-cultural research

Cultural dimension models lead to ad hoc interpretations of behavior. Cross-cultural experiments can provide the missing link //

The widely believed advantage of exploring behavior by using experimental methods is that it provides empirical results that is directly affected by monetary rewards (incentives). Hence, incentivized experiments are believed to trigger intrinsically motivated behavior (“attitudes in action”) to a much higher extent than, for instance, questionnaire-based surveys would do. A further advantage is that factors that influence decision-making behavior can be controlled and that data gathering itself can be replicated at the same or in different places (labs) or by using subject pools from different countries.

“Experiments are believed to trigger intrinsically motivated behavior to a much higher extent than, for instance, questionnaire-based surveys”

Advantages of the experimental methodology are seen especially in its ability to examine the causality of individual and group behavior. Therefore, it is possible to determine in greater detail the circumstances under which culture is and is not influential. The resulting findings can contribute to the advancement of management theory, for example in the area of cooperation behavior in individualistic and collectivistic culture groups. It can also contribute to a better understanding of what determines the establishment of trust and trustworthiness across and between cultures, how fairness is interpreted across cultures and how it is enforced. These questions can be answered by integrating context-specific variables into an experimental research design. From a practical point of view, by means of an experimental methodology, differences in decision making behavior can be examined, including questions of practical importance such as why inter-cultural negotiations are more difficult to conduct or why they fail, or how cross- and inter-cultural leadership can be improved.

Here is the suggestion: While it is obvious that culture influences decision making behavior, explaining the cultural variables of why behavior differs has remained less explored so far from an experimental point of view. Conventional categories of culture classification (i.e. dimensional models) are often too bipolar to respond to cultural specifics and may not fully explain cultural dynamics, particularity in fast-growing emerging countries. The need to better understand the distinct nature or underlying factors that causes culturally-induced behavioral differences has been raised. Dissatisfaction with conventional categories of culture classifications and the need to understand distinctive cultural characteristics and their effects better are in particular raised in the International Business discipline in the field or cross-cultural research.

“An experimental research design consisting of three stages might help to explore the effect of specific cultural variables on behavior”

In this field, typically questionnaire-based surveys, interviews, comparative case analysis or ethnographic inquiry is applied. How to investigate the influence of distinctive local cultural phenomena? An experimental research design consisting of three stages might help here: By pursuing an experimental research approach, distinctive cultural variables can be ‘extracted’ in a first step by using interviews, and then in a second step integrated into a controlled behavioral experiment in order to test their effects on behavior. A third stage can be implemented by conducting either post-experimental interviews or using a post-experimental questionnaire in order to support validity.

More here:
Horak, S. 2018. From Cross-Cultural Economic Experiments to Experimental Indigenous Management Research – A Suggestion. Management and Organization Review, 14(4), 651-691. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/mor.2018.39

* Photo credit: “Experiments with Long exposure and lights-015” by Tea, two sugars is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Why mindfulness at work matters

Mindfulness is linked to motivation and can help your productivity //

We’re often overwhelmed at work, which can actually reduce our efficacy. This is where mindfulness comes in. So, what exactly is mindfulness? It’s the ability to remain focused on the task at hand while, importantly, also remaining flexible. Essentially, it helps to think in a way that means less stress, ultimately promoting a healthier way of life. If we’re stressed at work, mindfulness could be the key. This is because it can help in numerous ways, including things like:

• Improving task engagement
• Promoting efficacy in the workplace
• Increasing your achievement rates
• Reducing stress

Short exercises to improve your mindfulness. While the idea behind mindfulness is a great one, one may be wondering how to actually employ this in a hectic workday. There are easy steps one can take to begin the mindfulness process. For instance, short daily exercises can help to train the brain to be mindful. What this entails is spending a short period of time – even a single minute counts – concentrating on connecting with one of our senses. We don’t even need to close our eyes or sit down to perform these rebalancing tasks. The important part here though is to make sure that one performs these exercises every day. Essentially, we make it into a habit. The longer the period of mindfulness exercise can fit in, the better it will be for the mental health and workflow in the long run. Doing these types of exercises every day, even though they are short, will help to improve our mindfulness so that when it comes to decision making, we are in a better position to make a reasoned choice.

Many of us claim to be multi-taskers, but in reality, there’s no such thing.

Be in the moment, one task at a time. Following on from this, these exercises help to make us aware of our surroundings rather than operating on autopilot, something we’re all guilty of – especially when performing regular tasks. To be mindful at work, one needs to take a step back and actually consider carefully what it is one is doing, at the moment one is doing it. If our mind wanders, acknowledge the wandering thought, then carefully bring the focus back to the task at hand. Of course, this is hard at first, which is where those short exercises help. In a similar vein, one should also aim to focus on one task at a time. Many of us claim to be multi-taskers, but in reality, there’s no such thing. When we multi-task, our brain is jumping from one problem to another, never fully focusing or giving full attention to any one task. In fact, we can lose information performing in this way. To track whether we’re multitasking, we may try keeping a time journal to see what we achieve within a specific period of time and the level of mindfulness achieved.

Emotions, mindfulness and resilience. As a final thought on mindfulness, we should consider our emotions and how we convey them to those around us. For instance, cultivating humility can help us be more approachable and colleagues will likely enjoy our company more. Accepting ourselves as we are with all our shortcomings and strengths is the key to this. In conjunction with this, being modest and grateful for what we have is a positive state of mind we should cultivate. Consider all the positives of our jobs, and being mindful of this will help our resilience when we have rough patches or a complex task.

The use of leader humor in the East and West

When and how to use humor in East Asia and North America //

Research on humor generally tends to assume that the use of humor by a leader towards his or her subordinates has positive effects and is widely regarded as an indicator of the leader having likable characteristics. This is likely untrue for other places than the North American region. Despite the popularity of this assumption in North America, it is largely unknow whether those positive effects are universal, i.e. whether they hold true in other parts of the world. Since leaders are today more than ever before globally travelling leaders, working with people who draw on different ideals, tastes, social norm and value systems, there is a need to understand the effectiveness of leader humor better. Today, global leaders want to establish rapport and trust quickly.

“Contrary to the United States, in East Asia leader humor is not effective in early-phase leader–member interactions”

Research has paid less attention so far to aspects of the cultural context of leader humor, particularly in regard to time by exploring questions of when humor is appropriate and when it is not. With regard to the world’s largest economic region, we argue that leader humor is not so effective in East Asia because of different preferences in relation to communication style and divergent expectations and value sets during early-phase leader–member interactions. In that regard, the role of context is central. In East Asia the dominance of the formal context in the early stage of the relationship will make a leader’s humor less effective. On the other hand, however, the growing significance and role of the informal context in a mature relationship makes the leader’s humor more effective. Hence, we argue that leader humor may become equally if not more effective in the mature phase of leader–member interactions.

While cultural differences, including the usage of humor at work are much more apparent at the early stage of a relationship, our exploration uncovers areas that are important for effective cross-cultural communication training and the development of managers for global assignments.

More here:

Yang, I.; Horak, S. & Chi, S.-C. & (2020). Leader humor effectiveness – The divergent dynamics of leader humor over time in East Asia and North America. Thunderbird International Business Review, forthcoming.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/tie.22180

Photo credit: “Aptenodytes patagonicus (king penguin)” is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Неформальные связи в бизнесе – темные и светлые стороны

Неформальные связи можно рассматривать как позитивное явление, которое приносит пользу для отдельных лиц, компаний и общества в целом, однако неформальные связи также могут привести к сговору, коалициям, кумовству и другим формам неэтичного или коррумпированного поведения, которое имеет большое значение для исследований по развивающимся рынкам. На сегодняшний день, налаживание неформальных связей, а также их переплетение и развитие в разных культурных контекстах, не были в центре внимания исследований в области международного управления и организации, – и этому пробелу посвящен данный специальный номер журнала. Этот специальный выпуск вносит свой вклад в расширение знаний по динамике неформальных связей и их амбивалентности, при которой одни и те же связи имеют разные режимы функционирования, а также демонстрируют положительные и отрицательные стороны периодически или одновременно. Мы уделяем особое внимание контексту, в котором работают неформальные связи, подчеркиваем их сложность и поощряем диалог между учеными, которые изучают неформальные связи в различных странах. Сравнительный анализ в разных контекстах делает нашу концептуализацию неформальных связей более интегрированной и сбалансированной. Понимание действия неформального взаимодействия – известного как guanxi, yongo, jentinho, wasta и blat – в разных культурных условиях, позволяет рассмотреть западные ценности, социальные структуры и нормы поведения в широкой перспективе, а также проверить западно-ориентированные гипотезы, нарративы и теории. Поскольку неформальные связи являются традиционным способом ведения бизнеса во многих странах, как показано в этом специальном выпуске, определение светлых (положительных) и темных (отрицательных) сторон неформальных связей имеет решающее значение для ответственного управления и делового успеха в многонациональных корпорациях.

More here:
Horak, S., Afiouni, F., Bian, Y., Ledeneva, A., Muratbekova-Touron, M., & Fey, C. F. (2020). Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions. Management and Organization Review, 16(3), 511-542.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mor.2020.28


非正式网络被视为一种有益于个体、公司以及整个社会的积极活动,但非正式网络也可能导致共谋、拉帮结派、任人唯亲以及其他形式的不道德或腐败行为——这主要与新兴市场的研究有关。迄今为止,非正式网络的建设、文化交融以及发展并没有成为国际管理和组织研究的焦点,这是本期特刊试图解决的一个问题。这期特刊有助于更好地理解非正式网络的动态性与矛盾性,即同一网络存在不同的运作模式,且间歇或同时存在正反两面。我们论证了非正式网络运行的背景,强调了其复杂性,并鼓励来自不同国家的非正式网络学者展开对话。采用基于环境和比较的视角,我们以更加整合和平衡的方式将非正式网络概念化。在特定文化背景下,以西方价值观、社会结构和行为理念为视角,理解被熟知的 guanxi, yongo, jentinho, wasta 和blat这类非正式网络的运作方式,并检验西方中心的假定、叙述和理论。正如本期特刊所描述的,由于非正式网络是众多国家进行业务往来的传统方式,因此界定非正式网络光明面(积极面)与黑暗面(消极面)对跨国公司的负责任的管理和商业成功至关重要。

More here:
Horak, S., Afiouni, F., Bian, Y., Ledeneva, A., Muratbekova-Touron, M., & Fey, C. F. (2020). Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions. Management and Organization Review, 16(3), 511-542. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mor.2020.28

Informal networks in international business

The dark and bright sides of informal networks //

While the coordination of business activities through interpersonal ties and networks has been researched in the management and organization studies, using informal networks for managing and organizing in an international context is a rather new research field. Informal networks, known variously as guanxi (China), old boy network (United States), jinmyaku (Japan), yongo (South Korea), jentinho (Brazil), wasta (Middle East), or blat/svyazi (Russia), amongst others, are rather new to management and organization research and regarded an undeveloped research area. While we find them in every culture at different levels of importance, they are quite distinct and yet not fully captured by conventional theories on interpersonal ties in management. The importance of informal networks for the coordination of business-related activities in the largest markets in the world, such as China, Russia and Brazil make informal network knowledge on when and how they take effect an essential factor to understand thoroughly for international managers.

“Informal networking can be seen as a positive activity with beneficial outcomes for individuals, firms, and society as a whole”

The recently published issue on Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions in Management and Organization Review (Cambridge) adds to our knowledge on informal networks in several ways, taking their dark and bright sides into account. The research papers published in this issue cover a range of informal network ties and types and offer new insights on informal aspects of management in China, with a focus on guanxi as well as the functioning of the less studied network types, such as elite networks in Malaysia, wasta in Arab countries, and bazaaries in Iran. 

Informal networking can be seen as a positive activity with beneficial outcomes for individuals, firms, and society as a whole, but informal networking can also lead to collusion, cliques, nepotism, and other forms of unethical or corrupt conduct. To date, the construction of informal networks and their cultural intertwinement and development have not been a focus of global management and organization studies yet. This can be seen as a knowledge gap that future research needs to address.

“Informal networking can also lead to collusion, cliques, nepotism, and other forms of unethical or corrupt conduct”

The dynamics of informal networks and their ambivalence can be understood in a way that the same networks have different modes of operation and have positive and negative sides intermittently or simultaneously. Using a context-based and comparative perspective allows us to conceptualize informal networks in a more integrated and balanced way. Understanding the workings of informal networking in culturally specific settings, places values, social structures, and ideals of behavior in perspective and tests Western-centered assumptions, narratives, and theories. Because informal networking is a conventional way of conducting business in many countries, defining the bright (positive) and the dark (negative) sides of informal networks is critical for responsible management and business success and therefor of special interest for leaders in multinational corporations.

More here:
Horak, S., Afiouni, F., Bian, Y., Ledeneva, A., Muratbekova-Touron, M., & Fey, C. F. (2020). Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions. Management and Organization Review, 16(3), 511-542. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/mor.2020.28