Archive for the ‘scholarship’ Category

I just received an email that a paper I’ve been coauthoring has been accepted at Information Systems Research. “Trust is in the Eye of the Beholder: A Vignette Study of Post-Event Behavioral Controls on Individual Trust in Virtual Teams” reports the results of a study that began during my introductory seminar for the PhD program at Indiana University in 2004.   It’s wonderful to finally see the nearing culmination of years of work. I’m grateful for dedicated coauthors who have labored so diligently to bring this work to light.

In brief layman’s terms, the message of the paper is as follows: Virtual teams is the term we use for describing teams whose members interact primarily using technologies instead of in face-to-face settings.  With such teams, a managerial concern has been that it is difficult to control such groups, and that when controls are put in place, it tends to undermine trust among the team members. In our study, we conducted an experiment testing whether behavioral controls (requiring group members to report on the performance of their team members) and the presence of reneging behaviors (people failing to following through with their commitments) affect trust in these virtual teams. What we found was that these controls actually lead group members to notice both positive and negative behaviors and enhance what is called the “selective perception bias.” Basically it helps people find what they were predisposed to look for. If people tend to be distrustful, behavioral controls in virtual teams increased that tendency. If they tend to be trusting of others, behavioral controls increased that tendency as well.

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I was reading in the book Professors as Writers the other day about the reasons professors have a hard time writing diligently and productively. Robert Boice, the author, outlines a number of reasons based on years of research and consulting, and you can read the book for the specifics. As I see it, a lot of it boils down to fear; people are afraid of looking like an idiot, or–perhaps worse–they’re afraid that they’ll discover for themselves that they’re really not as talented as they thought. We’re afraid, so we run away. We find other things to occupy our time and make us feel busy and justify our inactivity. “I have to read some more about this topic first.” … “I need to do some more preparations for class.” … “I have to respond to this email.” “I have to get ready for that meeting.” The list goes on and on.

One problem with running away is that, when we fail to practice  because we’re afraid, our skill atrophies, and we become even more afraid. Fear and inactivity in writing lead into a downward spiral. We gain nothing from running away. Boice’s basic recommendations: set goals, practice writing consistently (every day or every other day), and practice showing your work to others before you think you’re ready.

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Today was one of those mornings I tell myself, “This is why I love working in academia!” In short, it’s the people. I caught the same bus to campus this morning as a friend of mine who is doing graduate studies in instructional design.  As we road into town and walked across campus together, we talked about my dissertation research and I learned some interesting insights from my friend’s perspective, some things I hadn’t thought about before. I was able to share something with him he said he might be able to use in his teaching.

It’s this cross fertilization of ideas with people that’s one of my favorite parts of my work. I’ve had similar experiences talking with fellow scholars in public policy, economics, and latin american studies, as well as within the business school with friends in entrepreneurship, accounting, and information systems. I had a friend during my masters program who was interested in getting a PhD, but shied away from it because he wants to interact with people too much. I admit there’s a lot of isolated work in scholarship. But there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for productive interaction with others. We are members of an academic community and participation in the research process is more than just advancing my personal agenda. If managed correctly, research and teaching are ways to connect with others and to work together in a positive productive way. 

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