Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Looking Back Key to Moving Forward

13.10.2010
Despite modest economic gains, gloomy unemployment numbers and low workplace morale still loom large within corporate America.

Whether or not companies can capitalize on the momentum of this fragile financial revitalization is dependent on more than enhancing consumer confidence or introducing new products to the marketplace—it falls largely on employees working for organizations and their level of commitment to corporate success.

Researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley have discovered that building a more committed workforce can be as simple as asking employees to reflect on their company’s history.

“Institutions that can communicate a compelling historical narrative often inspire a special kind of commitment among employees. It is this dedication that directly affects a company’s success and is critical to creating a strong corporate legacy,” said author Adam Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan professor of ethics and decision in management.

Galinsky, along with Kellogg professors Hal Ersner-Hershfield (visiting assistant professor of management and organizations) and Brayden King (assistant professor of management and organizations) and Haas professor Laura Kray (associate professor, Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values) explored how reflecting counterfactually on an institution’s origins—that is, thinking about “what if” scenarios—can influence employees’ actions and commitment. Their findings demonstrate that when employees are asked to think about an alternative universe where their company did not come into being, they come to see their company’s current circumstance and future trajectory in a more positive light. This “near-loss” mentality increases their commitment toward the institution and overall morale.

The researchers point to FedEx as an example. The courier service successfully positions its origin story by leading people to reflect on what would have happened had FedEx founder Fred Smith chosen not to fly to a Las Vegas casino one fateful night in 1973 to help his troubled company meet payroll.

“The result for FedEx is a deep employee appreciation and the recognition by top magazines as one of the best companies to work for,” said King. “The key to generating these sentiments is reminding employees how things could have turned out differently for their company.”

“Businesses can better position themselves to prosper when they clearly articulate their origin stories to employees,” said lead author Ersner-Hershfield. “In order for companies to effectively communicate their narrative, they should ask themselves whether there were key meetings, events or people during the economic crisis, without which the company’s outlook would have taken a turn for the worse. Focusing on how things could have turned out differently fosters a positive view of the current circumstances among employees and thus generates an increased sense of commitment.”

The researchers demonstrated that this is a very general phenomenon by finding the link between counterfactual reflection and increased institutional investment among its members regardless of the company involved, and even showed that this relationship extended to countries (i.e., counterfactual reflection of country origins increased patriotism).

To demonstrate the importance of counterfactual reflection on enhanced employee commitment, the study’s authors developed a series of experiments. Two of the experiments explored whether counterfactual thoughts produce a greater sense of commitment to organizations and whether these thoughts are of greater significance than pro-social activities offered by a company such as employee support programs.

Participants who engaged in counterfactual reflection and were asked to describe all the possible scenarios resulting in the company not coming into being demonstrated a higher commitment to their organization compared to participants who thought about the ways that their company actually came into being. In the same respect, when the company was described as pro-social and in counterfactual terms, counterfactual reflection remained a significant factor in organizational commitment. Furthermore, it was found that the relationship between counterfactual reflection and organizational commitment is driven by a sense that an employee’s connection to the company was fated or meant to be.

“Our study demonstrates that this process is a universal one, applying also to countries and personal connections”, said Ersner-Hershfield. Galinsky added that these results suggest “that this link is an endemic aspect of the human mind: Ruminating on origin stories and reflecting back on what might have happened rather than what actually took place leads to increased commitment.”

Once a business (or even a country government) identifies key turning points, it should make reference to them in its origin story with a focus on how things could have turned out differently. The result is a renewed sense of devotion that is an inherent factor in an institution’s overall success and crucial to its ability to prosper within the current, fragile state of the economy.

“Company, country, connections: Counterfactual origins increase organizational commitment, patriotism and social investment,” will appear in the October issue of Psychological Science.

MORE INFORMATION: To arrange an interview with the authors, please contact Aaron Mays or Emily Bendix at the contact information listed below:

Aaron Mays (Kellogg School of Management) 847-491-2112 or a-mays@kellogg.northwestern.edu

Emily Bendix (MS&L) 312-861-5214 or emily.bendix@mslworldwide.com

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Company, Country, Connections: Counterfactual Origins Increase Organizational Commitment, Patriotism, and Social Investment" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org.

Keri Chiodo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Business and Finance:

nachricht How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung

nachricht Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

All articles from Business and Finance >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>