The aftermath of natural disasters is catastrophic. Left behind are scarred landscapes, scraps of homes and businesses, and impoverished communities. How do people recover from unexpected destruction?

Benjamin Collier

Benjamin Collier, assistant professor for the Fox Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management analyzed recovery from a natural disaster. He focused on small and medium-sized businesses after Hurricane Sandy, a Category 3 storm that hit the Caribbean and Northeastern coast of the U.S. in 2012. Collier relays that his prior experience is what drew him to the topic of recovery after Hurricane Sandy. 

“I was working in Peru, in grad school, on how flood incidents affect access to credit for small and medium-sized farmers,” Collier says. “There really hasn’t been a lot of work on how disasters affect small businesses in general.”

While most research is dedicated to how larger corporations prepare and recover after natural disasters, Collier wanted to discover the economic impact for small-scale businesses in financially developed settings like New York or New Jersey.

Collier partnered with colleagues at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Wharton School to conduct surveys about the small businesses surrounding the East Coast area. They discovered many details about these firms’ credit. The largest difference is whether or not the business had insurance.

“Some of them had insurance, but many didn’t have any or didn’t have enough. As a result, loans were an important part of financial recovery,” Collier explains. “We also saw many owners who ended up putting more personal resources into their business. For many small business owners and entrepreneurs, this is their life.”

One tool for businesses’ recovery after disasters is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Lending Program. However, Collier realized through the surveys that very few applied to the program, so the amount of money lent to businesses by the SBA appeared very small. Even so, the biggest issue still was which businesses did or didn’t buy insurance prior to Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy from above

“What surprised me most was how large the insurance gap was between businesses. We think about insurance as the front line financial tool to manage big disasters. You have these new businesses who might have good ideas, but they fail because of this disaster and that’s an unfortunate outcome,” Collier says.

Collier’s research, “Firms’ Management of Infrequent Shocks,” was published in the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking in December. 

Collier’s research doesn’t end with Hurricane Sandy; he is currently investigating the recovery from  2017’s Hurricane Harvey destruction in the Southern U.S. “We conducted a survey one year after Harvey on businesses in the Houston area,” explains Collier.

“A big shock like this calls a lot of things into question. If a firm needs to borrow tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover, this can up-end its business models,” says Collier. “More broadly, many communities rely on these businesses. So, if local businesses are having a hard time recovering this leads to questions on how the community will recover.”

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New research from Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of legal studies, examines how companies are using data analytics to track employee behavior and habits.

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 17, 2020—Work-life balance is key to cultivating a healthy work environment, but attaining it is not easy. In fact, new research from Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of legal studies at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, suggests that the line between our personal and professional lives have never been more blurred.

Recently published in the American Business Law Journal, “Data Analytics and the Erosion of the Work/Nonwork Divide” examines how companies are using data analytics to monitor employee behavior. Employers taking an interest in their employees’ personal lives is nothing new. For example, the increasing cost of healthcare has led some employers to inquire into employees’ off-duty smoking and drinking habits in recent years.

However, what many companies are doing now is a bit more complicated than that.

“Employers have begun to monitor and track employees’ off-duty hobbies, consumer preferences, health concerns, exercise and sleep regimens, and family planning thoughts,” Eisenstadt says. “These new reaches into employees’ personal lives are then used to make workplace decisions, largely eliminating the distinction between work and non-work spheres.”

In her research, Eisenstadt takes a closer look at several software data-mining efforts, including Project Comet, Castlight Health, facial recognition in lieu of employee ID cards and others.

Arguably the most far-reaching project that Eisenstadt analyzed is Project Comet, a program that mines data from employees’ social media accounts and then analyzes the information for use by the employer. Primarily used by a major U.S. healthcare company, Project Comet was first created as a tool that could be used to build better employee teams. However, as Eisenstadt outlines in her piece, it may soon have other uses.

“The program can analyze social media data to determine the best seating arrangements for employees. It may be used to determine which employees possess leadership capabilities and should be given additional training or professional development opportunities. And, eventually, the program may assist managers in selecting candidates for downsizing or for promotions,” Eisenstadt writes.

Data analytics, fueled by off-duty data on employee’s personal lives, could soon be the driving force behind hiring and firing decisions. This is a stark difference from traditional human resource management practices.

Eisenstadt says some of the implications behind Castlight Health’s data mining could be equally as dangerous. The company is a third-party entity that provides services to employers, including the ability to track healthcare spending and search for in-network doctors. Walmart and Time Warner are both among Castlight Health’s clients, meaning the company potentially has access to data on millions of employees.

Through Internet searches, physician specialist searches and requests, and changes to prescription purchases, Castlight can identify which employees are contemplating becoming pregnant, are concerned about developing diabetes or believe they may need back surgery in the near future. This information is likely not protected by HIPAA either, as that applies only to “covered entities,” which include healthcare providers, health plans, employers and healthcare clearinghouses.

With Castlight, companies and organizations could easily make decisions based on an employee’s health, making that line between personal and professional lives even blurrier. That’s why Eisenstadt suggests companies should think twice prior to using data analytics like this.

The blurring of the line between work and non-work spheres has significant negative implications both for employees’ health and well-being as well as the potential legal liability of employers. Numerous laws depend upon a dividing line between work and personal domains, and the erosion of that line has the potential to do damage to both parties to the employment relationship. 

“When employers can track employees’ heart rate and sleep quality, determine who is contemplating pregnancy, identify an employee’s emotional state from a facial scan, and use all of this information to make workplace decisions, there is no real division between what is work and what is not,” Eisenstadt says. “As a society, we must decide whether the divide between work and nonwork spheres is a societal good that should be protected and to what extent. Regardless of where Americans come down on this question, we should be actively choosing a course rather than mindlessly submitting to the technology’s appeal. Or, to state it plainly, just because we can does not mean we should.”

About the Fox School of Business

The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research.  

The Fox School’s research institutes and centers and 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market. 

The school’s knowledge-creating research faculty affords it the flexibility and responsiveness to address the needs of industry and generate courses and programs in emerging fields of study. As a leader in business research, the Fox School values interdisciplinary approaches and translational research that advance actionable insights to solve real-world problems. Our research informs an adaptive curriculum, supports innovation in teaching and prepares students for the changing nature of work.

Diana Kyser headshotDiana Kyser, DBA 17, has played nearly every possible role one can in business. Even with jobs like programmer, marketing manager, customer service representative, consultant and COO under her belt, she was not satisfied with her scope of knowledge. To connect her practice to theory, she decided to pursue an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from the Fox School. 

Over the course of her career, Kyser found herself at companies with a variety of leadership styles. She noticed that company culture often manifested itself as a reflection of the founder’s personality—for better and for worse. 

When it came time for Kyser to decide on a dissertation topic for her DBA, she wanted to use research to investigate her experiences in the workplace in order to better understand the link between founder personality and organizational culture. 

Using Data to Investigate Real-World Experiences 

“I have spent equal parts of my career in businesses that were co-founded by me and those that were founded by others. In my own businesses, I felt comfortable and fit in. In the ones that were founded by others, I often did not. I noticed the impact of the founders’ personality on the company culture and sometimes it was very negative,” Kyser explains. “By exploring this in my DBA and researching my dissertation, I was able to understand and put names to all the things that I had been feeling all along.”

Kyser’s research used ethnographic tools, interviews and survey data to explore how founder personality and organizational culture is linked at four firms in a variety of industries. She then used a 54-item Organizational Culture Profile to assess cultural factors such as adaptability, integrity, collaboration and more in a larger sample of founder-led companies. The data she uncovered both supported and found some contradictions in predictions from established models of organizational behavior.

New Discoveries in Company Culture Theory  

Kyser’s research highlighted in her dissertation “Through the Looking Glass: Company Culture as a Reflection of Founder Personality in Entrepreneurial Organizations,” found that companies tended to hire (and be more successful with) employees that exhibited complementary personalities to that of the founder, rather than those with overlapping traits. That is, organizations often advertently or inadvertently hire people who have strengths and skills that are unique to them and are lacking in the founder. 

Kyser suggests an alternative mechanism linking founder personality to organizational culture, finding that employee personality mediates between founder personality and organizational culture, rather than simply reinforcing it. Contrary to much theory, employee personality often trumps founder personality when determining culture, and that established theories might conspire to create a culture that escapes the influence of the founder. 

Larger Potential Impact 

Managers and consultants, take note: this research finds that, unless managed explicitly, employees might complicate efforts to create the kind of culture a founder might want to create. To the extent that collective personality shapes culture and executives hire complementary personalities, not clones, founders could find themselves working in a culture of their employees making, not their own. 

“Organizational culture is so personal,” Kyser notes. “Each company has its own DNA, and no specific approach is a perfect fit. In the future, I want to build on this research and develop a model for where the founder can, based on his/her own personality, understand what type of employees will best enable them to build their business culture and their vision.”

Doctors performing surgery

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, doctors and patients around the country have faced the effects of extended healthcare coverage. The goal of the ACA is to expand affordable healthcare to more patients, but its impact has raised several issues for the medical field. 

The ACA, also known as Obamacare, made it possible for millions of Americans to gain access to healthcare—but it has also increased the demand for various medical services ranging from routine doctor’s visits to mental illness care. Due to this increased demand, doctors are stretched thin, having to divide their attention among a much larger pool of patients. 

Jingshu Luo, a current PhD student studying healthcare management and insurance economics in the Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management at the Fox School of Business, has had many conversations with her roommates, who are resident physicians, about the condition of Philadelphia hospitals since the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. 

“They complained that their hospital was always full of patients and their supervisors give them very limited time to treat patients,” says Luo. 

When doctors have less time to engage with and properly treat their patients, medical liability risk could increase. In her research, Luo and her co-authors compared malpractice costs in states that expanded Medicaid versus the states that did not. 

In this natural experiment, Luo found a clear distinction in costs related to liability. Luo says, “The states that went through Medicaid expansion experienced significantly higher medical malpractice costs than non-expansion states.”

States with Medicaid Expansion
States that expanded Medicaid are illustrated in green

Luo’s research also explores the interaction between health insurance reform and the state tort system, which determines legal liability to compensate for a civil wrong from loss or harm.  Whereas Medicaid expansion may increase malpractice liability costs, tort reforms are designed to limit or reduce a physician’s overall liability. Notably, they did not find that these reforms reduced the ACA-driven malpractice costs. In other words, Medicaid expansion drove up malpractice frequency, but tort reforms focused on restricting the malpractice claim severity, not volume. 

Luo and her co-authors highlight their findings in their paper, “Medicaid Expansion And Medical Malpractice Liability Costs.” Luo also presented the research at the Fox PhD Student Research Competition in 2019 during a Three Minute Thesis presentation. This condensed, single-slide format helps guide researchers to present a brief and concise description of their research in plain language that can be easily connected to real-world business problems.

This rise in liability risk is not one to take lightly. Overall, 37 states have adopted Medicaid Expansion while 14 still have not. Across the nation, doctors and patients are affected by these malpractice and liability costs that stem from the ACA. The ACA’s goal is to provide all Americans access to affordable healthcare, but at what cost? 

For more stories and news, follow the Fox School on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Fox School of Business professor analyzes chatbot effectiveness,  depending on whether the chatbot discloses that it is a robot.

People reading and shopping on phones

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 31, 2020—Need to order a pizza? There’s a chatbot for that. Need to pay off your credit card? There’s a chatbot for that, too. 

In fact, there could soon be a chatbot for just about anything. Studies have suggested the chatbot market is worth $250 million now and it’s expected to balloon to more than $1.34 billion by 2024. In addition, 21% of U.S adults and more than 80% of Generation Z use voice or text bots for information search and shopping.

The growth comes as no surprise to Xueming Luo, professor of marketing, strategy and management information systems in the Fox School of Business at Temple University. His research has outlined how these chatbots really can work. However, there is a caveat, says Luo. 

“A chatbot can be effective in helping to drive sales, but let me emphasize the term ‘bot.’ If a potential customer realizes it’s just a robot on the line or if that information is disclosed, that can actually drive sales conversions down by nearly 80%,” Luo says.

Together with Siliang Tong, a marketing PhD student in the Fox School, and colleagues from Sichuan University and Fudan University, Luo authored “Machines versus Humans: The Impact of AI Chatbot Disclosure on Customer Purchases,” which was recently published in Marketing Science. 

As part of the study, more than 6,200 potential customers were randomized to receive highly structured outbound sales calls from either a chatbot or human worker. The results were both positive and negative, at least as far as the chatbot was concerned.

“Results suggest that undisclosed chatbots are as effective as proficient workers and four times more effective than inexperienced workers in getting customers to make a purchase,” Luo says. “However, if the chatbot reveals that it’s a machine before the machine-customer conversation, purchase rates plummet by 79.7%.”

Not just that, but potential customers have shown that they have no problem being brash and rude once they know that they’re speaking to a robot. Professional etiquette basically goes out the window.

“Go all the way back to popular movies like the Terminator, and I think history shows that humans have always been wary when it comes to robots. It’s no different when it comes to chatbots,” Luo says. 

As previously noted, chatbot use is projected to rise in the years to come. But is that the most sound strategy, given the tepid response seen by potential consumers when a chatbot’s identity is disclosed?

“Although the popular prediction is that the displacement of some workers by chatbots is an inevitable trend, research and market data paradoxically show that the disclosed chatbots are not going anywhere currently,” Luo says. “So it will be interesting to see how both potential customers and the developers behind these chatbots work to adapt in the years to come.”

About the Fox School of Business

The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research. 

The Fox School’s research institutes and centers and 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market.

The school’s knowledge-creating research faculty affords it the flexibility and responsiveness to address the needs of industry and generate courses and programs in emerging fields of study. As a leader in business research, the Fox School values interdisciplinary approaches and translational research that advance actionable insights to solve real-world problems. Our research informs an adaptive curriculum, supports innovation in teaching and prepares students for the changing nature of work.

We get dozens of digital notifications every day. From text messages to calendar reminders, privacy permission requests to software updates, our reactions are near-automatic each time: dismiss, snooze or remind me later. Why do we let these important notifications pass us by?

“Our brains are wired to tune things out over time,” says Anthony Vance, director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the Fox School. It often has to do with memory. “We saw it last time, so we don’t have to scrutinize it so much this time,” he explains. “Sometimes we remember something more than we actually see it.” 

Unwilling to Update 

Vance, who studies cybersecurity as an associate professor in the Management Information Systems Department, is concerned with how quickly people are willing to swipe away important security notifications. Unfortunately, it’s a habitual behavior we all learn as soon as we are old enough to use a computer or tablet. For example, pop-ups explaining a new software update are not usually intrusive enough to stop us from finishing our email. 

“The thing is, software updates fix security vulnerabilities that hackers know about and can take advantage of,” says Vance. “As soon as Apple or Microsoft publishes these security updates, the whole world knows what needs fixing. Hackers start writing attacks to take advantage of these holes.” That means the longer we wait to update our computers or phones, the more susceptible our devices are to hacking. 

Changing What We See

To investigate how to stop us from ignoring important updates, Vance and his colleagues experimented with changes in the design of security warnings. They added visuals like a triangular yellow “warning” symbol, a red background, a “jiggle” animation when the warning appears and a dynamic zoom that made the warning increase in size. 

In the first part of their experiment, Vance tracked users’ reactions to the varied designs of notifications through fMRIs and eye-tracking. Their work was unique in that they tracked the changes in these reactions over the course of five days, while most fMRI experiments only capture a single session. The design changes seemed effective. “Those treatments sustained attention across that whole week,” explains Vance, meaning that the users were less likely to ignore those warnings, even when repeatedly exposed to them. 

The researchers followed up this lab experiment with a field study. Over 100 participants were recruited to evaluate apps on, unbeknownst to them, a fake Android app store. “These were people using their mobile devices in everyday life,” says Vance. “We measured their actual behavior. Out of a list of ten apps, they were asked to download, install and evaluate three.” The researchers randomized the permission warnings—as well as the visual displays—on each app. The warnings ranged from the innocuous, like connecting to the internet, to the outrageous, like “record microphone audio at any time.” The participants needed to decide whether or not to risk downloading the app.  

“The people who saw the variations in warning designs had more secure behavior over time,” says Vance. “These designs are more resistant habituation, which is tuning things out.” By the end of the three-week study, nearly 80 percent of those who saw messages that change their appearance in dynamic animations were still adhering to safe-security behavior, compared to only 55 percent of those who saw static warnings. 

Vance and his research team shared their findings in their paper, “Tuning Out Security Warnings: A Longitudinal Examination of Habituation Through fMRI, Eye Tracking, and Field Experiments,” published in MIS Quarterly last summer. 

Designing for Better Behaviors 

Vance says that we should not be too hard on ourselves for failing to notice important warnings: “It’s not entirely our fault. Our brains are working against us to make good security decisions.” 

However, this research demonstrates there is a clear opportunity to change behavior. “Employers and designers of software need to be aware of this and design their systems so that it works with the way the brain works and not against it,” says Vance. Based on this research, he suggests using innovative and novel designs to ensure that users are taking note of important notifications—like asking people to use unique swiping patterns or smash virtual glass with a hammer. 

Vance and his team received a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue this research; the next step will be understanding how habituation to messages generalizes across platforms. For example, your phone gets notifications all the time and you learn the automatic response. “But when you get a rare security message, even if it’s on a different platform, we respond similarly with the same instinctive ‘dismiss,’” explains Vance. “Our question is: With all these notifications that we’re barraged with, do they make us less able respond to a rare security message that actually matters?” 

As more systems become automated and intelligent devices more prevalent, these human decisions—what to ignore and what to act on—become more important. “The danger is that this can desensitize us to things that really matter,” Vance warns. With more research, Vance hopes we can move away from automatic reaction to notifications and become more conscious in how we can protect our cybersecurity.

Temple University’s Dr. Kathleen Reeves (right) delivers testimony during a state hearing on the impact of gun violence on communities. Caterina Roman, assistant professor of criminal justice at Temple, also testified at the hearing. [Photo by Karen Naylor]
One by one, members of a community caught in the center of the gun violence crisis came to the table, adjusted the microphone and told their stories.

Leaning in and listening intently were several members of Pennsylvania’s Special Council on Gun Violence, all seated in a large, second-floor room at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University’s Health Sciences Campus.

The council, created in August by Gov. Tom Wolf, has been traveling the state holding hearings, engaging stakeholders and identifying recommendations and best practices they believe will one day reduce gun violence. The council visited North Philadelphia on Dec. 5 for its fifth and final stop.

Among those waiting to testify was Dr. Kathleen Reeves, a pediatrician who is senior associate dean of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and the director of the Center for Urban Bioethics at Temple University.

Reeves is passionate about the work being done by Philadelphia CeaseFire Cure Violence, a public health violence intervention program housed at the bioethics center. The program, which originated in Chicago, was replicated in 2011 and operates in portions of the city’s 22nd and 39th Police Districts. 

She firmly believes in the organization’s premise that the violence happening in communities is a public health issue and needs to be treated as such.

“Gun violence is as contagious as any other disease,” Reeves testifies. “We’ve known this for over 10 years. We see it each and every day and the wonderful people in this room live it each and every day.

“We need to be working the problem like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) would handle an epidemic: interrupt the spread, keep people away from the contagion and vaccinate them. Give (people) the opportunities and the tools that everyone deserves to be able to live a life free of violence.”

But in order to accomplish that, resources, including additional funding, are needed.

Reeves detailed recent research that reported a reduction in gun-related violence in a police district where the city’s Ceasefire Cure Violence program currently operates. Using a series of scenarios, she explained how the return on investment can increase when efforts go beyond the immediate and primary needs in the battle against gun violence. 

“If we expand that effort to include secondary health care needs, mental health care needs, prison costs and lost wages, we actually see the return on investment go up,” she says.

Reeves was able to show examples in her testimony with the assistance of a modeling tool created by an MBA student team at Fox Management Consulting (FMC). The team’s members, Ethan Kannel, Rebecca Wolf, Megha Aggarwal, Alexandra Alicea and Vidya Sabbella, did the client consulting work as part of their MBA capstone course with FMC.

“The tool is a dynamic and flexible system that takes into account all of the variables that impact the cost of gun-related violence, ranging from immediate medical costs like ER care through societal consequences such as incarceration,” says Donald Phillips, FMC project executive for the student team. 

“The students’ experience was a total immersion in this healthcare issue, from a political, sociological and economic point of view. You’re not always going to get that opportunity.”

Kannel, who was at the hearing with Rebecca Wolf, was pleased to see the team’s work included in the day’s testimony.

“A lot of schoolwork that you do, you think it won’t go anywhere,” Kannel says. “But the day after we presented our project, we heard our numbers in a hearing.”

Wolf was grateful that her experience with the project was used in an impactful way.

“The most important work we did in the project was related to finances and that was used directly in the hearing,” says Wolf. “It’s a great feeling.”

Now that the hearings are done, the panel will begin its assessment.

“It is important to note that today’s discussion serves as a starting point for the work of the special council to listen to and learn from individuals with both professional and life experience and expertise,” says Mike Pennington, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Fox Professor Donald Phillips and TL Hill, professor of strategic management and managing director of Fox Management Consulting and Executive Education, recently co-authored an opinion piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Read that piece here

For more information about FMC projects, click here.

research roundtable logo

The Fox School of Business is honoring those who take their research into the real world. 

On Dec. 3, the Fox School and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) hosted the 21st Annual Research Roundtable & Teaching Awards, which acknowledges faculty members for their impact on students through their dedicated teaching and research efforts. 

As in previous years, full-time and adjunct faculty in undergraduate and graduate programs at the Fox School and STHM were honored for excellence in teaching, while research faculty were recognized for new publications with high academic impact or for high external funding. This year, the schools introduced awards that highlight translational research. 

Sudipta Basu, associate dean for research and doctoral programs, announced the four new categories in this year’s ceremony: pedagogical research, case-based research, practice research and policy research. “These new awards recognize efforts by tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty highlight to others the ways that our research is relevant,” Basu explains. “For example, pedagogical research seeks to find better ways of teaching or communicating with students.” 

The Fox School is making translating research outside of academia a priority, says Basu. “As outlined in the Fox Strategic Plan, research leadership is one of our four strategic pillars. Within that, we’ve identified translational research as one of our core precepts.”

Why does translational research matter? 

“As business academics, we are often very good at coming up with new ideas, but we do not always ensure that these ideas are being implemented,” Basu says. “Translational research is the idea that companies and non-academics should be using business school research. We are encouraging our faculty who are trying to get their research into practice.”

Fifteen faculty members received these new honors including Excellence in Pedagogical Research Awards, which celebrates those who conduct research to benefit learning, teaching and assessment; Excellence in Case-Based Awards for business cases that bring real-world examples backed by research into the classroom; Excellence in Practice Research Awards for publications in practitioner journals; and Excellence in Policy Research Awards for impactful policy proposals.

In addition, Mary A. Weiss Cummins, Deaver Professor of Risk Management and Insurance, received the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to a full-time, tenured faculty member at the Fox School who has exhibited a lifetime of achievement in teaching, research and service. Weiss Cummins has published numerous research articles throughout her career, covering topics such as financial services conglomeration, efficiency measurement of insurers, no-fault automobile insurance, reinsurance, regulation and underwriting cycles.

Patrick McKay was installed as the Stanley and Franny Wang Professor of Human Resource Management. This named professorship supports excellence in business and management education. This endowed chair position was named by Stanley, MBA ’72, and Franny Wang, MBA ’72, with the belief that supporting impactful educators provides quality education for dynamic students and a better, more educated world. McKay’s research focuses on demographic disparities in worker outcomes, diversity, diversity climate, organizational demography, worker attitudes and retention, and job- and organizational-level performance. 

This year’s Research Roundtable and Teaching Awards highlight a strategic change in the growth and application of the Fox School’s excellence in research, which not only impacts Temple University but now seeks to translate to the local community, business, policymakers and society at large.

Basu adds, “The goal is to increase the impact of our research. Translating that research is how we can change the world.”

Learn more about Fox School Research.

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Dean Anderson being Interviewed

For more than a year, representatives of the Fox community have been working to pave the path for the school’s future. Since announcing the Fox Strategic Plan 2025 in October, Dean Ronald Anderson and the school’s leadership team have been planning ways to support the four pillars that outline our future.

As the Fox School works towards transforming student lives, developing leaders, and impacting our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research, Dean Anderson elaborates on what a successful implementation plan means to him.

How will the Strategic Plan lead the Fox School into the future? 

When you examine what the workforce may look like over the next several decades, it is dramatically different from what it is today or was 20 years ago. The Strategic Plan will position the Fox School as one of the leading business schools of the 21st century by building on a solid foundation of our four pillars: Educational Innovation, Research Leadership, Inclusive Workplace Culture and a focus on Community Engagement. 

Educational Innovation is about delivering a curriculum and content that builds business leaders who will perform in the evolving marketplace over the next several decades. We strive to deliver educational experiences in a manner that best prepare our students for the future of work.

Being a research leader in business education means that we will commit to expanding research beyond the academic world. We will impact the way managers think about their business and the way industries operate. That requires translating research into impactful ideas that serve the business community. 

What is the Fox School doing to engage an inclusive and diverse community?

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are important issues to us. The Fox School is creating DEI initiatives in several forms. We are in the process of identifying and will follow best practices and principles supported by DEI awareness events and training to mirror DEI advancements in industry. 

We will facilitate and support collaborative work between and among Fox faculty and staff, including formal recognition of impactful joint activities, and purposeful school-wide communication of activities and achievements. We need to continue to grow as a place where everyone feels welcome and where everyone believes they can make a difference and impact student outcomes. That is why we need to continue to cultivate an inclusive workplace where all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, business and social partners and all of our stakeholders can thrive. 

How does the Strategic Plan increase students’ access to a business education?

Through a collaborative effort between the Fox School, the Freire Foundation and Build the Future Education Collaborative, we launched an initiative to recruit students from Freire and Freire Tech high schools to give students the tools and skills they need to succeed in college. The Fox School provides college mentors to the students in the classroom, as well as additional support to their originating high schools. The Fox School, with support from other Temple University offices, will provide these high schools and their students with workshops on career counseling, financial literacy and college admissions. 

This is one way we strive to empower Philadelphian residents. We also will emphasize collaboration with others at our school, our sister schools here at Temple, our neighborhood in North Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia, the U.S. and the global business communities. We want to create a vibrant society where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential. Part of that process is building a more robust relationship with our alumni and corporate partners—allowing them to have a role in serving our students, our colleagues and our neighbors. I look forward to sharing more updates on the activities and programs that support this effort in the future.

How does the plan impact the business world?

Each year, we graduate a class of future professionals for the business world. By creating quality education, we put businesses in a position to prosper by hiring students that increase productivity, engage in problem-solving and bring new, innovative ideas to the workplace. 

The Fox School has a tremendous experiential learning-focused curriculum that puts our students in a position to succeed. They learn how decisions are made, often in real-time through interaction with today’s business leaders. We want corporations and graduate schools to recognize that Fox students are the best in the marketplace. We want those corporations and graduate schools to line up to hire Fox students and alumni. 

How will the plan enhance school? 

We are evolving our culture to meet the demands of the business world, not just today, but for decades to come. If you look at this plan you will see the hands of numerous stakeholders, from students and faculty to staff administrators and alumni. 

What comes next for the implementation of the plan?

The planning process is almost complete. We are identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) for initiatives, and the next steps are to execute those initiatives, measure these and report out to the Fox community. We want everyone to know where we are going so they can hold us accountable.

We are reinforcing our experiential-learning focus with the data-driven, emotionally intelligent insights that will serve our students and the business world for decades to come. The educational experiences we offer students are impactful, and we are looking at initiatives that will enhance those experiences to match the evolving market. 

We also want to reach the wider world with our research. We are taking steps to translate academic research through efforts like the Translational Research Center (TRC) and by prioritizing researchers’ capacity for writing and presenting their research to non-academic audiences. 

To learn more about this initiative and the vision for the future of Fox School of Business, visit the Fox Strategic Plan 2025 website.

Almost everyone who works has a boss. It’s no secret that the quality of this relationship can have a big impact on the lives of supervisors and employees alike. The best bosses provide mentorship, training and support for their direct reports, facilitating professional growth and success for their team. But is it possible for employees, through their actions on the job, to impact their bosses as well? 

Soonjung Han
Soonjung Han

Soojung Han, a PhD candidate in the Fox Department of Human Resource Management, thought so. During her five years as the first woman engineer at a South Korean petrochemical company, she had an outstanding relationship with her boss, who gave her an unusual amount of autonomy, respect and trust. 

“I knew it was out of the ordinary from talking with my friends about their jobs, and I also knew it was important,” says Han. Every time her supervisor acknowledged her work or granted her additional responsibilities, she wanted to do an even better job. The experience had such a profound impact on her that when Han decided to pursue her PhD, she chose to focus her research on just this style of empowering leadership. Her personal connection to the subject is perhaps one reason her scholarship had been so exceptional.

Han and her colleagues’ recent paper, “Examining why employee proactive personality influences empowering leadership: The roles of cognition- and affect-based trust,” explores this territory. The research was published in May in the prestigious Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. A publication of that caliber is a rare achievement for someone who is still a student. This fall, Han assumed a faculty position at Cal State Los Angeles. 

Employee proactivity is often the catalyst for supervisors to grant workers greater autonomy and more responsibility, which increases employee engagement, productivity and job performance. Given the importance of these self-starters in the workplace, the proactive personality type is of great interest to researchers. However, to date, most of the research has focused on employee-centered outcomes, such as the relationship between proactive personality and career success. But the complex ways that an employee’s proactive style may affect his or her supervisor has been largely overlooked by scholars. That’s why Han decided to turn her attention to how these proactive employees affect their bosses. 

“The proactive personality type is defined as someone who makes changes in their environment, so we suspected that these employees might change their supervisors as well,” she says. She gathered more than 100 pairs of supervisors and employees and surveyed them to assess the qualities in question: proactive personality, empowering leadership and supervisor trust. Via questionnaires, employees rated their own proactive personality traits and their boss’s leadership style, while leaders scored their direct report’s level of trust in an employee. 

Han’s research examines two types of trust typical of work relationships: Cognition-based trust, which is based on logic and facts regarding an employee’s work responsibilities, and affect-based trust, which boils downs to whether or not a supervisor personally likes his or her direct report. 

To test their hypotheses, Han and her coauthors used statistical models, including hierarchical multiple regressions, to analyze the data. The team found that supervisors were more trusting of employees with proactive personalities and thus were more likely to empower them.

“It’s risky for leaders to let employees make decisions,” says Han. “What if they lack skills or, worse, what if they take advantage of less supervision and more autonomy?” 

Her work shows that, in spite of the risks, the payoff can be significant for an organization. Empowering leadership pays tangible dividends. “Previous research has supported that empowering leadership is associated with a host of positive outcomes, including increased psychological empowerment, task performance and citizenship behaviors for both individuals and teams,” says Han. She recommends that companies work on building both cognitive-based trust, through formal skill-building training, and affect-based trust, by taking the time to plan and invest in social events and team building. 

This specific research paper gives the edge to affect-based trust—likability. But Han cautions that the two types of trust are more interrelated than they may first appear. “Though it seems like affect-based trust shows a stronger effect, its impact on empowering leadership is less likely to occur when cognition-based trust is low,” says Han. “Therefore, both cognition- and affect- trust are important to induce leaders’ empowering behaviors. 

Her research also speaks to the importance of improved screening of prospective employees. It pays to be able to identify new hires who will consistently demonstrate proactive behaviors at work, not just say they will during a job interview. Han believes tools like personality tests and questionnaires that assess proactive traits specifically would be helpful as companies seek to fill their ranks with these go-getters. 

“As we can see, their proactive style benefits not only the employees themselves, but their supervisors, too,” says Han.

This article was originally published in On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

Photo of computer servers Big data is a buzzword everywhere in the business world, but there are a few specific sectors where this revolution is making an especially big impact: information systems, operations management and healthcare. 

That’s why Subodha Kumar, the Paul R. Anderson Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, turned his attention to these areas. While big data experts across the board have breakthroughs in their individual fields, Kumar’s research focuses on the importance of sharing these advancements, as well as the data and systems that made them possible. Cross-pollination of ideas will be the key to future progress, according to Kumar.

The insights Kumar gleaned from his analysis of the existing academic research in these specific sectors informed his predictions and recommendations for how businesses might harness big data s in the future. “The whole idea is that there have been a lot of discussions and a lot of research about how big data is impacting the industry, but less attention has been paid to how all the different work in big data fits together, how it is connected,” says Kumar. 

For this research, Kumar picked three areas where some of the most interesting and innovative developments in big data are happening. These are areas where massive amounts of data aren’t simply being collected, but that data is also being analyzed and put to use. Take healthcare as an example: As entities across the healthcare space, such as hospital systems, begin to combine their data sets, you can create more intelligence and make better inferences.

“But whenever you have data from many sources, you need smarter systems to read all this data and make sense of it. How can we create algorithms to help doctors make better diagnoses? That requires new and different thinking,” says Kumar. 

As researchers learn how doctors use an enormous database of cancer patients worldwide to settle on effective treatment more quickly, experts in the information systems space are racing to find effective ways to work with the massive flood of data like text, photos and video generated by social media use. Meanwhile, operations management experts perfect the algorithms needed to detect fake online product reviews.

“In different industries, people are very siloed. Healthcare people are only worried about healthcare,” says Kumar. Competition has made firms secretive, reluctant to share and combine their data and methods, but this fear often does more harm than good, according to Kumar. “We really need to learn from each other. What would happen if Amazon were more open to learning from how hospital systems use big data and vice versa?”

To that end, his research synthesizes what is already known from research in these three key areas to create a framework for thinking about big data going forward and how these disparate learnings and datasets can be put together for the greater good. “Our research shows that even direct competitors can benefit from sharing data,” says Kumar. 

He points out that as data collection devices (including smartphones, smart speakers like Alexa and wearable devices like Fitbit) proliferate and more data-producing machines infiltrate everyday life, business opportunities and challenges will grow. It’s only a matter of time before people live with smart refrigerators that track your calories and driverless cars that know your daily routine and pinpoint your real-time location. 

Unless everyone interested in big data learns to share and solve problems together, missed opportunities will continue, costing firms time and money. “Right now a lot of the data being generated from social media and other sources is not being collected or analyzed in a way that makes it meaningful or useful,” says Kumar. His research could change that. 

Kumar outlines a proposed framework for mapping big data applications and insights across industries in his recent research paper, “Emergence of Big Data Research in Operations Management, Information Systems, and Healthcare: Past Contributions and Future Roadmap,” published in the journal Production and Operations Management. “The framework essentially provides a breakdown of different topics that have been investigated and what could emerge because of new advancements,” explains Kumar. 

Looking to the future, Kumar sees some specific sub-areas of the domains he studied where big data will make an even more significant impact and improvements in business. His proposed future roadmap points to cloud computing, the internet of things and smart cities, predictive manufacturing and 3D printing, and smart healthcare as the likely places big data will flourish most dramatically in the years to come. The possible developments have the potential to change the quality of life for people around the world. 

As boundaries between these once discrete domains continue to fade, big data emerges as a powerful common denominator. Up until now, the focus has been on how to get more and more data. But, according to Kumar, the focus must shift into how this data can be combined and analyzed to make sense of it. Without context, the data is little more than ones and zeroes.

“This research is about how can we generate value for the whole society from this data by collecting, analyzing and sharing data,” says Kumar.

Micro-Influencer illustration
Illustration by Scotty Reifsnyder

“Nano-marketing” is more than just a buzzword—it’s a way for companies to capitalize on the current trend of personalized and authentic marketing. 

As the millennial generation has grown—both in size and purchasing power—to be the largest demographic segment in the country, companies are trying hard to gain their attention. “As a whole, this group of 80 million prefers photos and mini-videos that are visually appealing and can be processed quickly,” says Jay I. Sinha, associate professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School. “That is part of the reason why we’ve seen a tremendous surge in the popularity of visual platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube, among others.” 

Together with Thomas Fung, assistant professor of instruction, Sinha advises the “Right Way to Market to Millennials.” 

Who are Micro-Influencers?

It may seem like everyone is “Insta-famous” these days. Micro-influencers are social media personalities who have cultivated their defined brand and fan base, typically between 1,000 and 100,000 people, with very specific areas of focus. 

For example, Melissa Alam, BBA ’10, a brand strategist, shares her recommendations for food and drink locations around Philadelphia. She has cultivated relationships with companies like Starr Restaurants and Drink Nation to arrange giveaways of gift cards and event tickets for her 11,000 followers on Instagram. “I’ve been hired as an influencer and worked with many large brands,” says Alam. “I share all sides of my life so that people can relate to me both online and offline if they meet me in person.” 

“Micro-influencers bring credibility and authenticity,” says Fung, “typically due to their extroverted nature, relatability, and genuine passion in some niche field.” In Alam’s case, her followers may see her as a real person with insider knowledge and honest advice. “The internet is full of people showing off lavish lifestyles or reaching unattainable goals for the average person,” says Alam. “It’s so important to stay genuine, authentic and true to yourself and your personal brand if you’re trying to attract an honest following.” The grassroots feeling of this kind of marketing allows companies to address the unique needs of individuals through their relationships with micro-influencers.

Advice to Companies 

So what do companies need to know to take advantage of this new kind of marketing? 

1. Micro-influencers have their own brands and followers with very specific interests. 

“They provide opportunities for companies, big and small, to reach out to narrow and often difficult-to-access sub-populations,” says Sinha. For example, he shares that GE used micro-influencers to help find and recruit female technology specialists for the company. 

2. Micro-influencers are accomplished and personable storytellers. 

Millennials relate well to storytelling. “The best micro-influencers bring in their own personal narratives that mesh well with the brands they endorse,” says Fung. Micro-influencers have been able to build up their own personal brand by leveraging this skill, so companies should encourage sponsored influencers to incorporate their products or services into their own authentic narrative. 

3. Micro-influencers are not direct marketers. 

Traditional marketers may feel that the sponsored content is not coming across in an obvious way. But with micro-influencers, their endorsements should never feel forced. “Micro-influencers have finessed the subtle ‘nudge’ into an art form,” says Sinha. He notes that many influencers will refuse to accept relationships with brands or companies that are contrary to their own beliefs or interests, which would damage their credibility with their followers. 

Beware of Inauthenticity 

The biggest pitfall companies should avoid is appearing inauthentic. Millennials are discerning and skeptical consumers who will turn away quickly from a brand or company that they feel are trying too hard or selling out. “Young, creative micro-influencers know their audience well,” says Sinha. “Let them guide the positioning of the product.” 

By diligently finding the right micro-influencer to sponsor, companies of all sizes can cultivate marketing relationships that are interactive, personalized and authentic with the millennial generation.

This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

Headshot of Sabrina Volpone
Sabrina Volpone

Sabrina Volpone, PhD 13, is an organizational diversity expert, researching topics of diversity and identity within the context of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and immigrant status. Since graduating from the Fox PhD program, her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 

The On The Verge editorial team had the opportunity to chat with Volpone about how she got started researching the experiences of traditionally under-represented employees, how a more diverse workforce requires organizations to adapt and how they can do better. 

How did you become interested in diversity and inclusion? 

When I was growing up in Texas, I was not exposed to much diversity. The Dallas/Fort Worth area was very different 30+ years ago then it is now; the only people I knew were white and Christian. 

My mom, who had a business degree in accounting and worked for a huge company in Texas, told me a story about how she got fired because she was getting sick at her desk too often when she was pregnant. Her company shrugged it off, saying that they assumed that once she became a mother she would be leaving her job anyway. Hearing these things opened my eyes to small-town values—taking care of your neighbors, for example—being pushed aside when stigmatizing factors were introduced. 

Then, when I was working toward my degrees, both my bachelor’s from the University of North Texas and PhD in Human Resource Management from the Fox School, I wanted to do something meaningful that could speak to people’s experiences at work. The research I was seeing did not capture what was going on for women, people of color and other disenfranchised groups.

What are the differences between diversity and inclusion? How does your research incorporate both? 

Diversity is more than just checking a demographic box or filling a quota. To really leverage the benefits of diversity we have to talk about inclusion, a separate, but related, topic. The difference has often been illustrated in the following quote from Verna Myers, the vice president of inclusion strategy for Netflix: “Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.” 

In a recent research project, my team went back to basics to investigate how organizations actually define diversity. There are a host of organizations that would like to improve how they are managing diversity because they are facing lawsuits, or simply because they want to be more strategic about managing human resources. There is an increasing need for organizations to collectively rebuild and expand the way we think about these topics. 

For example, we looked at the way a few Fortune 500 firms were defining diversity and found that only 38 percent had established definitions on their websites. A large number of those who did listed standard descriptors typically found on HR hiring paperwork that are based on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, stating that the company does not discriminate based on age, sex, race, etc. Other companies take a different approach, however, and use language that extends beyond “legal” terminology. 

In my work, I am trying to illustrate that diversity and inclusion must work hand-in-hand. The diversity element establishes the organizational environment and the legal mandates required by law. Inclusion facilitates a climate where employees feel valued and included as a result of their unique characteristics. This is important because, as some of my other research shows, leveraging diversity in this way can result in financial gains. We found that one small change in a diversity definition can relate to more than $2 billion in current profits and more than $1 billion in profit growth. Thus, being inclusive when defining diversity results in increased financial outcomes for companies.

How does inclusion impact companies? 

To explore the importance of inclusive policies and procedures in the workplace, I was part of a research team that examined the experiences of breastfeeding women in the workforce. We interviewed women in the morning, afternoon and night to see how the quality of their breastfeeding space throughout the day improved work outcomes. The data and quotes from the women illustrated a powerful point: the legal definition of what must be provided (a space to pump that is not a bathroom and is shielded from view) will not make a satisfied, productive employee. When companies provided more than the bare minimum for breastfeeding mothers, we noticed an increase in their work goal progress and their breastfeeding goal progress while also seeing improvements in their work-family balance satisfaction. 

How does a more diverse workforce and consumer base require organizations to adapt? How are businesses innovating around majority-minorities, women, people with disabilities, millennials, and other demographics?

Some companies are not, and their workplace cultures and even financials are seeing the impact of that. Many organizations that are not evolving along with their workforce may cease to exist in 10 to 20 years because of their inability to strategically manage their human resources in a way that captures the diversity of their employees. 

For example, in a paper that my coauthors and I recently published, we looked at the hiring process for people with concealable stigmas. Specifically, we examined the relationship between applicants disclosing their hearing disability during the interview process and whether or not they received a job offer. Changing our policies and procedures throughout each human resource function to be inclusive of employees with non-visible disabilities is an example of adapting from systems that, historically, have been focused on accommodating employees with visible physical disabilities.

But those who are thinking about the lived experiences of employees, they create policies and procedures that capture that. They are also being strategic through all of their human resources functions—processes like hiring, training and promotions—and are threading the importance of diversity and inclusion practices through all the ways they do business. Executives are making sure that employees are being heard and taken care of. In order for companies to survive, these considerations will become a requirement. 

This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.

José E. Muñoz Jr. and Hyun Jong Park are making their Temple debut

New accounting faculty
Left: Hyun Jong Park Right: José Muñoz

The Department of Accounting of the Fox School of Business welcomes two new professors—Hyun Jong Park and José E. Muñoz Jr. Both professionals bring a unique mix of high-quality research, innovative teaching and professional experiences to the department.  

Hyun Jong Park joins Temple as an assistant professor, having recently earned his doctorate from the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. Park’s research focuses on timely and relevant issues in auditing, examining the intersection of auditing, regulation and litigation risk.  His dissertation investigates the real-world concern of the relation between audit firms’ political connections and PCAOB inspection reports. Before entering his PhD, Park received his master’s of commerce and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Melbourne.

Park’s teaching strategies allows students to learn at their own pace. “I believe each student learns in different ways. I think students need to work in their own time making sure that they understand the materials covered in the classroom, said Park, I give them instructions and explanations so that they could learn the material.”

José E. Muñoz Jr. is a professor of instruction who recently served as the associate dean of graduate business education at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He brings his 18 years of teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels and over 30 years of experience in senior executive management positions.

Muñoz considers his teaching method as a mixture of a practical and theoretical approach to business. “We discuss work experiences and problems experienced by the students and me and apply them to the classroom lessons of the day, as a way of making the textbook material come to life in real-world situations,” says Muñoz. 

Muñoz has also served on numerous advisory boards, corporate boards and civic boards. Muñoz received a doctorate of business administration in accounting from Anderson University in Indiana, and a master of business administration and two bachelor of science degrees from Florida State University.

Bringing real-world professional insights, broad teaching experience and a rigorous research-based perspective to the classroom, Muñoz and Park establish themselves as professors who will engage students and encourage their learning at Fox and into their professional lives.

Professor Ravi S. Kudesia
Professor Ravi S. Kudesia by Joseph V. Labolito

In recent years, mindfulness has become a highly desirable quality both professionally and personally. Mindfulness gurus have emerged in popular culture, and companies have developed programs such as Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” to promote mindfulness in the workplace.

Ravi S. Kudesia, assistant professor of human resource management at the Fox School, is interested in how mindfulness is used in the workplace to develop personal agency and employee problem-solving. There’s only one problem: Mindfulness, as a term, is not easy to define. And the way we intuitively think about mindfulness as highly individualized may need to be rethought as well.

In his paper “Mindfulness as Metacognitive Practice,” Kudesia targets the ambiguity in the term mindfulness to isolate its usefulness and applicability. “We lack answers to even the most basic questions,” says Kudesia. “What is mindfulness? How does mindfulness training operate? And why might it matter for organizations?” 

Moreover, without understanding what mindfulness is, how can employers hope to harness its potential in the workplace? In fact, the kind of mindfulness that companies promote may be less useful than they hope. While many have suggested that mindfulness is a kind of individual skill – and that if enough employees have this individual skill, their organizations will change for the better—Kudesia suggests that this view is naïve. Instead, he suggests that mindfulness can be best understood as what he calls a “metacognitive practice.”

“When seen as metacognitive practice,” Kudesia writes, “mindfulness entails the coming together of expertise embedded in perception and concepts, enabling beliefs about information processing, and the crucial human ability to step back and monitor one’s mental activity—all of which jointly shape how people engage with situations.”

By linking mindfulness to concepts and expertise in specific situations, Kudesia invites us to think about mindfulness at the system level. He gives the example of product engineers who, siloed off from data on customer feedback, must nonetheless figure out why a product is unexpectedly breaking in massive quantities, leading it to be returned under warranty. The default assumption is that it is an issue with the product’s structural integrity. An engineer, in this case, might practice mindfulness to gain a more nuanced view of the issues with the product, but they also remain limited by system-wide information flows—engineers simply do not have access to customer feedback. 

“[W]hat if an engineer gains access to customer information and enacts metacognitive practice to doubt the structural integrity diagnosis? The engineer may introduce a new concept of ‘product aesthetics’—the product breaks not because it is weakly designed but because customers find it uninspired and, thus, take poor care of it … This new concept would cue a different routine related to product redesign: making the product beautiful rather than making it stronger.”

Yet, along with this new diagnosis and new concept may arrive new problems. If one engineer believes in the new diagnosis while another engineer insists that the issue lies with the product’s structural integrity, the original source of enlightenment may become a source of consternation.

“One person may seize upon doubt, seeking to transform situations, while others seek to reproduce established responses,” writes Kudesia. He describes this communication breakdown as fragmentation, the notion that mindfulness in an individual cannot always resolve system-level problems; in fact, sometimes it can exacerbate them. While mindfulness allowed them to diagnose a problem, their social reality determines whether they can enact a solution.

This should not dissuade companies from encouraging mindful practices, but it should encourage them to think more broadly about what mindfulness truly is. Instead of merely trying to instill mindfulness as a psychological property in individuals, Kudesia suggests that we should foster environments in which people can better practice mindfulness together. When engineers face an impasse like the one described above, how do they incorporate this new information into the fold? Do they create new processes? Do they confer with new individuals who can provide insight into the problem? If both engineers are engaged and open, they can transform the risk of fragmentation into opportunities for growth, incorporating new concepts into their routines and crafting new solutions out of them.

“You don’t instill mindfulness in individuals and call it a day,” Kudesia explains. “We engage best in mindfulness when we are in spaces that are conducive to mindfulness.”