Category Archives: Faculty Perspectives

New Year’s Resolution

Christina Fong’s four tips to becoming a more effective networker in 2015

Fong_Christina-05-cutAt the dawn of any new year, it’s human nature to take stock of our lives and plot measures to improve them—losing weight, exercising more, procrastinating less, or whatever the doctor orders. In this new year, however, you might consider addressing an area that can enhance your life, your career and your effectiveness as a leader: networking.

We asked Christina Fong, a senior lecturer in management and faculty member of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, to share some of the networking wisdom she imparts to Foster MBA students.

Foster Unplugged: Are effective networkers born or made?

Christina Fong: There is some research that indicates that your personality does affect the type of network that you tend to be in. That being said, no matter how introverted or extroverted or selfless or Machiavellian you may be, we all can improve our networking effectiveness.

Okay, then, let’s cut to the chase. What can we do in 2015 to become more effective networkers?

There are some specific behaviors we can improve upon. I’d categorize them into four actions:

  1. Meet new people at networking events.
  2. Diversify your network.
  3. Expand your conversation topics.
  4. Follow your passions (or, don’t try to fake it).

Isn’t meeting new people what networking events are for?

You’d be surprised.  Researchers who tracked the interactions of people wearing GPS-embedded nametags found that the vast majority of people at networking events and parties tend to talk only to people they already know. To make the most of a networking opportunity, I urge people to push themselves to break out of their circle of friends and acquaintances, and actually meet new people. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.

What do you mean by “diversifying” your network?

There’s a great historical illustration of the power of a diversified network in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.” On an April night in 1775, two patriots rode from Boston to inform the nearby citizenry of an impending British attack. One, named William Dawes, had a limited social network that was largely insular: everyone knew everyone else. The other, Paul Revere, had much more expansive network of acquaintances, many of whom did not know each other. This diversity of connections enabled his message to disseminate widely and quickly (and won Revere immortal fame whilst Dawes was relegated to a historical footnote).

What can we learn from this? The most effective networkers are those who connect with others who are dissimilar to themselves. This means knowing people in different industries and walks of life, from different demographic backgrounds and of different ages. We especially encourage more senior executives to connect with younger colleagues.

What’s the point of expanding conversation topics? Shouldn’t networking be focused?

We tend to talk about school with our school friends, church with our church friends, and work with our work friends. But the most effective networkers are able to toggle between different domains of conversation with different people. A great example is the Silicon Valley venture capitalist Heidi Roizen who is famous for blurring the lines between personal and professional in her extensive and powerful network.

Passion is great, but don’t we sometimes have to attend events that don’t really excite us?

Maybe, but don’t expect to get much out of them. Many of our MBAs make the mistake of going to events they think they should attend or where high-powered people will be. But we don’t typically make meaningful connections at such events because we appear calculating as opposed to genuinely interested. When you follow your passion, your body language changes. Your enthusiasm and openness is incredibly attractive.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about networking?

That it needs to be self-serving, viewing people as instruments to our own objectives. Francesca Gino calls this “dirty networking,” and her studies show that it makes us feel literally contaminated. It is not sustainable. If you are trying to use your network only to help yourself, you are not going to be as successful as if you use your network to help other people. At Foster we talk a lot about the work of Adam Grant, author of “Give and Take.” One counterintuitive takeaway from his work: people who spend time giving to others can be more successful, over time, than those who take from their networks or try to broker a fair exchange of giving and taking.

How can you be a giver without being taken advantage of?

As Grant points out, the most successful givers schedule particular times that they dedicate to helping other people. They also develop some particular expertise to offer their network, some added value that complements the expertise of others. Finally, they recognize that helping others—in a controlled and intentional fashion—actually relieves their own stress, and makes them more productive, even during their busiest periods.

How does effective networking lead to more effective leadership?

You can’t be a leader by yourself. The most influential and effective leaders, especially in the long run, are those who build communities in which it’s easy for everyone to help everyone else. Connectors. Catalysts. Changing the way we think about networking—from how to use people to how to help people—is often a first step in becoming a better relational leader.

With some work, this is attainable to any personality type. Many of our MBAs enter the Foster School thinking I can either help myself or others. But the big “aha” moment is that these are not mutually exclusive. Helping others doesn’t mean you’re not helping yourself. Most of the time, our self-interests are aligned with helping others.

Christina Fong’s tips on networking are adapted from the Foster School’s LEAD, a leadership development course for incoming MBAs. Learn more here.

Sharpe Investing

William Sharpe offers tips for savvy investing, adapted from his 2007 book “Investors and Markets” and informed by his seminal work at Foster in the 1960s leading to the 1990 Nobel Prize in Economics.

DiversifyReally diversify. Buy a percentage of everything that’s out there, stocks and bonds as a start.

Economize – Keep costs down. Investing in low-cost index funds delivers 20 percent more income than actively managed funds over your entire retirement.

Personalize – Every investor is different, with different preferences, different levels of risk tolerance, facing different situations and different stages of life. Invest in the way that suits you, not the herd.

Contextualize – Remember that a share price is the result of many smart investors trying to figure out what it’s worth. Don’t expect to get something for nothing by following some hair-brained scheme that somebody is pushing on you.

As for Sharpe’s personal strategy? “I don’t tell people how I invest,” he says. “But let’s just say I have really good friends at Vanguard.”

Read about Sharpe’s work at Foster.

Great Reads: Behavior & Business

We asked Foster School faculty members to weigh in on their favorite books in the area of behavior & business—that is, the motivations of consumers, employees, investors and organizations. Here’s what they said:

Thinking Fast and SlowThinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

“Kahneman summarizes years of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics research on how the unconscious and conscious mind duke it out when a decision has to be made. He argues that too often the conscious—meticulous collector of information—gets overwhelmed and defers to the unconscious—intuitive snap-judgments based on emotion, memory and heuristics. If you’ve ever thought about thinking and thinking better, it’s a must read.”

-Vandra Huber, Professor of Human Resources Management

Give and TakeGive and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success (Adam Grant)

“Using his own groundbreaking studies, Grant reveals that most people operate as takers, matchers or givers.  Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return, and who achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. This book is brimming with life-changing insights while proposing a revolutionary approach to success.”

-Xiao-Ping Chen, Professor of Management, Philip M. Condit Endowed Chair in Business Administration, Chair, Department of Management and Organization

Re-imagine!Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age (Tom Peters)

“This book seriously expands upon the thought that ‘change is the only constant in business today.’ A very provocative read that strikes a nerve and forces you to accept change rather than irrelevance.”

-Jack Rhodes, Lecturer of Marketing, director of the Sales Program

Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert Cialdini)

“A scholarly yet easily accessible perspective on persuasion.”

-Shailendra Pratap Jain, Professor of Marketing, James D. Currie Professor of Marketing, Chair, Department of Marketing and International Business

 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Sheryl Sandberg)

“A potential game-changer for the participation and empowerment of women in the workplace.”

-Shailendra Pratap Jain, Professor of Marketing, James D. Currie Professor of Marketing, Chair, Department of Marketing and International Business

 

Higher Aims to Hired HandsFrom Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise (Rakesh Khurana)

“Articles critical of business schools and the formal study of management continue to proliferate. This book offers exceptionally thoughtful perspectives that caused me to rethink some of my assumptions and reconsider how the future of business education could be crafted. The book carefully explores what management study was meant to be and can be,  how and why business schools evolved to where they are in the present, and what needs to happen for business education to develop the great business managers and leaders we need in the future.”

-Dan Poston, Assistant Dean for Masters Studies

The No Asshole RuleThe No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (Robert Sutton)

“I like this book a lot not because of the title but in spite of it. For me it is a strong reminder that there is much more to organizational citizenship than dong one’s job. Each day we have an opportunity to impact positively those around us… their work lives, their satisfaction, their productivity, and—ultimately—the organization’s overall ability to achieve its mission and fulfill its vision.”

-Dan Turner, Principal Lecturer in Marketing, Associate Dean for Masters Programs, Faculty Director, Technology Management MBA Program, Peter and Noydena Brix Endowed Faculty Fellow

Made to StickMade to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die (Chip Heath & Dan Heath)

“This book provides six factors that make an idea memorable and persuasive, or ‘sticky.’ It is relevant to anyone who wants to effectively communicate their ideas.”

-Ann Schlosser, Associate Professor of Marketing, Evert McCabe Fellow

Weird Ideas That WorkWeird Ideas that Work: How to Build a Creative Company (Robert Sutton)

“Sutton writes a clever, easy-to-read and evidence-based book on hiring, managing and encouraging creativity in companies. Plus, it’s fun to read; it made me laugh.”

-Tom Lee, the Hughes M. Blake Endowed Professor of Management, Associate Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs

Talent is OverratedTalent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (Geoffrey Colvin)

“Do great performers possess an innate talent that enables them to outperform others or do they achieve excellence through a specific kind of hard work called ‘deliberate practice?’ In its attempt to answer this question, Talent is Overrated provides entertaining anecdotes and a bit more scientific evidence than its more popular counterpart, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.”

-Frank Hodge, the Harrington Family Endowed Professor, Chair, Department of Accounting

Brain RulesBrain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School (John Medina)

“People spend time figuring out how their cars or cell phones works so that they can better utilize their features. Most do not do the same with their brains. This book will help you understand in simple terms how your brain works so that you can get the most out of it.”

-Frank Hodge, the Harrington Family Endowed Professor, Chair, Department of Accounting

The Boys in the BoatThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Daniel James Brown)

“This one of the great stories that most of us have never heard, regarding an amazing collection of men who came together to achieve what most people would have said was impossible. The story is engaging, and it covers many important principles relevant to becoming truly effective teams and extraordinary people.”

-Bruce Avolio, Professor of Management, Mark Pigott Chair in Business Strategic Leadership, Executive Director, Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

Predictably IrrationalPredictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Dan Ariely)

“Ariely introduces behavioral economics into our daily lives, showing where we go wrong and offering practical advice on how to counter our partially innate tendencies to behave irrationally.”

-Stephan Siegel, Associate Professor of Finance and Business Economics, Evert McCabe Faculty Fellow

The Hour Between Dog and WolfThe Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust (John Coates)

Before he became a noted scientist, Coates ran a derivatives trading desk on Wall Street. In this new book, he demonstrates how our bodies produce “gut” feelings, how workplace stress can impair our judgment and damage our health, and how sports science can help us toughen our bodies against the ravages of stress.

-Stephan Siegel, Associate Professor of Finance and Business Economics, Evert McCabe Faculty Fellow

The Righteous MindThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Jonathan Haidt)

“Haidt is an NYU professor who discusses the research on values in ethics. Readers come away with a good understanding of how people who have different values from themselves make moral judgments.”

-Christopher Barnes, Associate Professor of Management

The Honest Truth About DishonestyThe Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves (Dan Ariely)

“Ariely discusses the research literature of behavioral ethics, focusing on why people are often dishonest.”

-Christopher Barnes, Associate Professor of Management

 

Liar's PokerLiar’s Poker (Michael Lewis)

“Before Flash Boys and The Big Short came Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis’s first book. In it, he provides a colorful look inside Wall Street trading floors of the 1980s. It isn’t about behavioral finance, but it is about the (mis)behavior of some finance practitioners.”

-Jennifer Koski, Associate Professor of Finance, John B. and Delores L. Fery Faculty Fellow

The Foster Why

In the Foster School’s Behavioral Lab, a remarkable collaboration of faculty and students is discovering why we do the things we do

 Foster WhyWe’re more likely to do bad things when exhausted.

This notion has become almost doctrine among ethicists, the broad conclusion of a large and convincing body of research. It follows a solid line of logic: mental fatigue depletes will power, leaving us vulnerable to the temptations of cheating, lying and stealing (and a litany of other ills).

But this reasoning has always struck Xiao-Ping Chen as missing some important context. Isn’t it possible, she wondered, to be too tired to cheat?

To find out, Chen, a professor of management and the Philip M. Condit Endowed Chair in Business Administration, Scott Reynolds, an associate professor of business ethics and Helen Moore Gerhardt Faculty Fellow, and doctoral student Kai Chi (Sam) Yam went to the Foster School’s state-of-the-art Behavioral Lab to test this hypothesis on Foster undergrads.

They began by taxing the brains of their experimental group—half the participating students—with a puzzling mental exercise to identify the colors of words that spell a different color (the word blue in red type, for instance). A test confirmed the puzzles worked as planned.

Next the students read fictional reports of a poll revealing society’s view on cheating. In one, the vast majority considers low-impact cheating unacceptable; in the other, the majority gives it a pass. A test confirmed that the participants’ views were influenced by the report they had just read.

Finally, the students faced their own temptation to cheat. Each was asked to solve a series of challenging math equations and self-report their results, earning $1 for each correct answer.

What they didn’t know was that the problems were unsolvable.

Subjects, then space

 Behavior studies such as this were more difficult and expensive to conduct in the days before computer labs and web-based surveys. But even today, studies of any complexity are likely to achieve conclusive findings only in a dedicated physical space.

“A traditional lab is invaluable when you are doing more involved behavioral or interactive research,” says Mark Forehand, a professor of marketing and the Pigott Family Professor in Business Administration.

When Forehand joined the Foster faculty in 1997, the only space available for behavioral experiments was the Balmer Hall computer lab. It was far from dedicated, and far from perfect.

Forehand made do. But he also began pushing for improvements to the research environment. He first tapped into a continuous source of research subjects by creating a new subject pool populated by undergraduate students enrolled in MKT 301. To gain exposure to the research process, students are given the option to participate in two behavioral studies during the quarter or complete independent research on published behavioral studies. Later, a similar pool was created for studies on the management side from students enrolled in IBUS 300.

The cohort of social scientists grew at Foster. And as the blueprints were drawn for the long-awaited PACCAR Hall, Forehand secured, at last, a dedicated space appropriate for his colleagues’ work. The Behavioral Lab opened for business in fall 2010.

Behavior cave

The lab is buried deep beneath the soaring glass and vaulted walls of PACCAR Hall’s atrium and gallery, below its high-tech classrooms and tidy cloisters of faculty offices, in one of the most unassuming suites in the building.

A small sign at its entrance whispers its presence. An unadorned reception nook opens to a partitioned room aligned with computer carols. A couple of spare meeting rooms wait in the wings. There is no art on the walls. No light or sound leaks in from outside. The tone is neither sterile nor penal. Just a little bland. Nondescript. Neutral.

For a laboratory to study human behavior, it’s perfect.

“We didn’t get what most would consider an ideal space,” says Forehand. “But for a lab, it’s great. We don’t want windows. Something as simple as a sunny or cloudy day has been shown to affect how people respond. So the basement location is actually a great thing.”

Everything in the lab is designed to maximize experimental flexibility, privacy and control. “It’s a huge advantage of doing a study here,” says Ann Schlosser, an associate professor of marketing who specializes in online behavior. “It’s so much easier to get high-quality findings here, especially when you are doing a computer-mediated or online activity.”

Never a dull moment

The lab runs like a factory through the midsection of each quarter. Schlosser and Ryan Fehr, an assistant professor of management, manage their respective department’s activities, with doctoral students overseeing day-to-day operations and undergrads serving as lab assistants. Thousands of student subject hours allow dozens of studies to take place each year.

Power users include a growing cohort of Foster faculty multiplied by their doctoral students who, despite second billing, tend to be the heaviest users of all.

On the consumer behavior side, the list includes Forehand, Schlosser, Nidhi Agrawal, Shelly Jain, Richard Yalch, Jeff Shulman, Rob Palmatier, Natalie Mizik and Abhishek Borah. On the management and organization side, the usual suspects are Fehr, Chen, Reynolds, Chris Barnes, Christina Fong and Michael Johnson.

Add to the list new faculty recruits David Welsh, an assistant professor of management, and Lea Dunn, an assistant professor of marketing whose research in brand attachment, social influence and consumer emotions will fit right in. “A lot of my work involves manipulation of social interaction or emotions, which require in-person engagement,” Dunn says. “So the Behavioral Lab was an important factor for my deciding to come to Foster.”

Pushing the envelope

If the Behavioral Lab specializes in consumer and organizational behavior, it also serves as proving ground for studies in leadership, entrepreneurship, ethics, behavioral finance and accounting, and many more topics in the vast range of human behaviors in the context of business.

Recently Fehr studied whether moral diversity—the degree to which someone shares your same moral code—affects the level of conflict in negotiations.

A group led by Bruce Avolio, director of the Foster Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, is using the lab to help develop a means for organizations to valuate intangible assets such as leadership.

Team Schlosser recently investigated the effects of cyber exclusion—being left out or ignored online—on a person’s feelings. Another study, of sports drink packaging, confirmed that consumers associate an upward orientation of the logo/text with activity, and a downward orientation with rest or relaxation. A third study found that feelings of gratitude lead a person to indulge in sweet over savory treats.

Reynolds and several doctoral students have found that employees can develop a sense of moral entitlement after engaging in pro-social behavior at work.

Barnes and Yam have examined the impact of morality on sense of humor (and found them to be pretty mutually exclusive).

 Lloyd Tanlu, an assistant professor of accounting, investigated how thinking about scarcity affects a person’s financial decision making.

A Borah study found that one-sided online reviews are more persuasive to people who are researching on behalf of a close friend or boss, whereas two-sided reviews work better in the lower-stakes case of researching for an acquaintance.

Chen and Suresh Kotha, faculty director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, are documenting the way people respond to different tones of entrepreneurial pitches—authentic, passionate, confidant—on crowdfunding sites.

A study guided by Fong found that the presence of emotions in the workplace decreases the likelihood that employees will be objectified and increases the likelihood of mutual support.

Mizik and her doctoral students are investigating how consumers develop loyalty to brands.

And the Agrawal group has studied the effect of different voting mechanisms on group decision making, the effectiveness of different types of public health messages on healthy eating, and how the use of causal language—“because,” “since” or “thus”—in explaining an employee’s performance ratings improves her subsequent performance.

In conclusion

In their study on fatigue and ethics, Chen, Reynolds and Yam came to a clear conclusion. The mentally depleted students who were primed to view the world as permissive of cheating proved more likely to fudge on their math scores for few bucks. But the depleted students who were primed to believe that society doesn’t tolerate cheating cheated less.

So exhaustion can actually make us less likely to act unethically when the act is complicated by a high degree of social consensus that it’s wrong. In these cases, Chen explains, mental fatigue depletes the energy required to cheat—and keep from being caught.

Additional studies confirmed this thought-provoking finding which was recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Like other successful behavioral studies out of Foster, the work contributes knowledge to the academic literature and wisdom to attentive managers.

“Periods of overwork and exhaustion are inevitable in an organization,” says Chen. “And it is at those times, when employees are most vulnerable, that a culture of integrity and honesty is essential as a deterrent to unethical acts.”

That’s one more mystery of human behavior solved by this remarkable collaboration of faculty and students at the Foster School.

But there’s always another question to be answered in the Behavioral Lab.

Read about a student who turned undergraduate research at Foster into a promising academic career.

Student Turns Scholar

A former Foster student’s undergraduate exposure to behavioral research has led to a promising academic career

Mercurio
Katie Mercurio

Serving as an experimental subject in the Foster Behavioral Lab may not be the highlight of every undergrad’s experience. But Mark Forehand, a professor of marketing at the Foster School and architect of the lab, believes it’s appropriate for students to contribute to the research mission of the University of Washington.

“It’s great to have subjects to run our experiments on,” he says. “But it’s also important to expose students to the process of research.”

And every so often, it clicks with someone.

Like Katie Mercurio (BA 2004, MS 2006, PhD 2010). One of the earliest students conscripted into behavioral studies in the old Balmer lab, she found herself subject to a particularly fascinating experiment on the effect of celebrity voiceovers on consumer brand attitudes.

The experience inspired her to seek a research apprenticeship with the study’s principal investigator—Forehand. Mercurio began analyzing data and eventually started running some experiments. While continuing studies in the Foster PhD Program she ran the entire Balmer Lab during construction of its new home just next door.

“I was involved in the Behavioral Lab almost from its start,” she says. “And there has been a huge evolution terms of students participating and the number of studies. It just keeps growing.”

After Foster, Mercurio did a post-doc stint at UCLA before becoming an assistant professor at the University of Oregon. She teaches the voiceover study in one of her courses. Her research specialty is in social identity, a topic she first studied as an undergrad. And, like a growing diaspora of Foster grads, she runs a behavioral lab at her current business school.

She notes that the Foster Behavioral Lab is a two-way force. Its graduates disseminate knowledge and expertise to other universities while scholars trained elsewhere gravitate here to work in it.

“To get the best faculty you have to have the best facilities. And you have the best facilities here,” Mercurio says. “You are attracting the best talent in behavioral research because of that lab.”

Read more about the Foster Behavioral Lab.

10th Biennial International Business for Community Colleges Conference

Intl Bus Comm College FacGuest Post by Ian Priestman, International Business Professor at Linn-Benton Community College, Oregon, who attended the 10th Biennial International Business for Community Colleges Conference with a travel grant from the Global Business Center. 

Being an Englishman in America, I get a great kick out of going to conferences in the US, especially to places I wouldn’t get the chance to go to if I’d have stayed in England. There’s something exciting about saying, “I’m going to Washington” or, “the conference is Colorado” or even Michigan. It is these places that us Brits see in the movies or hear about in songs all the time but only ever dream about going to. Instead, the Brits attend conferences in rain soaked Manchester, in dark stone buildings in Leeds or in the concrete jungle of Birmingham. These courses in the UK take place against the backdrop of the perpetual dark cloud that hangs over the country, threatening to rain at any moment. On the other hand, no doubt these English towns are of the same interest to the US anglophile or history chaser as American places are to me.

This speaks to my first point I gleaned from the 10th Biennial International Business for Community Colleges Conference. There is a myriad of motivations and interests that we and more importantly our students have for studying international disciplines. Writing this post inspired me to think about the factors that had led me to the conference. I concluded with this: to make an international class or program, modern, and dynamic, we have to tap into our student’s motivations and interests in all things international and allow our students to develop these interests.

I now realize my reason for living and working in the US and becoming a citizen (and with my accent, me being an American really confuses my students!): It was my love of vacations as a child. Vacations gave me wanderlust, and as a direct result, there I was at the conference in Michigan as an International Business professor. With my love of vacations in mind, I realized that although a student might have no international experience other than a magical spring break vacation in Cancun, there’s plenty of scope to apply international business concepts to the tourist industry in Cancun or even another resort. Another example:  If a student enjoys British TV miniseries such as Downton Abbey or Brit comedies or even our musical output, the British movie or music industry would provide a great structure for the student in which to house international business concepts.

So now I want to spread my wanderlust (or wanderdust as I prefer to call it) to my students. How did the international business conference help me? The presentations on the regions of the world were fascinating as possible research projects and destinations for my students. Then, after hearing about the possibilities, the next piece of the puzzle was already waiting for me.  Waiting in the wings were sessions on raising the profile of international business in community colleges, internationalizing existing curriculums, and the possibilities for study abroad programs.

The conference gave me the tools with which to work in spreading the wanderdust. Great resources were suggested, notably by Tomas Hult and also the ‘Global Edge’. These resources will help me make my case at my community college for emphasizing the importance of international business courses. Finally, it was suggested that I research the availability of funds to attend further conferences thereby sustaining my enthusiasm for international business. Such funds are out there, you know- just like international business experiences and opportunities for our students.

Driving Porsches, Chevys, and camels?

Amidst the Bentleys, Mercedes, Porsches and the real fancy cars in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, all may not be as well as it appears on the surface. We learned that a very large percentage of Emeriti’s doesn’t graduate high school and many are functionally illiterate. Yet, when they do leave school – most can and do apply for a government job and of course get it – being paid $90,000, while also receiving 60 days vacation a year, housing and car allowance, all utilities paid for and many other benefits including healthcare. So why learn! As one Emeriti entrepreneur told us, most Emiratis who want to be entrepreneurs, and they are few and far between, cannot compose an email or structure a sentence! On the other hand, there are Emeriti’s that you could compare to the best and brightest in the world. So as someone said, they have a ‘software’ problem not a ‘hardware’ problem that the government’s rulers have to address to sustain this amazing growth over the next 100 years, let alone 50. In this regard, a most telling saying we heard about the past and future in this region goes as follows: My grandfather drove a camel, my father drove a Chevy, I drive a Porsche and my son drives a Bentley, but likely his son will drive a camel….again.

Democratic versus authoritative leadership

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management. 

Personally, I believe in more inclusive, transparent and democratic leadership, even at Universities for God’s sake. However, when you witness what has been created in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there is something about tribal authoritative and authoritarian leadership that cannot be ignored.  Such leadership builds cities very quickly, efficiently and majestically…well, depending on your taste in architecture. Indeed, the parallels in the world that I could think of where similar leadership has had such positive impact are in places like Singapore and Chicago under the leadership of the Mayor Daley’s. When there is chaos to be controlled and a myriad of interests to be aligned, sometimes authoritarian coupled with authoritative leadership—if they know what they are doing, can be very effective. Yet, to sustain this model of society and leadership is tough, in that it oftentimes in the case of a Dubai or Abu Dhabi depends on the choice of the ‘right son’ or the ‘right brother’ in the succession plan.

A controlled approach to leadership in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management. 

There are several things that one cannot ignore when traveling in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. First, in 42 years since the founding of the United Arab Emirates, these global citizens have built massive cities with the most impressive and innovative architecture on earth. Second, you cannot find a more controlled society on earth that doesn’t appear to have any interest in overthrowing the ruling families. Indeed, what one sees in this part of the world are sheer opulence everywhere, and a largely satisfied group of indigenous citizens. The reason being is that the rulers in this part of the world, rule with an iron fist, but they also rule with tremendous generosity and smarts towards citizens. If you are a so-called Emirate and not living well, call your ruler because you are clearly missing out on all of the bennies, e.g., subsidized housing, utilities, car payments, healthcare, schooling, higher educational scholarships, or a new iPad!

The paradox of reduce-reuse-recycle

2011 EIC Grand Prize Winner Voltaic shows off their electric vehicle drive train
2011 EIC Grand Prize Winner Voltaic shows off its electric vehicle drive train

Guest post by Daniel Schwartz, Chair, UW Department of Chemical Engineering

When I think Cleantech, my mind goes straight to the triangular logo on my waste container at work: “reduce, reuse, recycle.”  These three words are central to most enduring cleantech innovations, though sometimes in paradoxical ways.  “Reduce” is the most prone to paradox, since reducing one thing generally happens by increasing another. Let’s explore this “reduce” paradox via two well-known examples in that space.

In recent years, Washington has done a good job of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the average American emits 41% more greenhouse gas than the average Washingtonian (2012 State Energy Strategy report). We reduced our emissions by increasing our reliance on hydropower. Here’s where the “reduce” paradox comes in. Increases in hydropower have led to fewer salmon in our waters. Thinking long term, if we want to grow our economy and further reduce our emissions while avoiding consequences like this, we’ll need major innovations in the cost and performance of solar energy and grid-scale batteries. And we’ll need to make sure those innovations don’t lead to a depleted Earth.

The same “increase-to-reduce” paradox holds in transportation. Hybrid and all-electric cars reduce emissions by increasing efficiency. The 787 Dreamliner reduces its fuel use, in part, by adopting the “more electric-aircraft” approach. Innovations in transportation electrification are largely tied to electrochemical energy storage and conversion (batteries, super-capacitors, and fuel cells) as well as control systems that enable vehicle-scale “grids” to operate reliably on their own and when plugged into a utility’s grid. Transportation electrification is currently going through painful growing pains. Have no doubt, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in transportation electrification, but as transportation electrification increases, we need to use foresight to adapt our current electrical infrastructure, or we’ll break it.

My colleagues at the UW Institute for Molecular Engineering and Science are among the leaders charting a sustainable energy pathway that balances technical innovation with the economic and social dimensions of scalable energy. Students, too, are looking at the paradoxes – the potential Achilles heels of cleantech – and finding potential for enduring innovations. I am looking forward to seeing how students at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge apply their understanding of cleantech and “reduce, reuse, recycle” – paradoxes and all—  to innovations that will improve our world.