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A Passion for Hope – Visiting Scholar Oana Branzei

August 21, 2012

By Janet Max

Oana Branzei is an associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. She is Visiting Scholar at the Center for POS for the 2012-13 academic year.

The Center’s new visiting scholar, Oana Branzei, is passionate about the overarching theme of the positive function of business in society, and is drawn to learning about what people in extreme situations think that business can do for them. “They see business as almost a salvation. Often, they learn to imagine the future through the business itself,” she notes. “It’s really hard for someone who has been marginalized or traumatized to imagine a better life. Hope is an essential part of lifting them up.” Oana focuses on the dynamics of hope: dreams of better lives, and actions needed to achieve them. Her field work in areas such as Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Peru, and Bangladesh documents the incidence and resilience of enterprise under extreme scarcity, adversity, and conflict. Oana also researches the emergence and evolution of pro-poor business models in North America, Asia, and Latin America.


Hope in Hopeless Settings

August 21, 2012

By Oana Branzei, Western University

Poverty. Conflict. Draught. Death. Hunger. Domestic Violence.

Not giving up.

Understanding how one summons and sustains hope in the face of scarcity and adversity stretches the straightjacket of organizational theories to make room for understanding life at its extremes—and reconnects us to the people living full and inspiring lives despite overcoming significant hurdles, every day.


Teaching Leadership in a Relational Context: Using Action Learning Teams and Projects

August 21, 2012

By Kathy E. Kram, Boston University

About five years ago, I began using relational learning as a centerpiece for the infrastructure of “The Leadership Challenge,” an MBA elective I teach at the Boston University School of Management. In a significant change last fall, we introduced Action Learning Teams and Action Learning Projects, in which students would be expected to practice specific leadership behaviors and attitudes that they identified through the 360 assessment that they completed at the outset of the course. My collaborator in this was Jeffrey Yip, who is an advanced doctoral student in Organizational Behavior, and formerly worked at CCL (Center for Creative Leadership). He was instrumental in the design and implementation first time around.


In relational learning environments, students and instructors collaborate to learn and share knowledge. “The Leadership Challenge” is designed to include cognitive, emotional, and relational learning opportunities that together enable students to build new leadership capabilities.


Inaugural Meeting of the Newly-Invigorated PRW Microcommunity

August 21, 2012

By Elana Feldman (Boston University), Kathy Kram (Boston University), Emily Heaphy (Boston University), and Stephanie Creary (Boston College)

What happens when a group of scholars interested in positive relationships at work meet in one place? They forge new connections, rejoice in old friendships, help each other tackle current challenges, and plant the seeds for future collaborations. And this was indeed the case in March, when approximately 30 researchers gathered in Ashland, Massachusetts, for the launch of the newly invigorated Positive Relationships at Work (PRW) Microcommunity.


Building on the Positive When Faced With the Negative

August 6, 2012

We are all familiar with the principle that leaders should emphasize the positive, build on strengths, and focus on abundance rather than deficits. We know that providing positive feedback is likely to produce higher productivity and higher engagement that criticism and negative evaluations. Ten years of research in the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship has produced study after study confirming the importance of adopting a positive perspective and implementing positive practices in organizations, teams, and interpersonal relationships. Individuals, teams, and organizations do far better in a positive environment than in a negative, critical, or punishing environment.


Professor Jane Dutton’s passion for Compassion

May 1, 2012

Most would agree that compassion — sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress,
together with a desire to alleviate it — is inherently good and needs no justification.
Compassion crosses many societal, cultural, and religious traditions, and has been
a common thread connecting humanity throughout the ages. Why, then, has this
timeless virtue not fully made its way into our 21st century workplaces? In corporate
cultures, why do the words Aristotle espoused, that “Compassion is good in and
of itself,” seem inaudible next to the Darwinian-inspired idea that “Only the strong


The Unbearable Lightness of Meetings

March 7, 2012

By Adam M. Grant, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'” ─ Dave Barry
In the summer of 2011, two managers in the financial sector reduced the time they wasted in meetings by 20%. “It freed up an entire day per week,” exclaimed Mario, and “I’m able to focus in on strategy and efficiencies,” said Jeanne. What did it take for both of these managers to free up so much time?

The catalyst was the Job Crafting Exercise™. Designed in 2008 by Justin Berg, Jane Dutton, and Amy Wrzesniewski, the tool enables people to map the current building blocks of their jobs, and develop a plan for reallocating their time, energy, and attention to achieve better alignment with their strengths, motives, and passions.


In Pursuit of a Career with a Heart . . . How Can People Negotiate That?

March 1, 2012

By Shirli Kopelman

The negotiated journey toward a career with a heart is important to understand, because having such a career can yield not only long-term love for what one does, but a host of beneficial outcomes for individuals and organizations.

Having a career with a heart means experiencing more than mere job satisfaction; indeed it means feeling enduring love and passion for one’s work. This pursuit is possible in any profession and occupation at every point along the career path.


How do People Attempt To Promote Good Behavior and Deter Bad Behavior?

October 19, 2011

By Cynthia S. Wang, University of Michigan and National University of Singapore

Understanding how people react to honesty and deception can provide some of the answers. Research on this topic has a variety of implications, including increasing our understanding of how to encourage ethical behavior.

Research suggests that negative stimuli consistently affect us more than positive ones. However, our research finds that people do not punish deception (a negative stimulus) more than they reward honesty (a positive stimulus). We analyze this topic using a multi-level lens, from the individual, to the collective, to the societal structural level.


How Can We Create Ethical Organizations?

July 15, 2011

By David M. Mayer

Corporate indiscretion, wrongdoing, and corruption are perpetually the subject of media attention as well-known companies such as Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and most recently the News of the World, have been found guilty of unlawful behavior; and the U.S. economic crisis has in part been blamed on unethical actions from Wall Street. These corporate scandals and current financial woes have brought renewed interest to business ethics—namely, understanding the factors that promote ethical behavior in organizations. Although conventional wisdom suggests that unethical behavior is the result of a few “bad apples,” there is mounting evidence that in addition to the personal values of employees, the organizational environment plays a critical role in encouraging ethical conduct.