20 Years of Impact and Counting!

November 29, 2022

Over 20 years ago, the Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) was founded at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business to provide a focus and impetus for scholarship and teaching. Over the years, we’ve developed engaging opportunities to spark debate, compel action, and inspire further research. Today, as the world prepares for a new time, CPO is reaching a new level as the preeminent hub for the science and practice of thriving organizations. We are actively and passionately helping prepare the organizations of today, create the leaders of tomorrow, and build a sustainable future of meaning for all.

Trailblazing Founders

As friends, colleagues, trailblazers, and mentors, Kim Cameron, Jane Dutton, and Robert E. Quinn pioneered a new field of inquiry at Michigan Ross—Positive Organizational Scholarship—and founded the Center for Positive Organizations in 2002. Along with their individual accomplishments, they achieved many successes together. Their impact at the University of Michigan and with the Center for Positive Organizations is immeasurable, and it’s clear they have made great and lasting change.

Student Impact

The first time that Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) was integrated into a Michigan Ross core MBA course was in 2003 in “Human Behavior and Organizations: Managing for Excellence in Work Organizations.”

From this initial offering, CPO has worked tirelessly to create learning programs for University of Michigan’s best and brightest students with ripples of impact that are far reaching. Student demand for CPO’s programs has continued to grow with the need for additional programming expanding.

Last year alone (2021-22 academic year), a total of 493 students spent 11,474 hours in CPO’s programs learning about POS principles and practices that build high-performing organizations that enable people to thrive. We reached students in 8 of the 18 schools and colleges on U-M’s campus, like engineering, environment and sustainability, medicine, public policy, and business.

“The realization that you can work towards your strengths, instead of focusing on weaknesses, and still flourish in the work environment are concepts that aren’t taught in other business schools. What I learned with CPO was invaluable. It was powerful and empowering and gave me a competitive edge as I entered the workplace.”

CPO’s current programming provides undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students a variety of opportunities to engage with our community. Students can participate in any of our Thriving Accelerators, immersive workshops about a topic in the science of thriving, each designed to create lasting personal and organizational impact. Students can earn our self-paced, points-based Thriving Catalyst Endorsement where they will emerge equipped with the capacity to unlock greater passion, energy, connection, and purpose in themselves and to take others with them on the journey to thriving. CPO’s Magnify Immersion Program offers students an interdisciplinary grounding in POS to learn, identify, and employ the principles and practices that build high-performing organizations that enable people to thrive. And students can enroll in any of 10 undergraduate-level or 11 graduate-level POS-themed courses.

Transforming Organizations

The Center for Positive Organizations believes that qualities such as compassion, civility, ethical behavior, and wellbeing matter. They matter not just for employees, but they also significantly impact organization performance and productivity. CPO strives to bring the benefits of POS to the workplace to inspire and enable leaders to build thriving organizations that bring out the best in people.

Over the years, CPO has developed several research-to-practice tools that have been used by companies, organizations, and universities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Intel, Miami HEAT, United Airlines, and Yale University. Last year, over 7,000 people used our research-to-practice tools to help build thriving organizations.

CPO provides leaders with many options for learning about POS principles and practices. Our Positive Links Speaker Series features scholars who share research-based strategies for building organizations that thrive. Leaders can attend the biennial Positive Business Conference that brings together top business leaders, practitioners, intrapreneurs, and academics to engage around ideas and insights for designing and sustaining thriving organizations. For a deeper dive, leaders can join CPO’s Positive Organizations Consortium, a vibrant, leader-to-leader learning and networking community designed to create highly effective workplaces where people thrive. And they can enroll in a POS-themed Michigan Ross Executive Education course.

“Co-learning about Positive Organizational Scholarship with so many types of organizations has been an incredible opportunity. I’ve learned how different companies tackle the same issues, like employee engagement. It’s created a space where I could really get creative in generating new ideas and approaches.”

Research as our Foundation

Positive Organizational Scholarship research uniquely defines CPO and has become a major focus for organizations. POS principles and practices empower leaders to create thriving work environments, improving the culture of their workplace and helping them discover what is possible with their employees and within their organizations.

By bringing empathy, compassion, and energy into the workplace, leaders are able to enhance engagement and performance, and inspire their employees to innovate, find opportunity, and strive for excellence. POS principles and practices create a generative business setting and act as a catalyst in the discovery of human potential.

From pioneering POS as a new field of inquiry at Michigan Ross, CPO now boasts a global network of over 670 formally affiliated POS scholars whose research we support, expand, and amplify. We host the biennial POS Research Conference, where in 2022, over 160 abstracts were submitted for inclusion across 12 research tracks and nearly 200 POS scholars attended the two-day event. We present the biennial Award for Outstanding Published Article in Positive Organizational Scholarship which recognizes outstanding scholarship in POS and encourages research in this growing field. We provide developmental space for emerging scholars to share research and receive feedback through the Adderley Positive Research Incubator. We produce the Positive Links Speaker Series where leading POS scholars present inspiring and practical research-based strategies for building organizations that thrive. And we convene leading POS scholars at the Academy of Management’s Annual Meeting to build community and generate energy about the possibilities created by applying a positive lens.

“The faculty at the Center have taught me how to approach research in a way that’s been helpful for my own work, encouraging me to focus on questions that really matter. Almost every piece of research I have published, I have presented at Center gatherings. You get the most amazing, nurturing feedback. It’s had a huge impact on my work.”

Looking Ahead

Over the last 20 years, CPO has earned international recognition for our impact on research and practice. We are the leading research hub focused on the leadership, strategies, systems, culture, and practices of thriving organizations that enable people to be their best selves in the workplace. As we look toward the next 20 years, CPO intends to remain at the forefront of innovation and scholarship. Using a depth of research and a breadth of evidence, we will help organizations thrive, inspire individuals to realize their potential, and build students who will influence change and create impact.

See our 20 Years of Impact Digital Brochure, testimonials from students, scholars, and Consortium members, and our Flickr album of our first 20 years!