Author: Olin in the Media


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Posting the latest on Olin student, alumni, faculty, and staff stories from business and news outlets locally, nationally, and around the world.

Jared Ogden—Navy SEAL, veteran, private contractor to the military, and startup entrepreneur—is the brains behind a St. Louis-based firearms training program that’s seen 70 percent year-over-year revenue growth in its past fiscal quarter.

Ogden, EMBA ’18, is founder of Triumph Systems, which launched in 2015 to create a motorized, remote-controlled targeting system that provides dynamic training for law enforcement agencies around the country and the world. The system is more portable and more affordable (at $399) than other systems on the market, according to a Valentine’s Day feature on Ogden in the St. Louis Business Journal (subscription required).

“We can mitigate the accidents that happen in the field through better training that induces stress for officials,” Ogden told the Journal. “These training scenarios are vital to making our communities safer.”

Ogden, named a member of the Journal‘s “40 under 40” class of 2018, told the newspaper his company had booked $500,000 in revenue last year and 70 percent growth year-over-year in its fourth quarter.

Triumph employs four people and a college intern at its downtown St. Louis office. In a four-minute 2016 video posted by “Kevin theTacDaddy” on YouTube, Ogden demonstrated his product in a media demonstration.

Ogden is also founder and a member of the board of directors for Phoenix Patriot Foundation, dedicated “to creating opportunities for combat wounded veterans and assisting in their return to a life of service.”

According to his bio on the Phoenix website, Ogden was inspired by a teammate and friend who was severely injured in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device that resulted in the amputation of both of his friend’s legs.

That was during Ogden’s second deployment to Afghanistan. As a SEAL officer, he has served there and in the Arabian Gulf and has been awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for Valor while at SEAL Team ONE.

Andrew Glantz, GiftAMeal

Conceived on a lunch break, born in undergraduate school and funded before Andrew Glantz’s graduation, GiftAMeal has made headlines and garnered attention from the startup world before. Now, the company’s cofounder and CEO has been featured with a Q&A in the St. Louis Business Journal outlining how the idea came about and why it’s expanded into three cities since its 2015 launch.

In a Dec. 21 piece on the Journal’s website (subscription required for full article), Glantz, BSBA ’17, said the company was conceived as a way to help promote restaurants and contribute to a social good at the same time. “It’s a free way to give back to the community and be a part of the solution to the hunger problem,” Glantz told the Journal.

GiftAMeal operates a mobile app that makes it easy for diners to “turn a photo into food.” They can find restaurants they love and donate a meal to an area food pantry by simply posting a photo as they have their meal.

The Journal feature covers how the idea launched, its early efforts to get funding, the challenge of signing on its first restaurant partner and the biggest challenge it faces today: “Figuring out how to scale GiftAMeal from what we have, to being a nationwide company.”

The company now serves Operation Food Search in St. Louis (where it has 75 restaurant partners), Lakeview Pantry in Chicago (25), and Forgotten Harvest in Detroit (six). Glantz said the company is at a breakeven point—though he’s not yet taking a salary yet—with monthly revenue up 195 percent over last year.

Olin Professor Cliff Holekamp told the Journal the app’s values goes beyond what it provides to the pantries, but also to the participating restaurants.

“Not only does it position them as a socially conscious business,” said Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship, “but it delivers them tangible marketing value in the process. It’s a win-win for both the restaurants and for the people who are being helped by the meals donated through the platform.”

The online business education magazine Poets & Quants highlighted members of Olin’s MBA Class of 2019 in an extended profile of the students and the program published on Saturday.

The piece quoted students such as Ashia Powers, who said her visit to campus during admitted students weekend really sold her on Olin’s program: “The community here is everything, and everyone takes pride in it. They made me feel special, important, and valued.”

The detailed article also took note of application and admission trends that resulted in a group of 2019 MBA prospects with strong academic credentials:

Like many American MBA programs, Olin’s 2016-2017 recruiting cycle could be boiled down to fewer applications but higher caliber students. This year, applications fell off from 1,579 to 1,174 – a near 26% drop. Despite this, the class is actually 17 students larger than its predecessor, with an acceptance rate that jumped 10 points to 40%. Still, the average GMAT score climbed seven points to 694 with the Class of 2019 – a score higher than those produced by new classes at small school gems like Notre Dame Mendoza, Vanderbilt Owen, and Emory Goizueta.

The article featured extended profiles of 14 students. “Everyone who comes to Olin has a name and a story,” Dean Mark Taylor said in the piece. “You are well known by the faculty and supported by an excellent staff.”

Read the full story at Poets & Quants.

The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership highlighted the Center for Experiential Learning’s community work in a recent feature on Olin’s Small Business Initiative.

The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the Regional Business Council have partnered with the CEL to identify small businesses in the recovery areas—also referred to as the Promise Zone—of Ferguson, Dellwood, and Jennings and assist with business development.

Olin’s Small Business Initiative connects WashU students to small business owners in the St. Louis community. Through a 12-week, team-based management consulting project, students provide actionable recommendations in areas including market research, branding, financial assessment, and operations. The projects help students build their consulting competencies and apply classroom learning to real-world issues facing small businesses.

“We have an immense resource in our students who have passion, raw intelligence, and incredibly quickly developing leadership skills, and the question was, ‘What are the best ways to leverage that for the greater good in the community?’” Program Director Daniel Bentle told the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. “In the end, this initiative is simply focused on supporting our small business leaders in the local economy, which we have a responsibility to do.”

To date, more than 50 students and 13 small businesses have participated in the program.

Check out the full story on STLPartnership, and learn more about the Small Business Initiative on the CEL’s website.

The below post originally appeared on The Source.

It all started with Sanskrit.

About to go to Harvard as a physics major, Hillary ­Anger ­Elfenbein read a book that had been translated from Sanskrit—by someone humble enough to admit, in the introduction, that Sanskrit was essentially untranslatable.

She then wanted to read it in the original.

She added a major in Sanskrit, reasoning that a liberal arts degree had more to do with critical thinking than career prep. Her study of that language’s orderly universe left her fascinated by Indian culture, which eventually led her to volunteer with a women’s rights group in Calcutta and a health organization in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Which was great, except that in the early weeks, she kept feeling as if people were yelling at her.

“I was constantly convinced that certain ­colleagues were angry,” she says, “because I was misjudging the meaning of intensity.” Luckily, she was primed to notice. By the time she went to India, she had worked at Monitor Company, a management consulting firm. There, she’d ­noticed how much time and effort people put into ­decoding each other’s emotions. They ­scrutinized their boss’s facial ­expressions for feedback; they worked to detect sarcasm or subtext in their colleagues’ offhand comments; they tried, like kids playing jump rope, to figure out when it was their turn to speak. “The psychological ­dynamics in the workplace were much greater ­predictors of the ­success of a project,” Elfenbein says she realized, “than the quality of the analysis.”

For example, Elfenbein’s consulting firm once was assisting a company with divesting a ­business unit and creating decision-support tools to examine the impact of various scenarios. “It was stressful for the company that this business unit was failing,” Elfenbein says, “and the team leader spent a lot of time calming the client before the ­client could sit down to the tools we were painstakingly developing.”

Intrigued by the slipperiness of our emotional language, she returned to Harvard to study for a doctorate in organizational behavior. (She also earned a master’s degree in statistics and completed the course work for the MBA.) Now, as the John Wallace Jr. and Ellen Wallace Distinguished ­Professor at Olin Business School, Elfenbein studies the emotional currents and riptides of interpersonal communication. She’s shared her findings with Congress, high-powered executives, and students. ­

Applications—and implications—crop up in ­every arena of human life. But Elfenbein has a single, overarching goal: fathoming the sense we make of other people’s feelings. When do we recognize them accurately? What subtle ­nuances do we miss? How, especially, do we decode emotion from facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language?

Prof. Hillary Anger Elfenbein with students.

Her students are fascinated by these ­questions—and grateful for the clarity and ­emotional support she offers as they explore. “As a mentor, she blends expert technical ­guidance with compassion and understanding,” says doctoral candidate Elizabeth Luckman. “This makes her not only a great teacher but also a good friend, always willing to take the time to help you wrestle with complex ideas.”

Elfenbein’s been wrestling herself with complex ideas for some time. She’s already published more than 60 scholarly articles spanning psychology, business and medicine. And her work has about 3,000 citations in the Web of Science, an online subscription-based scientific citation indexing service. She could coast for a bit. Instead, “she continues to strive to improve so that she can be influential and relevant,” Luckman says.

Elfenbein gathers some of her data in India and Kenya, because she’s acutely aware of how skewed our understandings are. Until recently, the existing research all had focused on what are called the WEIRD countries—Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. We have no idea, yet, how much of what’s been learned is universal.

But her work is pointing out how often it’s not.

“She’s done some truly pathbreaking work in ­perception of emotions,” says William Bottom, the Joyce and Howard Wood Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and chair of the organizational behavior program at Olin. “The ability to understand and perceive how people are reacting to decisions, information, policies, potential deals is really fundamental, and Hillary was able to demonstrate that we have distinct nonverbal ‘dialects.’ These dialects make it far easier for us to perceive and understand local emotions—but this is far more difficult communicating across cultures.” In a global economy, this work “is just incredibly important,” Bottom says. “And she’s extended it to look at how groups function, how deals are made, how negotiations break down.”

Even within the US, there are dramatic differences and misunderstandings. Other researchers had concluded that African-Americans with ­schizophrenia had greater emotional deficits than whites with ­schizophrenia, Elfenbein says. “But my work shows that it’s easier to recognize emotion from one’s own group.” When researchers built on that insight, they found no greater deficits among African-Americans. “They’d just been given a culturally biased test.”

Another kind of bias crops up with power differences: “Men and higher-status individuals are given more room to express anger and contempt,” she notes. “These are emotions of power; they say, ‘I am in a position to judge you.’ When women executives or political leaders express anger, they’re often critiqued. Women expressing anger are seen as irrational.” Sadness, by contrast, “is considered an emotion of low power, and women are ­allowed to be sad whereas men are derided. This myth that ­women are more emotional? Men are ­emotional, too, but there are different emotions they are free to express.”

Emotions have their place

Emotions we aren’t free to express tend to come back again and again. We bury them, and they bubble up somewhere else; we bat them away, and they boomerang. We can’t free ourselves from an emotion by suppressing it; we have to ­manage it. Reappraise, reframe, find the bright side, take the long view. “Talking to a friend is cathartic,” ­Elfenbein says, “and hopefully the friend is helping with reframing.”

Our bodies can help us, too—deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness, the endorphins of a good run, the indulgence of chocolate, the relaxation of a beer after work. “Every strategy that works for somebody can be taken too far,” she adds hastily. “But there’s a reason we call it ‘comfort food’ and have a drink at ‘happy hour.’ Those physiological methods give you a breather from the emotion, so you can regain perspective. It doesn’t seem so bad anymore. You have better resources to cope.”

When business executives turn to Elfenbein for help, they often ask how to manage anger and fear in the workplace “because both of these are thought of as very unproductive.” She’s not prepared to throw any negative emotion away, though: “Even the emotions we may not find pleasant have a ­function in our evolutionary ­history,” she says. “We have needed them.”

The accepted view of emotion is that it’s an alarm system, “directing our attention to something important,” she says. “Anger is about relationship repair: It shows us that there is something going wrong that needs to be addressed. Fear shows us that we are in danger. All emotions have their place.” She grins wryly. “They are often out of place, but they have their place.”

At work, Elfenbein continues, the problem with our emotions is that we’re so often “squashed from doing something about them. Emotions are meant to move us. The word ‘emotion’ itself comes from the Latin root movere. But usually in the workplace, you can’t act on your emotions,” she says. The trick is to find a way around that prohibition—a way to act productively. Fear, for example, is about a lack of control, so take back a little control, she advises. If you’re scared of losing your job, ­polish your résumé.

Another workplace threat is jealous, malicious competitiveness—and it’s extra hard to recognize, because it’s one-sided, and those feeling it take pains to conceal the signs.

“Some nonverbals are leaky,” Elfenbein says. “Research has shown that we tend to be better at controlling facial expressions, next better at tone of voice. Yet it’s much harder to ­control body language, especially posture and hand movements. It’s not that you can’t control these things, but people put less energy into trying to control them. So those are good places to look for leakage.”

When somebody’s silently resentful or scheming against you, though, “the best place to look is third parties,” a trusted co-worker’s take. “And look at what people do, rather than just what they say to you,” Elfenbein says. “Then you can try to neutralize the jealousy, although that’s hard. Sometimes you can try to offer things of value to that person: Do something that will help them succeed; tell them about an ­opportunity; show that you are useful as an ally.”

Oh, and don’t feel bad if it took you a while to even realize that this person was vying with you. In one study, she found that “the people best at seeing hidden messages were the least liked.” They could read the negative emotions—anger and fear and sadness—beneath someone’s tone of voice. “We call them ‘eavesdroppers,’ because they had a ­window into other people that was unwelcome.”

Recognized or not, negative emotions ­clutter our workplaces. The most underrecognized-emotion, ­Elfenbein says, is a positive one: flow, that blessed state when you’re working at your peak on something that has meaning for you, rather than counting the hours and accumulating grudges. “Job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction have ­different sources,” she points out. “Job satisfaction comes from flow and self-actualization. Job dissatisfaction comes from colleagues who weigh you down, a copier that always breaks—minor annoyances that are called hygiene factors.” ­Getting rid of those annoyances isn’t enough, though, because job ­satisfaction is not simply the ­absence of irritation. “Being satisfied is enjoying what you do, being good at it, having a sense of mastery and a sense of ­purpose,” Elfenbein says.

What satisfaction is not, necessarily, is raking in a lot of cash. “Money is a very complicated reward,” Elfenbein says. “It’s as much symbolic as it is about the money itself.” In one study, she asked graduating MBAs about their negotiations for a full-time job: What was the dollar value of everything they negotiated, and how did they feel coming out of the negotiation—as though they’d been treated fairly and built a healthy ­relationship? “A year later, we surveyed their job satisfaction,” she continues. “How they were treated predicted their job satisfaction; the dollar gain did not.” At work, often the best reward a boss can offer is “sincere recognition of a ­person’s humanity,” she says, “sincere appreciation of the things done well.” ­

Executives regularly ask her how to test for ­emotional intelligence—or train it into thei­r employees. “It’s very hard to change emotional tendencies in adults,” she tells them frankly. ­“Consultants want to charge a lot of money to come in and train, but ­research suggests that it’s very hard to move that dial.” Currently, she’s exploring the behavioral genetics of emotional abilities, and, sure enough, the ­preliminary results suggest “that emotional intelligence is, to some degree, genetic.” Granted, ­emotional IQ is also learned—but early on.

Photo: James Byrd

“We train empathy; we even train children how to lie.” Elfenbein remembers explaining to her son, very carefully, the value in telling a “white lie” to show appreciation for, say, an ­unwanted birthday present. “We teach them the right time to lie and how to lie. Also, they spontaneously lie, and we catch them, and that trains them to lie better.”

What we don’t train very well, because we don’t or can’t give kids good feedback, is “self-awareness, emotion recognition, anything that is silent.” As for self-awareness, some of us are so clueless about our own feelings that we’re not even aware of our lack of ­self-awareness.

High-priced consultants can’t plumb those depths. “The bad news is that almost none of what they offer works,” Elfenbein says. “The good news is that the two things that do work are free: motivation and practice. Simply caring about these skills improves them.” In one study by another investigator, Group A was told that a test would predict their leadership abilities. Group B was told nothing about the test. “Guess who did better?” she asks, grinning at the obviousness. “The people who thought the test was important.”

Still, reading emotions is like reading Braille with ­callused fingertips. Sarcasm is an exaggeration that means its opposite, which can create a lot of ­misunderstanding across cultures. “We are a very ­sarcastic ­culture,” Elfenbein says, “and people from other cultures get tripped up by this.” So do people within the culture. How often have you hesitated, ­asking yourself, “Was that sarcastic?”

Another quality that can trip us up is a monotone voice, which we tend to automatically interpret in a negative way. “That’s partly why email is such a ­dangerous form of communication,” she explains. “It can read as a monotone, so it can seem negative.”

Hence, the emoji.

“My understanding is that the original emoticons were invented very quickly,” Elfenbein says, smiling. “We can’t get by without that expressive impulse.”

Jeannette Cooperman is a staff writer for St. Louis Magazine.

(Illustration composite: Monica Duwel)

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