Tag: Faculty



Ashley Atkins, program coordinator, wrote this on behalf of the Center for Experiential Learning.

One of the essential features of the Center for Experiential Learning is our ability to bring classroom learning to life through real-world client engagements—and our Faculty Directors are one of the elements that make this possible.

Professor II Luscri is the managing director at Skandalaris, and now faculty director of the CEL Entrepreneurial Consulting Team, which he describes as, “strong multidisciplinary teams that can look at the problems and challenges the startups are facing from a different lens and, in turn, create a comprehensive strategy for them to advance.”

We sat down with II to get to know him better as he begins his new role. Check out the full interview below:

How long have you been teaching at WashU?

I have been back at WashU since 2018, but I was here previously from 2007-2011.

What drew you to the CEL?

To me, there is nothing more important than giving our students real-world, practical experiences in ways that enhance our region and community. The CEL has a long history of doing that, and I am proud to be a part of this tradition.

What unique perspective will you bring to the students?

I see and work with startups across many industries and stages of development. As the Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center and the Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, I routinely engage with alumni investors and founders who bring valuable insights into our community.

 How do you plan to drive impact in CELect projects?

By creating win-win situations where our students learn and startups get the competitive intel our students are able to generate.

What advice would you give to students interested in participating in the CELect program?

Be open-minded about the startups you are interested in working with. You may learn more by working outside of your comfort zone than focusing on an area that you already know well.

Why do you think students should get involved with CELect?

If you are interested in founding your own company, working at a startup, or seeing how fast good ideas can be put into action, CELect is for you.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish this academic year?

I’d like to see better connectivity across our portfolio, and I am grateful for this opportunity as it brings Skandalaris and the CEL closer together.

All interview questions don’t have to be so serious, right? We asked Professor Luscri this question just for fun.

If you had an unlimited amount of money to start up a business, what would it be?

Wouldn’t it be cool to beat Elon to Mars?

Professor Luscri has highlighted some fundamental dynamics of an experience with the CELect program—one of many ways students can make a real impact in the startup community. The synergy between Skandalaris and Olin is an opportunity for better support across startups that:

  •  are coming out of all parts of the university, including those Skandalaris works with off University IP and from students and alumni, or
  • enter the WashU ecosystem and are looking for support.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Professor II Luscri. The CEL team is excited to have him on board. You can learn more about II on his career profile, located here.




Amid a pandemic when limitations on disinfecting wipes, toilet paper and drugs brought attention — and disruption — to supply chains, new research involving Washington University in St. Louis delivers something of an answer to improving these lines of business:

Work with who you know.

While most of the business world builds success from existing relationships, four scientists including Xiumin Martin from the Olin Business School crunched data to find that personal connections between suppliers and vendors particularly improves the efficiency of the supply chain. To be precise, such rapport results in better overall performance, less restrictive and longer-lasting contract terms, and crystallized communication.

Martin

“Recent years witnessed significant increase in the complexity of supply-chain relationship due to outsourcing,” said Martin, professor of accounting. “Such increased complexity pushes my co-authors and me to think about how some fundamental issues concerning information asymmetry are addressed in this new regime. We examined this question by focusing on personal connections because the world has also become increasingly connected.”

The research team — Martin along with Ting Chen of the University of Massachusetts Boston, Hagit Levy of the City University of New York and Ron Shalev of the University of Toronto — studied 2000-11 data from public companies, though private businesses may even more keenly rely on personal, existing relationships.

College and work connections

In their paper, forthcoming in The Review of Accounting Studies, the researchers focused on previous education and work connections between suppliers and vendors. They showed such a personal relationship proved a successful way to select suppliers in a chain that has become more complex amid outsourcing and this global economy/information age.

In compiling their 12-year-long data set, they used a database called BoardEx — listing universities, employment histories, charitable involvements and board memberships — to try to find supplier-customer connections. Through another database, Compustat Segment, they were able to determine long-running business relationships between 1,430 suppliers and 2,630 customers.

Ultimately, they focused on just two relationships: university and work connections. They found 7.4% of the sample had educational connections and 21% had either educational or past-work relationships. Looking at the organizational charts, they discovered 0.5% connections between CEOs and 15.2% between non-C-level executives.

Such personal connections increased the likelihood a vendor will select a supplier by 60% over baseline probability, the scientists learned. Connections between C-Level executives show statistically stronger effects than those between lower-level executives, though the COO — who oversees most firms’ supply chain — has a more pronounced effect on supplier selection than a CEO or CFO.

They also studied when that connection was broken — say, one of the parties in the relationship leaves their employer or retires. There, they found that the supplier-customer relationship ended earlier after a departure of a connected executive than after a departure of an unconnected executive.

Boiled down, these prior college or work connections:

  • increased a vendor’s chance of being selected as a supplier;
  • relaxed procurement-contract terms;
  • improved firms’ operating efficiency;
  • expanded geographical areas to choose supplier-chain partners when there are limited choices nearby; and
  • smoothed out exchanges of information.

Simply put, these businesses know one another. And that enabled them to make more accurate assessment of supply-chain risks, helped to reduce costs, facilitated more timely updates and improved the effectiveness of monitoring the supplier along the chain.

Longer-lasting contracts

They found the utility of the relationship by breaking down such factors as: product quality and reputation; delivery reliability/on-time delivery; competitiveness of cost; manufacturing capability; management leadership; technical capability; research and development; financial risk; and production flexibility to customer requests.

The data showed that 27% — or one in four — contracts were between connected parties, and on average, the contracts lasted six months longer (48 months vs. 42 months) in duration than two parties with no connection. The less restrictive contract terms translated into product warranties, the ability to inspect supplier’s plants, supplier-paid liability or property insurance, and pre-scheduled periodic meetings often used to address risk and moral-hazard issues.

“The COVID-19 crisis has significantly disrupted supply chains,” Martin wrote in the paper. “It will be interesting and important to examine whether personal connections have an influence in counteracting such disruptions and fostering a more resilient and robust supply chain network.”




Displaying family photos in the workplace cuts down on employee fraud and other unethical behavior, new WashU Olin research finds.

For instance, in one study the researchers conducted, participants who looked at pictures of family or friends filed expense reports claiming about $8 less on average than workers without pictures. While $8 may not seem like much, it can add up quickly.

Ashley Hardin

“If numerous employees submit monthly expense reports to a company, it’s easy to imagine the financial impact of the reduction in unethical behavior over time,” said Olin’s Ashley Hardin, assistant professor of organizational behavior.

Hardin is coauthor of “Show me the … family: How photos of meaningful relationships reduce unethical behavior at work,” in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Photos at work

More than 70% of workers display photos in their workspace, and people have a great deal of choice in what they put up, Hardin said.

At the same time, companies have considerable influence over whether employees have photos in their workstations by signaling their acceptability.

Hardin and coauthors theorized that having photos of “close others” in view “decreases the hegemony of an economic schema in people’s minds”—in other words, reduces the prioritization of self-interest, among other things, which decreases their propensity to misbehave. These hypotheses were supported across four studies. These hypotheses were supported across four studies.

Photos are a cue to the self and others because they convey information about values and interests, previous research has found. Until now, however, the effect of personalizing one’s workplace with photos on financial transgressions was unexplored.

The authors conducted a field survey and three experiments and found a negative relationship between displaying photos of family or friends, rather than photos of landscapes, at work and financial transgressions.

Practical implications

Given the frequency and cost of unethical behavior at work, “there is great interest in understanding what contributes to these behaviors and how to curb such conduct,” the authors write. Hardin conducted the research with Christopher Bauman of the University of California, Irvine, and David Mayer of the University of Michigan.

Their results consistently indicate that the presence of photos of close others (e.g., family and friends) reduces the likelihood that individuals will over-report their earnings, pad expense reports and engage in other bad behavior.

“Our findings are relevant for individuals at work. For example, individuals who want to guard against their own unethical behavior could display photos of friends and family in their workspaces,” Hardin said.

And companies should consider encouraging employees to display photos of family and friends.

“More broadly, companies and individuals alike should be mindful of how their physical surroundings may be influencing their behavior,” the authors write.

“Whereas some organizations encourage segmentation of work and life by penalizing those who bring outside topics into work, our findings suggest that this segmentation may have an unexpected downside in terms of unethical behavior.

“Our results suggest that subtle adjustments to the physical context can alter employee behavior, and it should, therefore, be possible to design organizational interventions that help to inhibit fraud and other forms of undesirable behavior.”




Richard Ryffel, a part-time professor of finance practice at Olin, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

It was in the early days of the pandemic’s work-from-home regimen in April when the other organizers of the Municipal Finance Conference and I convened to discuss whether to cancel, postpone or reconfigure the ninth annual Olin/Brookings/UChicago/Brandeis hosted event.

The conference, ordinarily held at Brookings’ headquarters in Washington, DC, is the preeminent municipal finance academic conference and its importance was all the greater given the rapidly evolving impact of the pandemic on state and local government finances.

Well before it was commonplace, the organizers pivoted to offer the conference virtually—becoming one of the early adopters of our “new normal” communication realities of Zoom, YouTube, screen sharing, virtual breakout rooms, curated backgrounds and the occasional cat intrusion.

In the same way state and local governments are adapting to their COVID-19 realities with what conference keynote speaker, Mayor Lilly Schaaf of Oakland, California, called “entrepreneurial bureaucrats,” conference organizers were able to quickly and effectively reinvent the conference.

The conference was held July 13-14 and was a considerable success, setting new attendance records and receiving strong survey feedback. With assistance from the exceptional Brookings staff, the online conference came off with no technical glitches whatsoever. Panelists, moderators and audience members alike transitioned flawlessly to the new virtual format, and the conversations and Q&A were lively and robust.

As a valuable field experiment for the effectiveness of distance learning, conference organizers found the new format lent itself to securing a broader group of speakers, more registrants and attendees from geographies that were underrepresented in the past.

Significant benefits in terms of financial and time costs accrued to all involved as well. So much so, that some type of virtual offering is likely to be a mainstay of future conferences.

Olin alumna Sarah Snyder, BSBA ’05, of Samuel A. Ramirez & Co., participated in a panel on the impact of COVID-19 on the municipal bond market and discussed how municipal bond issuers and investors are being impacted by the effects of the pandemic and the various policy responses thereto.  Other topics included pension funding holidays, climate change, legalized marijuana sales, infrastructure spending, tax incentives and shadow banking.

The conference organizers are planning a mid-year event also to be offered virtually and are looking forward to a return to a physical conference in 2021 to be augmented by a synchronous virtual program. But conference organizers will be ready to pivot once again, based on the then-existing pandemic realities.




Companies typically offer incentives directly to customers who refer friends. Google Apps, for instance, offers customers $15 for each new friend they recruit. And World of Warcraft, the video game, offered users a free month of gaming if they successfully influenced friends to buy a subscription.

Suppose, however, that the reward went to the friends—instead of the existing customers? New research shows marketers could win more customers because existing customers may value the boost in their reputation among friends more than a “selfish” financial incentive.

Cynthia Cryder
Cynthia Cryder

Olin’s Cynthia Cryder, associate professor of marketing, and coauthors examined how social dynamics change the outcomes of incentivized behavior.

In two field experiments and a lab experiment, they found that “prosocial” (friend-benefiting) referral incentives recruited more new customers than “selfish” (sender-benefiting) incentives. They report the findings in “Why Prosocial Referral Incentives Work: The Interplay of Reputational Benefits and Action Costs” in the Journal of Marketing Research.

The benefits that come from being generous to one’s friends substantially influence decisions in ways that are not obvious to everyone who designs incentive programs, Cryder said.

The researchers focused on customer referral programs in which companies offer incentives to customers who refer people in their social network to become new customers. To the best of their knowledge, the research is the first to investigate “anticipated reputational benefits as a driver of prosocial behavior in referral programs.”

Reputational rewards motivate people to behave generously because of their strong desire for social approval and the fundamental human need to maintain close personal relationships, Cryder said.

GiftAMeal

For one study in their research, Cryder and coauthors conducted a field experiment with the startup GiftAMeal. GiftAMeal partners with restaurants and encourages diners to take pictures of their meals and share them on social media. Then, GiftAMeal donates a meal to a food bank each time a customer shares on social media. (Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17, founded the company while he was a student at Olin.)

The experiment tested different incentive structures on new customer conversions. GiftAMeal emailed 6,364 customers, asking them to refer their friends to download the app. The customers were randomly assigned to one of five experimental conditions:

  • control with no monetary incentive,
  • sender-benefiting (Customers received a $5 Amazon gift card for each friend who downloaded the app.),
  • recipient-benefiting (Referred friends received a $5 gift card if they downloaded the app.),
  • shared (Senders and their friends each received a $2.50 gift card if the friend downloaded the app.),
  • or donation (GiftAMeal donated $5 to the charity Feeding America for each download.).

Overall, the conversion rate was low in the study, which is typical for referral programs, the authors said.  Nevertheless, they detected significant differences between experimental conditions. The conversion rate was marginally higher in the friend-benefiting condition relative to the sender-benefiting condition. Multiple follow-up studies confirmed this pattern.

Scarcity of friend-benefiting rewards

As part of the research, a research assistant searched for about 300 referral incentive programs online and categorized them based on who received the reward. Of the 351 referral incentive programs, 40.5% offered sender-benefiting rewards, while only 2.6% offered recipient-benefiting rewards. (Fifty-five percent offered rewards that  the sender and recipient shared.)

Yet, Cryder’s research shows referrals that benefit one’s social connections are more effective than sender-benefiting referrals: Recipient-benefiting referrals offer reputational benefits to the sender while also directly incentivizing the friend to sign up.

“The preponderance of sender-benefiting referral incentives in the marketplace suggests these effects are not expected by marketers who design incentive schemes,” she said.




Olin’s Julia Deems, a lecturer in communications, wrote this blog post.

In light of the national conversation on race and diversity, you may wonder how to take the conversation into the workplace. Here are some questions to ask:

Are you showing respect to employees?

It’s no surprise that employees want to be respected. But research by Kristie Rogers (Harvard Business Review, 2018) shows employees want both earned respect and owed respect.

Julia Deems

Earned respect is when an employee completes a task and we tell them, “You did a great job!” Owed respect is treating others in a way that demonstrates we value them as human beings.

According to Rogers, owed respect is “signaled by civility and an atmosphere suggesting that every member of the group is inherently valuable.” Without owed respect, managers may micromanage (showing a lack of trust) or treat employees as interchangeable (“TJ’s not here? Well, someone else on the team can do it.”).

Celebrate employees for their differences and their contributions to the team as well as their success in accomplishing key metrics. Ask yourself: “Am I showing respect to employees both as workers and as individuals?”

Are you having learning conversations with your direct reports?

Find out how you are doing by talking to your team. In “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most,” the authors argue that difficult conversations, such as talking to employees about respect in the workplace, consist of three separate conversations.

One is about facts (what happened), another is about emotions (how each party feels) and a third is about identity (what this says about who we are).

In such conversations, aim to tease out contributions to the problem (from both sides), listen to how others feel and acknowledge your own feelings, and reflect on how your perception of self may make it harder to hear some messages. For instance, if we see ourselves as good managers, and that’s part of our identity, it may be difficult to listen to how employees see us as contributing to problems or how we’ve made others feel. Recognize when your ego wants to respond, but don’t act on it; just listen to others. 

Learning conversations ask that we acknowledge our emotional response, hit pause on trying to persuade others how they should feel, and focus not on blame but instead on doing better in the future. These conversations start from a place of curiosity (How can we do better as a team?), demonstrate that you value and respect how employees see critical issues, and recognize that direct reports can play a key role in helping create a more inclusive environment. Ask your team: “How can we do better?”  I highly recommend “Difficult Conversations.”

Are you building a diverse team?

It may seem that having team members with similar backgrounds makes it easier for the team to come together into a coherent unit. Studies have shown, however, that more diverse teams outperform less diverse teams across financial and other performance measures.

A 2015 study by McKinsey & Company entitled “Delivering through Diversity” demonstrates the point across hundreds of companies. Diversity, they argue, can be thought of in terms of ethnicity, but also gender, LGBTQ+ identity, age/generation and international experience.

To achieve results, go beyond word-of-mouth referrals. Place ads on new sites, actively recruit diverse candidates and identify your criteria in advance. Then ask questions consistently of all candidates.  Make diverse hiring a priority. Ask yourself this: “Does our workforce reflect our community?”

These recommendations require that you be intentional. They will require some investment on your part. But this intentionality and investment will have an enormous payoff. You will create a stronger, more inclusive and diverse workplace built on trust, shared understanding and shared goals.