Tag: Faculty



Ohad Kadan

Ohad Kadan, who began his academic career in 2002 as an assistant professor at WashU Olin and spent nearly 20 years rising through its ranks as an instructor, academic and researcher, will become dean of the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University on July 1.

“It is truly bittersweet to me,” said Kadan after the announcement was made last week. “I have spent my entire academic career here at Olin, and it will be difficult to leave.”

In an email after the announcement to WashU Olin’s staff, faculty and students, Dean Mark P. Taylor acknowledged the recognition of Kadan’s talent as an academic and purpose-driven leader.

“I am, of course, thrilled for the opportunity that awaits him,” Taylor wrote. “But at the same time, I’m quite sad to lose a valued colleague who has had a staggering impact across every part of the Olin community.”

Fresh opportunity

In its announcement on November 15, the business school based in Tempe, Arizona, noted that Kadan’s appointment culminated a national search to fill the post.

The school’s announcement said he would join at a “crucial period for higher education,” and went on to quote Kadan: “WP Carey prides itself on channeling ASU’s spirit of innovation and rethinking what’s next in business education. I am excited to lead the school into emerging areas, while never losing sight of our commitment to student success and cutting-edge research.”

Kadan said the opportunity represented a stark change in direction after 20 years at the same institution, but it was an exciting opportunity to put into practice what he’d learned in that time. Additionally, he noted that his children were growing up and he and his wife were eager to explore new paths as they moved toward becoming empty-nesters.

The ASU business school serves more than 17,000 students across undergraduate programs in more than 30 disciplines as well as a range of graduate and doctoral programs.

Impact across Olin

Kadan leaves with two prominent titles at WashU Olin: vice dean for education and globalization and H. Frederick Hagemann Jr. Professor of Finance. Those positions capped his rise from assistant professor. During his ascent, he also served as area chair for finance. On the way, he assembled a distinguished record of published research, and his commitment to teaching at the highest level earned him Olin’s Reid Teaching Award.

As vice dean, Ohad has partnered with colleagues in every program, every center and across every student and alumni population. His partnership helped to drive the renovation of the Full-Time MBA program with the global immersion. He’s participated in creating new specialized master’s programs. He’s overseen the launch of the Center for Digital Education and helped guide the center—and our faculty—through the pandemic. He helped in the development of our online programs and Olin’s strategic plan, ensuring our pillars of excellence are imbued throughout the curricula across our programs.

Kadan’s appointment has so far been noted by ASU in its announcement as well as Poets & Quants, Arizona’s ABC-TV 15 and the Phoenix Business Journal.

“On a personal note, I shall greatly miss our daily interactions on school strategy and management,” Taylor wrote last week. “I’m sorry to lose such a deeply committed and valued member of the senior leadership team, though I’m proud with the certain knowledge that he will be a great leader.”




Professor Andrew Knight teaches a hybrid course in Emerson auditorium. In front of him, socially distanced students site in the auditorium, while behind, students participating remotely appear on screen.

For nearly 20 years, Andrew Knight has been interested in unobtrusive research methods. A professor of organizational behavior, he’s passionate about learning how people can best work with one another, and his current focus is on improving people’s virtual collaborations.

Knight used the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as a spark for packaging something he’d been experimenting with to analyze photos and video recordings.

The result: a new, free software named zoomGroupStats.

“With teaching shifting to a virtual realm and a pressing need to understand virtual collaboration, I was motivated to accelerate the development of this software,” he said.

The package is to enable researchers to use the virtual meetings platform Zoom to collect data that illuminates how people interact with one another, Knight said. With it, users can quickly turn files downloaded from Zoom into datasets, analyze the dynamics of spoken and text conversations in virtual meetings, and extract information from the video feeds of virtual meetings.

Who do you imagine using this software? And for what?

Knight

The first category is researchers. The software is currently designed especially for researchers who study teamwork, negotiations, interpersonal relationships and group dynamics. However, the basic functionality of the library would be useful to anyone who wants to extract insights into conversation dynamics and emotion during virtual meetings.

The second category is teachers running virtual classes. The software can provide insights into who is engaged in the conversation during a class (i.e., class participation) and the ways in which people are making contributions (e.g., vocal contributions, text-based chat contributions).

The third category is leaders and managers who conduct virtual meetings. When paired with a web application that I created (http://meetingmeasures.com), the software can give leaders feedback on how effectively they facilitate virtual meetings. 

How easy are the tools to use?

When paired with the step-by-step tutorial that I created (http://zoomgroupstats.org/), I hope the library is accessible for anyone with a basic level of proficiency with the open source statistics software R. Some elements of the functionality—such as the capacity to read the emotional expressions of people’s faces through their cameras—requires an additional level of proficiency in setting up and configuring Amazon Web Services. 

What are the privacy concerns with this software?

Like any use of recorded human behavior, users must take into account privacy considerations. In a way, the privacy concerns for research are equivalent to more traditional methods (e.g., having human research assistants rate and classify people’s behavior from a video recording). However, people have variant perspectives on software-based “automatic” coding compared to human-based coding of their behavior. As a general rule, anytime a meeting is being recorded, a meeting leader should explicitly request permission to record from all meeting participants.

How have you used your software?

I’ve used this for research and teaching purposes so far. On the research side, I have primarily been working to validate a set of metrics that can be automatically derived from a virtual meeting vis-à-vis traditional, survey-based metrics. This is important to situate the automatic metrics within the current landscape of research on interpersonal relations and group dynamics.

On the teaching side, I have used this software in combination with my Meeting Measures web application to give students feedback on their virtual meetings. This is helpful for showing students when, for example, they dominate the conversation or make inadequate contributions to their team meetings. 

So the software is free?

Yes. The R package is free and open source. It is available through the web-based repository (Comprehensive R Archive Network, or CRAN) that is used to distribute packages for R. 

Top photo: Professor Andrew Knight teaches a hybrid course in September 2020 in Emerson Auditorium. In front of him, socially distanced students site in the auditorium, while behind, students participating remotely appear on screen.


How humans perceive and interact with algorithms matters. A growing concern for businesses is that algorithms may reproduce or even magnify inequality in the workplace.

Associate Professor Dennis J. Zhang and coauthors researched how people perceive the fairness of algorithmic decisions in comparison with human decisions. Zhang discussed the findings last week at Olin’s virtual Fall 2021 Business Research Series.

The researchers studied how a task assignment from an algorithm, versus one from a person, changes workers’ perceptions of fairness—and changes the workers’ productivity. For instance, a worker might feel treated unfairly if he thinks he’s asked to pick too many items or if he thinks someone is playing favorites.

They conducted a 15-day randomized field experiment in 2019 with Alibaba Group in a warehouse where workers pick products to box based on orders known as “pickbills.” The experiment involved 50 workers randomly assigned to one of two groups.

What goes in which box?

Retailing platforms such as Alibaba, the largest online retail platform in China, use algorithms to determine which set of items will be packed into which box. They need humans to then follow the algorithmic prescriptions to pack the items. Basically, workers follow an order to pick certain items from different shelves that belong to a specific set of packages. In the past, people distributed pickbills to workers in Alibaba’s warehouses. But Alibaba had started assigning pickbills algorithmically, in which case workers could receive picking tasks by scanning a bar-code with their radio-frequency hand-held monitor.

Alibaba’s interest in switching to an algorithmic task assignment process was mainly motivated by hope it could improve efficiency. The researchers, however, wondered whether this change could also bring productivity benefits by changing workers’ perceptions of fairness.

Half of the workers in the field experiment were randomly assigned pickbills from a machine that ostensibly relied on an algorithm. The other half received pickbills from a person who secretly followed the assignments from the same algorithm.

The researchers studied the question of how people perceive the fairness of algorithmic judgment and how such perceptions affect their behavior. During the experiment, they collected performance data about 4,486 pickbills along with 108 daily questionnaires from workers.

Results surprise researchers

As it turned out, workers perceived the algorithmic assignment process as fairer than the human process.

“That’s one of the results that actually surprised us the most,” Zhang said. In existing literature, “there is a huge discussion” about how algorithms are not fair. “But what we actually show is in simple settings workers actually think algorithms are more fair.”

Receiving tasks from an algorithm (relative to a human) also significantly increased workers’ picking efficiency by 17-19%.

The productivity gain from the algorithmic assignment was larger for more educated workers and workers who cared more about the difficulty of their pickbills, groups for which perceived fairness has a stronger effect on productivity.

The idea of algorithms being fairer than humans can be generalized in other settings where workers are evaluated and affected by algorithms and can be used to create more fair and productive working environments, the authors say. “The Impacts of Algorithmic Work Assignment on Fairness Perceptions and Productivity” is under review at Manufacturing & Services Operation Management.


Throughout the pandemic and into the launch of WashU Olin’s new exclusively online programs, the school’s faculty members have collaborated with Olin’s Center for Digital Education to reimagine their course curriculum to serve students in engaging, rigorous—and virtual—ways.

The CDE has created “trailers,” if you will, featuring the work of six faculty members who speak about their online classes. Their virtual coursework samples range from the power of text mining to interpreting financial statements, to estimating a mature company’s future stock growth.

New programs include Olin’s online specialized master’s programs, which focus for now on accounting, finance and business analytics. The programs launched this fall and provides students the chance to earn stackable certificates that culiminate in a degree. Olin is also launching an exclusively online MBA program in January that will be aimed specifically at empowering students to lead in a digital enabled world.

That said, the virtual coursework isn’t built exclusively for the online programs. Some professors “flip their classrooms,” providing virtual learning as a means of transferring knowledge—allowing students to do that work on their own time in their own place—while reserving in-person classroom time for engagement activities, discussion and team projects.

Click here to view the six course samples featuring classes by Mark Soczek,  Yulia Nevskaya, Anjan V. ThakorTodd Milbourn, Todd Gormley and Seethu Seetharaman. Or watch them below.

Professor Mark Soczek explains how to interpret financial statements by comparing them to nutritional content food labeling.
Watch marketing professor Yulia Nevskaya overview her Text Mining course at WashU Olin.
Anjan V. Thakor overviews the relationship between a firm seeking financing and capital market investors.
With some insights from finance professor Todd Milbourn, you may be able to estimate a mature company’s future stock value with the Constant Dividend Growth model.
Finance professor Todd Gormley shares the details on quantifying potential gains and losses from continuing the status quo versus introducing a new product.
Marketing professor Seethu Seetharaman delves into Predictable Irrationality (and a little history) for his Data Analysis for Brand Management course.



Combatting cybersecurity threats. Guiding space exploration. Developing novel healthcare management systems. Major business and government innovations often rely on multiteam systems, or teams of teams.

But when people work within such systems, known as MTSs, they face challenges. An MTS is a nebulous organization of component teams of specialists that link together to accomplish a broad and overarching objective. That objective exceeds the capacity of any one person or team.

Andrew Knight, Olin professor of organizational behavior, researched the challenges people face when working within team of teams. Specifically, he delved into how the component teams can best coordinate their activities—both within and between teams—to achieve the overarching goals of the whole system.

In the past, scholarship had advanced a perspective that informal modes of coordination—such as informal, interpersonal interactions between MTS members—undermine MTS effectiveness because of their complexity.

A channel for the flow of information

But that view is pessimistic and flawed, Knight and his coauthors argue. Drawing from theory and their research, they derived important implications for those who must lead an MTS.

“Informal interpersonal interactions actually can enable coordination by serving as a channel for the flow of information and a means by which MTS members can mutually adjust their work,” Knight said.

But whether informal coordination helps or hinders MTS functioning depends on how much time team members spend interacting with other members of their own component team, relative to the time that they spend interacting with the members of other teams.

“Members must balance their informal interactions,” Knight said.

Knight discussed his research at a virtual event September 29 as part of Olin’s Business Research Series.

“Our analysis underscores that leaders must carefully manage MTS members’ informal coordination efforts,” he said. Too much time spent focused internally—on coordinating with the members of one’s own component team— detracts from system performance. But too much time spent focused externally—toward other component teams in the system—breeds intrateam conflict that disrupts team performance.

It’s about balance

“To maximize system performance, which is ultimately the most important objective, leaders must ensure that team members balance their allocation of time between the local team and the more global system,” he said.

Knight and his coauthors present their findings in “Performance tensions in multiteam systems: Balancing informal mechanisms of coordination within and between teams,” in press at the Academy of Management Journal. Coauthors are Jonathan C. Ziegert and Christian J. Resickof Drexel University and Katrina A. Graham of Suffolk University.

In addition to his position as a professor, Knight is associate dean of WashU at Brookings and academic director of Olin Lifelong Learning. His areas of expertise are entrepreneurship, leadership, team development and diversity, and his research interests include virtual work, people analytics, collaboration and relationships.

See Knight’s presentation here.




This week, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified about the tens of thousands of pages of internal documents she leaked exposing how Facebook prioritized profits over the public’s safety and called on lawmakers to regulate the social media network.

By bringing to light the consequences of Facebook’s algorithms, Haugen’s testimony has forced corporations to rethink their relationship with Facebook and use of consumer data, according to digital media experts at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Most advertisers who invest in Facebook or other social media platforms are aware of the ways in which these technologies collect and use customer data to improve the ROI (return on investment) of advertising dollars. In fact, these capabilities are positioned as a selling point,” said Michael Wall, professor of marketing practice and co-director of the Center for Analytics and Business Insights at Olin Business School.

Wall

“That said, other aspects of how Facebook and others drive great returns for their advertisers have been hidden within their algorithms. The whistleblower has changed that. Advertisers are now aware, and they will now be faced with decisions related to both the ethical use of data and being values-based.” 

According to Wall, business leaders should be thinking hard about how their firms — many of whom have become dependent on platforms such as Facebook for business growth — will use customer data responsibly.

“Certainly, the amount of users on these platforms is appealing in that it enables marketers the ability to reach a lot of consumers. That said, the real value is driven by the algorithms within these platforms that track everything we say and do to pinpoint which of those users should see our content, when and how many times,” Wall said.

This raises ethical questions about what is appropriate to not only track, but also share with third parties — some of whom use the data to advertise and track consumers beyond the original platforms. It’s easy to focus on Facebook given its behemoth size, but any company using consumer data is at risk of causing harm to its consumers.

Nevskaya

“Every organization with access to rich consumer data, using Facebook as an advertising vehicle or not, must at least from time to time confront the dilemma: should some information be used to improve the profit line in the short run even though it might not be in the best interest of a consumer?” said Yulia Nevskaya, assistant professor of marketing at Olin Business School.

“It is a difficult situation to manage for a brand, given that the interests of a particular manager might not always align well with a long-term success of a brand. Implementing data-driven and values-based culture and decision-making is key.”

This is not the first time Facebook has found itself in the hot seat for its handling of user data, misinformation and other threats to American democracy. The more customers, companies and government have learned about social media, the more pushback has been generated from each stakeholder, Wall said.

Consumers are demanding change

Change is already underway. For example, Apple’s recent feature with its iOS 14.5 update notifies customers that apps are tracking their data and gives consumers the ability to block said tracking.

“This was a massive blow to Facebook, among others, who rely on that tracking to drive more advertising revenue,” Wall said. “Apple isn’t the only one. Google is also preparing to block third-party cookie tracking. These industry actions, coupled with government policies such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the California Privacy Rights Act, will make the use of customer data more difficult in years to come.” 

Companies have a choice: Short-term profits or long-term growth

Limiting the use of consumer data or cutting ties with Facebook altogether may seem like an unfathomable choice for businesses. However, taking a stand now could pay dividends down the road.

“Research over the last several years has shown that customers prefer buying from companies that are aligned with their personal values,” Wall said.

In 2018, Nike was one of the first major brands to take a controversial stand with its Colin Kaepernick commercial. Since then, many more companies have taken stands on social issues that align with their brand values, such as racial injustice, voting rights, gun laws, climate change and LGBTQ rights.

“As a marketer, my position is that brand equity is ultimately not driven by advertising. Furthermore, it is something we certainly cannot control. Instead, our brand is something we steward,” Wall said.

“This stewardship is driven by choices we make, which drive the actions we take, and together they lead to consequences in the market. Leaders must make tough choices about near-term growth and long-term growth. The wrong choices today may enable more profit today but may also lead to decreases down the road.” 

Consumers literacy is essential

Social media are new, powerful and complex players and we, as a society and as individuals, have to get tooled very quickly to live with them, Nevskaya said.

“Social media shapes our world, our information bubble and our choices. We now know that our Facebook feed is carefully calculated by algorithms that decide which political opinions, sources of information and products are most likely to elicit a response from us,” she said.

Facebook and other social media companies—possibly with the help of regulators—have a responsibility to confront the ethical dilemma of their business. At the same time, consumers need access to reliable information about the ways in which social media impacts their lives.

“Consumer literacy should be taken seriously and implemented in a comprehensive way, starting at an early age,” Nevskaya said.   

“Over the last two decades, as the situation with Facebook illustrates, companies and organizations developed extremely sophisticated tools to advertise and promote their products and ideas,” Nevskaya said. “Gone are the days when a television ad for a major brand consisted of mostly repeating the name of the brand many times in a loud voice, which marketers believed would make the consumer remember the product and buy it.

“Consumers are smart, but they need to be fully aware of the new methods, how exactly their personal information is used by organizations and to be offered very concrete tips on navigating modern marketing.”