Tag: Research Centers



In a recent operations management research productivity study published in Decision Sciences, Panos Kouvelis was ranked among the top three in several significant categories. Kouvelis is WashU Olin’s director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation and Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management.

The study includes the “most-published OM authors from across the world based on total number of papers on which the individual is included as author from across all four [major] journals [of the field: Management Science, MSOM, POM, and JOM] over the 15-year period of 2001-2015.”

Here are a few ranking highlights for Professor Kouvelis:

  • No. 3: Total number of papers
  • No. 1: Publications in MSOM
  • No. 3: Total number of papers, weighted for co-authorship (Management Science publications counted only in the OM department)
  • No. 2: Total number of papers, weighted for co-authorship (Management Science publications included in all departments, with some OM linkage)
Fuqiang Zhang

Fuqiang Zhang, the Dan Broida Professor of Operations & Manufacturing Management, ranked No. 39 for total number of papers and No. 36 in papers weighted for co-authorship.

Additionally, Washington University’s Olin OMM department ranked No. 18 for total number of papers carrying an institution’s affiliation in authorship, No. 9 for publications in MSOM, and No. 12 for publications in Management Science.

We congratulate profs. Kouvelis and Zhang, and the Olin Business School OMM department, on these impressive achievements, and wish them the best in continuing their incredibly productive careers in OM research!




Employees with a higher purpose have more well-being, more happiness and even lower stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to findings from a new survey by two WashU Olin professors.

And the effects were more substantial when they had written down their purpose statements.

Also, employees of organizations with higher-purpose statements are happier and prouder of their organizations than are employees at workplaces without such a statement, the results show. Again, the effects were stronger when the purpose statement was written—and tied to society, employees and customers, rather than shareholders.

The findings echo the August 2019 announcement by the powerful corporate lobby group of U.S. leaders called the Business Roundtable, focusing the future on purpose. Such evidence of a national shift dovetails nicely with one of Olin’s key strategic pillars: values-based, data driven decision making.

Anjan Thakor and Stuart Bunderston

“As human beings, we are wired for purpose—to know why, to seek meaning in the things we do,” said Stuart Bunderson, director of the Bauer Leadership Center and the George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance. “When we have clarity on what our purpose is, we are happier and more fulfilled.”

Bunderson and Anjan Thakor surveyed 1,109 people in May to learn about their commitment to and perceived worth of a personal and organizational higher purpose.

Thakor is coauthor of the book The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization, director of Olin’s doctoral programs and the Center for Finance & Accounting Research, and the John E. Simon Professor of Finance.

Conference leads to curiosity

The professors’ curiosity was piqued during a fall 2019 conference they organized on WashU’s campus about personal and organizational higher purpose. Academic researchers, consultants and corporate leaders came together to share findings and experiences.

A presentation by Vic Strecher of the University of Michigan particularly struck Bunderson and Thakor, they write in their report June 2020 report “Personal and Organizational Higher Purpose: Survey Results.”

Strecher noted that workers’ stress levels and dissatisfaction were rising, even as economic conditions were improving. As for the next group entering the workforce, he also mentioned that suicidal ideation had doubled on US college campuses in the past decade. Stretcher stressed the importance of a personal higher purpose in coping with the stresses, noting that someone who does not “repurpose their life” at retirement is 2.4 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s than someone who adopts an authentic higher purpose.

Speaker Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller, emphasized the importance of organizational higher purpose. Some 65% of people would give up a raise if they could fire their own boss, he said. He also noted that an employee’s boss is more critical to that employee’s health than the family doctor.

“These remarks and other discussions at the conference made us curious to know more,” Bunderson and Thakor say in their report on their survey.

“What does personal higher purpose really do for people? How do individuals perceive the value of personal purpose in their lives? What is the role of an organization’s higher purpose in the lives of its employees? Are there any connections between personal and organizational higher purpose?”

Write it down

The 1,019 individuals they surveyed in May were employed and chosen as representative of the American population’s gender, racial and geographic diversity.

“I was most surprised by the fact that when companies have written statements of higher purpose,” Thakor said, “not only do the employees trust its leaders to make socially responsible decisions, but also better business decisions.”

Bunderson said he was “very surprised at how much more powerful these effects are when the purpose statement is written down. It’s like that old saying that a goal you don’t write down is just a wish.”

Additional findings included:

  • A majority of respondents had a personal higher purpose, but most had not written it down;
  • Having a written personal statement of purpose helped people in various ways, including coping with stress and finding happiness;
  • Curiously, those with a written higher purpose also reported higher levels of anxiety;
  • The incidence of written statements of higher purpose was higher among organizations than among individuals;
  • Employees at organizations with higher purpose statements were prouder of working for their organizations and happier than other employees;
  • Organizational higher purpose statements were more effective when written down and when they emphasized society, customers, employees and stakeholders other than shareholders;
  • Employees of organizations with higher purpose statements are more likely to have personal statements of higher purpose.

“We aren’t exactly sure why that is the case, but it may be that employees who work for organizations with a higher purpose statement are inspired to develop one for their lives,” Bunderson said. “This may be one way that good work practices can positively impact employees’ personal lives.”

The finding about higher levels of anxiety, he said, is “generally consistent with research suggesting that a sense of duty or stewardship toward something or someone can be both a burden and an important source of meaning.”

Using the survey findings, Bunderson and Thakor have built a personal higher purpose index and an organizational higher purpose index.

“These will enable us to examine how personal and organizational higher purpose and their perceived outcomes change over time,” Bunderson said.

Capitalizing on purpose

Businesses have risen from ruins because of their ability to recognize and capitalize on purpose, Thakor emphasizes in presentations. Those businesses have excelled and grown. But they don’t do it at the expense of making a buck.

Thakor cites a couple of examples of organizational higher purpose in his working paper “Higher Purpose, Incentives and Economic Performance.”

  • Detroit-based DTE Energy clarifies its higher purpose as being “a force for growth and prosperity.” The company names four pillars through which its social impact is to manifest: people (“improving lives and creating opportunity”), places (“partners with communities for growth”), planet (“leadership toward cleaner energy and environmental stewardship”) and progress (“powering a brighter tomorrow”).
  • Tree T-PEE, based in Arcadia, Florida, offers water-containment systems for agribusiness. It articulates its higher purpose as helping farmers conserve water and energy in farming.

Learn more

To explore more about the concept of a higher purpose, you may want to read these blog posts:




A combined effort from WashU Olin Business School’s Center for Research in Economics and Strategy, Koch Center for Family business and the St. Louis Small Business Task Force aims to provide support for small businesses in a trying time while providing experiential learning opportunities to undergraduate students.

According to a press release published on PRWeb on May 26, the partnership, headed by Glenn MacDonald, Olin professor of economics and strategy, paired groups of students with seven local businesses. Each business represents an industry that’s been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders.

The businesses involved include:

“I think this is a great opportunity to bring together top-notch minds to help our business community and the regional economy,” Glenn MacDonald said in the PRWeb press release. “Our students are some of the brightest and most motivated individuals in the country, and I am excited to involve them in this effort. It is a win-win—the students will learn from this unique experiential learning opportunity and the business owners will come away with a fresh perspective and innovative solutions.”

In addition to helping small businesses and getting real-world experience, the top three teams  received a cash prize.

Student Nolan Stafford presents the Eckert’s Farm final case.

Alivia Kaplan, BSBA ’22, acted as the program manager for the endeavor—so she got to see every aspect of students’ presentations and recommendations play out.

“It’s giving us the opportunity to use the skills we learn in class to help local business owners navigate their way through this particularly difficult time,” she said. “Supporting local entrepreneurs by helping them address the challenges presented by COVID-19 is an amazing way to support our community.”

And the project gave Kaplan the experience of being a consultant—and an entrepreneur. “This project gave me the opportunity to learn more about the day-to-day challenges of running a business. Working with these entrepreneurs to understand their approaches to problem solving and change management has given me insight into the approaches I want to take, both in work and in my personal life.”

Teams of undergraduate students presented their final recommendations to the business owners in a series of publicly-streamed Zoom presentations on June 3 and 5.

A student team presents to the So Hospitality Group (left center), as well as taskforce founder Erin Joy (top left) and Alivia Kaplan (top center).

Judges presented the first-place win to the student team representing So Hospitality Group, followed by Chill Pak in second place and Diba Imports in third.

For Kaplan, this experience has meant helping her community while honing her own business skills. “It’s exciting to see how the skills I’m learning at Olin can be applied to help real people and real businesses,” she said. “And I feel like the project we’re doing is going to have a positive impact and help local companies adapt as they approach new challenges.”




In December 2018, I reflected in this very column on our plans to bring WashU Olin into a digital space—investing in virtual, online learning experiences. Mere months later, we welcomed Ray Irving and Nina Kim, who built a team and launched our state-of-the-art Center for Digital Learning in the fall.

Nina Kim and Ray Irving

Neither Ray nor Nina nor I could have imagined just how essential their services would become—and how urgently they’d be needed. Not even a semester past the CDE’s launch, the coronavirus pandemic forced a full migration into virtual classrooms.

Our world-class faculty, staff and students have been dynamic and resilient in this unprecedented situation.

“We had always planned to engage faculty in developing online sessions,” said Ray, the CDE’s director. “But that plan had been based on a more gradual transition over the next 12 months—not 200-plus faculty and staff in 10 days.”

When Ray and Nina signed on at Olin, no one could have anticipated a global pandemic that would empty university campuses around the world. But Ray and Nina—and the stellar team that they have recruited, including instructional designers such as Kella Thornton—have leapt into action to provide crucial faculty and staff support and training in online learning at this critical time.

CDE team member Charlie Drexler demonstrates the CDE’s green screen studio to faculty.

“Although online learning is new to Olin, it’s not new to Nina, Kella or myself,” Ray said. The urgency to deliver online learning support was. The CDE team moved hundreds of faculty and staff—many of whom had never used platforms such as Zoom—into a fully digital classroom environment.

“This was an all-hands-on-deck situation,” said Nina, the CDE’s assistant director.

Indeed, it was. Almost immediately, the CDE created collaboration resources with the faculty administration team to ensure a smooth transition for students, instructors and staff. The team scheduled training meetings, created a training program from scratch and provided the necessary resources for faculty, staff and students to remain connected—wherever they might be.

“We fully understand this is the worst possible circumstances,” Ray said, “but we were determined to play the hand that was in front of us.”

They have more than delivered. I’m immensely proud of this team, and of our community’s ability to pull together in this extraordinary moment. More than simply creating an environment where online learning is possible, Ray, Nina and their team—along with our outstanding faculty and staff—have provided the space for our school to truly thrive in difficult times.

“We have heard from multiple students,” said Ashley Macrander, associate dean and director of graduate student services. “They say they are truly enjoying the online classes and think everything has gone very well.”

I’m grateful as well for the teamwork and collaboration the CDE has received from the faculty. “The faculty have been amazing,” Ray said. “They have simply got on with the task in hand, worked with us and made this happen—in extremely short order. I guess that’s what you’d expect of world-class faculty but it’s been truly remarkable to see this happen in real time.”

Tom Fields, professor of accounting, teaches Strategic Cost Analysis via Zoom.

In fact, faculty have banded together on their own, creating a faculty learning group spearheaded by Andrew Knight, professor of organizational behavior. That group suggests new and innovative ways to use Zoom features as well as soliciting support and feedback from students, many of whom are technology experts and are gracious in sharing their insights.

Ten days after moving seamlessly into our new way of teaching, I’m proud to say we have 115 faculty teaching 230 classes across numerous time zones to many hundreds of students. We are ensuring that our students will continue to receive world-class education until such time as we can safely bring them back to campus.

I’m grateful for the foresight of our senior leadership team and the National Council for providing the resources and the talent to assemble the CDE. Most of all, I am grateful for the way the faculty, students and staff have rallied together.

We are getting through this like the world-class school that we are.

Pictured at top: Center for Digital Education team. Back row, left to right: Ray Irving, Wes Murrell, Shawn Bell, Emily Furst; Front row, left to right: Kella Thornton, Nina Kim, Charlie Drexler




Can data science be used for good? The answer is 100% yes.

Can data science be used for bad? The answer is also 100% yes.

“And the difference between the best applications and the worst applications is us,” said keynote speaker Jaime Metzl at Olin’s conference November 1 on data responsibility and the ethics of analytics.

Metzl, a renowned technology futurist, kicked off the event. Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights and the Bauer Leadership Center, in partnership with the school’s Leadership Perspective series, organized the conference.

Speakers also included representatives from Maritz Motivation Solutions Inc., Americas-Teradata, Bryan Cave LLP, Mastercard, Express Scripts Inc., Edward Jones and Daugherty Business Solutions.

“The challenge is that this future is coming at us much faster than most of us understand or appreciate,” Metzl said. “And the reason for that is that we are in an era of exponential change.”

Such rapid change is leading to a world where science fiction and science fact are connected, he said.

“We have to get out of our day-to-day, conservative mindsets to really be able to imagine where we are going,” Metzl said. “Because it is an exciting, crazy, frightening, new and fast-approaching world.”

‘Massive data pools’ and our values

Metzl cited the future of medicine as a prime example. The world of symptom-based medicine is shifting “to a new world of predictive medicine,” aided by human genome sequencing.

“We’re very soon moving into a world where every kid is going to have their whole genome sequenced,” Metzl said. “We’re going to have in very short order these massive data pools.”

Which brings up a lot of questions: How will we use the data? What are the applications that we think are OK? What are the applications that worry us?

The most sensitive application of new technologies will be for human reproduction, Metzl said.

“We humans are going to increasingly not conceive our children through sex, but we’re going to conceive our children through in vitro fertilization. We’re going to do it in the lab. And the reason is because taking conception outside of the human body will allow us to apply science to procreation.”

We must make sure that our best values guide the use of technology, Metzl said.

“This is not a conversation about technology. It’s a conversation about ethics.”

Other speakers at the conference included the following:

  • Jesse Wolfersberger, chief data officer at Maritz Motivation Solutions, on “Incorporating Guard Rails Around Transparency, Targeting and Tracking.”
  • Bonnie Holub, managing partner at Americas-Teradata, on “The Road Ahead: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Analytics and Visualization.”
  • Sam Garner, associate at Bryan Cave, on “Privacy Risks of Using 23andMe and AncestryDNA Services.”

The morning also featured a panel discussion on “Creating a Data Responsible Culture.” Panelists were Amit Bhagat of Amitech Solutions, Shawn Hilleary of Matercard, Chris Lehmuth of Express Scripts, Emily Spriggs of Edward Jones, and Andy Sweet of Daugherty Business Solutions.

Watch the entire Data Responsibility and Ethics of Analytics conference here.

Pictured: Technology futurist Jaime Metzl speaks at the Olin conference.




Olin

The Center for Analytics and Business Insights, along with the Bauer Leadership Center, hosted a seminar March 26-27 on values-based/data-driven decision-making. The seminar, which hosted nearly 50 executives from a variety of local data-centered companies—including Wells Fargo and Teradata—was a huge success.

Seethu Seetharaman led the morning session for participants in a March 26-27 workshop on values-based, data-driven decision-making.

Seethu Seetharaman, director of CABI, kicked off the event with a discussion on hypothesis testing.  Seetharaman, W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing, brought statistics to life with riddles and brain teasers. With a group filled with professionals working with statistics daily, Seetharaman’s brain teasers still expanded their knowledge and truly kept them on their toes. A quick example of a brain teaser to try at home:

“A light flashes red 75% of the time and green 25% of time. You have to predict what the next flash will be. Is it reasonable to use a biased coin weighted to flip toward red 75% of the time to predict the next flash? Or is it more reasonable to just predict red?”

Seethu Seetharaman and Stuart Bunderson teamed up on the March 26-27 workshop on values-based, data-driven decision-making.
Seethu Seetharaman and Stuart Bunderson teamed up on the March 26-27 workshop on values-based, data-driven decision-making.

The answer is actually no. The likelihood of having the coin and the light flash the same color is slim because there are two separate events. The two events will only align 62.5% of the time, so it’s safer to predict red from the get-go with its 75% probability. 

The first afternoon was followed up by Stuart Bunderson, director of the Bauer Leadership Center. Bunderson, George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance, discussed values-based decision-making, incorporating values and ethics in business, while backing them with statistical evidence.

Bunderson amusingly warned the data-focused audience, “We are now entering the domain of moral philosophy… we answer which outcomes we should be striving to achieve through discussion and mindful reflection, informed by theoretical frameworks.”

Bunderson continued, asking, “What are values?”

Values are beliefs about preferred “end states.” They can be explicit or implicit, but regardless, represent the fundamental building blocks of an individual’s character or organization’s culture.

Values are all about the why of a business: the how represents tactics and execution, the what are objectives and KPIs, while the core why are values and the mission. The why drives the what and the how.

At the end of the session, Seetharaman’s statistics-heavy lecture paired perfectly with Bunderson’s value-based message. The audience collectively resonated with the idea that a business is firmly, at its core, driven by values.

However values must guide decisions made and then must be secondly backed by statistics. You must be able to understand your KPIs while still keeping true to your business’s mission.