Leadership and innovation are words that we seem to encounter on a daily basis through a variety of means. They are, in a sense, catchwords in the collective conscience that play on people's creative senses. This is best evidenced by company slogans such as Toshiba's, "Leading Innovation," or simply, 3M's, "Innovation." Using these catchwords can get people excited about a company or a certain product. Leadership is also at the forefront of our minds at all times. It would be equally surprising to see one of those clichéd motivational posters featuring the word "LEADERSHIP" accompanied by an inspiring photo and encouraging quote in an elementary school as in a CEO's corner office. While the common image of innovation may be a product that will revolutionize the world and leadership may be portrayed as a great president leading a nation to supremacy, it is also important to look at these ideas within the daily operations of organizations. How does a leader react to an error he or she has made? Can conflict be beneficial for a team pursuing a creative outcome? Are there certain types of people that are more vulnerable to a destructive leader? These are some of the research questions that we tackle in Dr. Hunter's Leadership and Innovation Lab.
One of the projects I worked on last semester was an honors thesis project supervised by Andrea Hetrick. The project pertained to leaders reacting to their own errors. In this project, each participant was told that he or she is the manager of a local department store and has made an error that his or her followers are upset about. The "manager" then discussed the error with a subordinate (played by a confederate) in his or her "office". As a psychology major and participant in a handful of studies, I can say that this experiment is as real and as interactive as they come. For nearly all of the studies, the "manager" took the role seriously and gave a genuine answer that one would expect if the situation were to actually take place. I enjoyed seeing the different strategies that students used to react to the errors.
Working in an I/O psychology lab has given me a better perspective of what I/O psychologists do and why it is important. It has provided me with an opportunity to conduct and learn more about research. While one can learn about a subject from a lecture or a textbook, it is more inspiring to actually participate in the research itself. Next week, I will post an entry pertaining to another lab project and more about the lab in general.