Sunday, July 31, 2011

Are You Empowering Creativity in Your Organisation? Two Key Drivers for Success

Xiaomeng Zhang and Kathryn Bartol (2010) state that “given increasingly turbulent environments, heightened competition, and unpredictable technological change, more and more managers are coming to realize that they should encourage their employees to be creative (Shalley & Gilson, 2004). Considerable evidence indicates that employee creativity can fundamentally contribute to organizational innovation, effectiveness, and survival (Amabile, 1996; Shalley, Zhou, & Oldham, 2004),” (p.107).

Organisational ideas, in respect of opportunities and threats, can come from any level within an organisation and often some of the best ideas come from the most unusual sources. It’s a myth that the leader is solely responsible for ‘idea generation’ and creativity. Leaders want a culture that encourages creative ideas, which then allows the strategic leadership to assess and prioritise these ideas in respect of ROI, time frames, diversification and other key strategic drivers. To get the culture of idea generation, leaders need to empower all employees to be creative

Zhang and Bartol highlight that “creativity refers to the production of novel and useful ideas by an individual or by a group of individuals working together (Amabile, 1988; Madjar, Oldham, & Pratt, 2002; Shalley, Gilson, & Blum, 2000; Zhou & Shalley, 2003). For creativity to occur in organizations, managers need to support and promote it, as they are the individuals who are most knowledgeable about which employees work outcomes should be creative and they have considerable influence over the context within which creativity can occur (Shalley & Gilson, 2004),” (p.107).

What’s interesting is that it’s often assumed that everyone wants to be creative, (given the chance), where theoretical arguments have suggested that psychological empowerment, in turn, makes a critical contribution to employee creativity by positively affecting an employee’s intrinsic motivation (Amabile, 1996; Spreitzer, 1995), but empirical evidence of such an effect has been lacking (Shalley et al., 2004). This connection is important because, conceptually, intrinsic motivation is considered to be a well-established predictor of creativity (Amabile, 1996; Shalley et al., 2004).

Two key drivers influencing the development of an effective creative culture are firstly, the empowerment role identity, which is the extent to which an individual views him or herself as a person who wants to be empowered in a particular job. Then leader encouragement of creativity refers to the extent of a leaders emphasis on an employee being creative and actively engaging in processes that may lead to creative outcomes. (Zhang and Bartol, 2010, p.108)

Zhang and Bartol’s research found that “empowering leadership has the capacity to positively influence employee psychological empowerment, an element of importance in affecting creative outcomes. However, managers are likely to find differences in the extent to which employees wish to be empowered - that is, identify with an employee role that includes empowerment. Hence, managers may find that their empowerment efforts are more successful in engendering cognitions of psychological empowerment in those who view empowerment as part of their role identities. Indeed, evidence suggests that managers do not attempt to empower all employees to the same degree, at least at a given point in time (Forrester, 2000; Yukl & Fu, 1999), a strategy supported by our empowerment role identity findings,” (p.123).

One implication is that, when empowerment role identity is low, leaders may need to expend some time gradually increasing empowerment behaviours so as to encourage employees to begin to view empowerment as part of their role identities. Fortunately, role identity theory suggests that adding role identities is possible through such a process, particularly over time (Stryker, 1980).

Zhang and Bartol's research results suggested that “creativity gains may be boosted if an employee is willing to spend the time and effort necessary to thoroughly identify a problem, search for extensive information, and generate multiple ideas from different perspectives - that is, engage in an effective creative process. Fortunately, our findings also indicate that a leader can play an active role in encouraging such creative process engagement by elucidating to a follower the need for creative outcomes, spelling out what their organization values, and explaining the elements of an effective creative process, such as the one we have considered here. Training employees in creativity-relevant methods or processes is likely to enhance such efforts,” (p.123).

The research is interesting in that it reminds executives and management that not everyone wants to be ‘creative’ to the same degree as everyone else; and it can be dangerous to assume everyone wants to be treated in the same way. As Zhang and Bartol highlight the process involves three key drivers for success: psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation, and creative process engagement.

The optimum solution for an effective creative culture is understanding, at the individual level, the importance of; the empowerment role identity and the leader’s encouragement of creativity. Understanding the effect of both and optimising both for each employee will give the organisation an effective creative culture.


Zhang, X and Bartol, K.M. (2010).Linking Empowering Leadership and Employee Creativity: The Influence of Psychological Empowerment, Intrinsic Motivation and Creative Process Engagement. Academy of Management Journal; Vol. 53 Issue 1, p.107-128.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Regret and Disappointment: Do Customers Respond Differently?

One might think that there is little difference between regret and disappointment yet the reference point for regret is external (encompassing both the chosen option and the foregone alternatives), whereas the reference point for disappointment is internal (encompassing only the chosen option). Disappointment generally leaves one powerless with a tendency to want to get away from everything and not wanting to do or have any association with the outcome (Zeelenberg et al. 1998). Regret, on the other hand, involves feelings of responsibility and results in not being able to get away from such an experience (Das and Kerr, 2010, p.172).

Neel Das and Anthony Kerr explain that “regret is experienced as a result of a comparison between what is and what might have been, where regret may arise as a result of an unfavourable decision-making process or an unfavourable product choice. The important notion to appreciate is that an unfavourable decision-making process is separate from an unfavourable product choice, and individuals may experience regret from either one or both,” (p.172).

Further Marcel Zeelenberg and Rik Pieters suggest that regret is a cognitive emotion, in that it “contains all the elements typical of emotional experiences” (p. 6) such as a sinking feeling, thoughts about opportunities lost, and thoughts about mistakes made and the desire to correct them, if given a chance.

From a customer perspective Das and Kerr state that “only highly involved consumers are likely to adopt a long-term motivational perspective in terms of decision making. In contrast, consumers with low involvement are likely to take a short-term decision-making perspective and not separate an action relating to a decision into separate phases. In other words, highly involved consumers are more likely to separate the source(s) of regret, whereas less-involved consumers would simply recognize that the regret emotion exists without distinguishing the particular source(s) of the emotion.” They furthermore highlight how “regret is viewed as a cognitive emotion; where high need for cognition individuals have a greater tendency to think elaborately on relevant information, compared to low need for cognition individuals,” (p.175).

So what does this mean for customer behaviour and what can organisations learn from understanding the principles of regret and disappointment. Kowalski (1996) describes consumer complaint behaviour as behavioural expressions of dissatisfaction or unfavourable attitudes directed toward an individual, a situation, or an object. Using the disconfirmation paradigm as his basis, Kowalski expressed that complaint behaviour reflects dissatisfaction from an exchange generated from a negative disconfirmation of expectancies. Yet existing regret research in marketing has found no effect of regret on consumer complaint intentions (Tsiros and Mittal 2000). Research has shown that although satisfaction affects complaint intentions, the effects of regret are mediated via satisfaction (Tsiros and Mittal 2000). Essentially, one may be satisfied with the product but may experience regret when a foregone alternative is perceived to perform better than the chosen product. In such a situation, it is not likely for one to complain to the manufacturer (of the chosen product) about another product that is perceived to outperform the chosen one. Switching to a better-performing product in the future is the likely outcome, (Das and Kerr, 2010, p.177).

Also another important factor is that ‘responsibility’ is an important precondition for regret. The more responsible one feels for the decision action, the more regret one is likely to experience subsequent to an unfavourable result (Zeelenberg et al. 1998; 2000). While responsibility is likely to drive the feelings of regret, it may also help consumers adjust their behavioural intentions accordingly. Das and Kerr explain this by stating “regret arising from the decision-making process may be looked upon as an outcome of procedural accountability, and regret arising from the product choice a result of outcome accountability,” (p.178).

In conclusion it should not surprise us to find that the greater the intensity of the regret experienced, the lesser the likelihood of repurchasing the product and the greater the likelihood of switching to a different product in the future.

But what is really interesting is that neither Tsiros and Mittal (2000) nor Zeelenberg and Pieters (2004) found any effects of regret on complaint intentions; which is something organisations need to be aware of in respect of their strategy towards customer service and customer loyalty. Just because your organisation hasn’t had any complaints doesn’t mean the customer is happy with the product or service.

So how are you going to find and retain those customers that regret their purchase from you and next time will buy from one of your competitors?


Das, N. and Kerr, A.H. (2010). "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda": A conceptual examination of the sources of post-purchase regret. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice; Spring2010, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p.171-180.

Zeelenberg, M. and Pieters, R. (2007). A Theory of Regret Regulation 1.0. Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 17 Issue 1, p.3-18.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Who Responds Best to Exclusive Price Promotions: Men or Women?

Michael Barone and Tirthanker Roy mention in their 2010 article that “the notion that targeted deals are more efficient than across-the-board sales promotions, that provide unnecessary discounts to price-insensitive consumers, has prompted a dramatic growth in customized pricing and sales promotions. Recently, however, questions have been raised regarding the efficacy of targeted offers in general (Homburg, Droll, and Totzek 2008) and customized price promotions in particular (Acquisti and Varian 2005; Feinberg, Krishna, and Zhang 2002)” (p.121).

One might be tempted to assume, without checking the research, that targeted deals will always be the better way to go, both for the customer and the organisation. Yet, Barone and Roy highlight how “equity theory suggests that evaluations of a targeted offer will depend not only on the relative outcomes associated with the offer (i.e., whether the consumer is a recipient or non-recipient) but also on the inputs or costs associated with receipt of the promotion,” (p.122).

In a world where we’re often told it’s every man for himself the theme adds further credence to the logic that any exclusive price promotion must be beneficial to those receiving it and the offer ‘bought’ with appreciation and thanks.

What’s interesting is how Barone and Roy highlight that “research on self-construal suggests that recipient gender can influence how deal exclusivity affects the evaluations of customized offers. Specifically, Western men are often characterized as possessing independent self-views, while Western women more typically adopt interdependent self-construal’s (Markus and Kitayama 1991). Men’s independent self views should prompt them to value unique (i.e., exclusive) offers that provide them with the basis for self-enhancement to a greater extent than women, whose interdependent self views should result in less favourable evaluations of targeted deals,” (p. 123).

The research by Barone and Roy addresses an important theoretical void in the current literature by establishing the presence of ‘deal exclusivity effects’. Across their three different studies, they demonstrate that some consumers (e.g., male participants and those with independent self views) favour exclusive deals over inclusive ones. The findings further show that under certain conditions (e.g., when the level of relationship equity consumers have built with a marketer through their past patronage is low), both types of offers are evaluated equally favourably.

Perhaps most intriguing are the results indicating that certain consumers (e.g., female participants and those with interdependent construal’s) react negatively to receiving a targeted offer that is exclusive, instead preferring discounts that are more widely available, (Barone, M.J. and Roy, T.; 2010, p.129).

There can be a temptation at times like this to think of the women we know who don’t fall into this category – but that is often the natural inclination when one finds that the conclusions and answers to the research don’t meet our previous expectations. We also have to be honest with ourselves in respect of how much information we had prior to the research becoming available.

Bayone and Roy mention how “these results indicate that consumers who prefer more exclusive deals do so because receiving selective offers provides them with a basis for self-enhancement (e.g., by helping them attain values related to autonomy). In contrast, the negative reactions of participants exhibiting an aversion to exclusive promotions were driven by the superiority of inclusive offers to allow them to self-enhance (e.g., by confirming their desires to maintain harmony with others),” (p.129).

Barone and Roy conclude by highlighting how “evidence documenting the moderating effects of self-construal and gender on deal exclusivity underscores the need for marketers to judiciously consider the use of targeted offers on a segment-by-segment basis. Although gender has long been employed as a segmentation variable, note that self-construal is correlated with several demographic variables that represent market segmentation bases, such as country and ethnic group (Ahluwalia 2008). For example, consumers in the United States tend to have independent self-views, while those in other countries (e.g., Mediterranean nations) typically exhibit interdependent self-construal’s (Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier 2002),” (p.130).

Maybe it’s worth evaluating your customer base again and looking at how you can optimise your marketing and promotional strategies with your current target markets. Getting the strategy right will add value directly to your bottom-line; where as getting it wrong not only gives you a sub-optimal bottom-line, but can seriously upset some of your current customers. It’s worth giving your strategy another look.


Barone, M.J. and Roy, T. (2010). Does Exclusivity Always Pay Off? Exclusive Price Promotions and Consumer Response. Journal of Marketing; Vol. 74 Issue 2, p.121-132.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Murdoch: Evil Tyrant or Brilliant Strategist?

Like many in the UK I went to buy the last ever copy of the News of the World this morning; after over 200 employees of the NotW lost their jobs yesterday as the paper printed its last Sunday paper and closed its doors over allegations of phone hacking that the current staff weren’t even party too.

Entities like a newspaper don’t make mistakes, only the humans running them do, and it’s this human element that must be held to account when laws have been broken and distasteful reporting allowed. Here we have a newspaper that was first published in 1843 closing down after 168 years and the woman at the helm during the phase of the ‘phone hacking’ allegations and the current CEO of News International, Rebekah Brook’s, stays in her job with the full support of the owner Rupert Murdoch.

In the old days, the passengers and crew were ushered to the life-boats while the Captain stayed behind and went down with the ship. Today, with the Murdoch Empire, we have a new sordid form of ‘honour’ where the leaders rush to the life-boats and leave the crew to go down with the ship.

It’s believed that at least nine journalists and three police officers are facing jail in connection with the NotW phone hacking scandal and Scotland Yard have accused NotW of orchestrating a five year cover up (The Sunday Times, 10th July, p.1).

This story will be a blockbuster movie soon, as we have a media empire hacking phones of celebrities, royalty, missing children, families of dead soldiers, and God knows who else. We have police officers who were bribed for information and we have members of parliament, including the current Prime Minister, who kowtowed to this media mogul because of the ‘power’ he wielded over their future aspirations.

But behind the repulsive hacking of phones of missing children and the deletion of messages by private investigators, giving the family the belief that their child was still alive; and the sacrifice of a paper and its hardworking staff there is a leadership team that seems to have very little feeling towards the human race. Rupert Murdoch, his son James and Rebekah Brooks have a lot to answer for and personally hope they are brought to account for their actions sooner rather than later.

This story clearly has a long way to go – if it is ever given the opportunity to run its full course. But one can’t help wondering just how much ‘dirt’ these media moguls have on their ‘pray’ and what strings they will pull to ensure their tune is still played out to the public.

The Murdoch bunch knows that the ‘public’ are a less than attentive crowd, who can quickly turn their attention from one issue to another at the drop of a hat – especially if sufficiently motivated. A scandal with the Prime Minister or the head of the Metropolitan Police would probably be enough to change peoples focus from the disgusting hacking claims.

Murdoch hasn’t got this far without knowing how to deflect issues and play people off against each other. So is Murdoch an evil tyrant or a brilliant strategist. Some might admire this man who, through his mafia style, is able to control politicians and big business. They may think he's doing what they believe any good businessman should do – maximising shareholder value.

I didn’t get the memo indicating the changes to a leader’s responsibility myself, but I remember a time when leaders were held accountable for their actions and their organisations. A time when giving an excuse like ‘I didn’t know’ wasn’t acceptable, as it was the very fabric of their job to know (besides they were paid massive salaries to know as well).

If leaders can simple use the phrase ‘I didn’t know’ every time something goes wrong then it looks like the organisational pyramid is about to be turned upside down; and leadership programmes will need to change much of their content.

The Murdoch’s along with Rebekah Brook’s need to step up and face up to their responsibilities, even if it takes them all the way to a public trial and to face the consequences of their actions. Currently too many of the top organisations seem to be portraying a very poor level of leadership and basic judgement.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Do You Always Apply ‘the Golden Rule’ in Business?

The Golden Rule, or the Ethic of Reciprocity, states that we should treat other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term itself, as the ethic of reciprocity was present in certain forms in the philosophies of ancient Babylon, Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Judea, and China.

Harry Gensler mentions that “the golden rule is best interpreted as saying: ‘Treat others only as you would consent to being treated in the same situation.’ To apply it, you'd imagine yourself on the receiving end of the action in the exact place of the other person (which includes having the other person's likes and dislikes). If you act in a given way toward another, and yet are unwilling to be treated that way in the same circumstances, then you violate the rule.”

The Golden Rule has received a lot of criticism as we don’t all have the same likes and dislikes and questions the basic assumption that others would want to be treated like we would, in the first place.

George Bernard Shaw commented that if your values are not shared with others, the way you want to be treated will not be the way they want to be treated; stating that the sadist is just a masochist who follows the golden rule. An example of an inconsistency of the Golden Rule would be a man walking into a bar looking for a fight.

Further, the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) famously criticised the golden rule for not being sensitive to differences of situation, noting that a prisoner duly convicted of a crime could appeal to the Golden Rule while asking the judge to release him, pointing out that the judge would not want anyone else to send him to prison, so he should not do so to others.

Gensler states “that to apply the golden rule adequately, we need knowledge and imagination. We need to know what effect our actions have on the lives of others. And we need to be able to imagine ourselves, vividly and accurately, in the other person's place on the receiving end of the action. With knowledge, imagination, and the golden rule, we can progress far in our moral thinking.”

In US history, President John F. Kennedy appealed to the Golden Rule in a 1963 anti-segregation speech at the time of the first black enrolment at the University of Alabama. He asked white members of the audience to consider what it would be like to be treated as second class citizens because of the colour of their skin. He asked whites to imagine themselves being black and being told that they could not participate in voting, or go to the better public schools or eat at public restaurants or sit at the front of the bus. Would whites be content to be treated that way? He was sure that they wouldn’t and yet he noted that this is what that particular demonstration was all about. He further said that the “heart of the question is whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.”

Marilyn Lustgarten makes a great point when she states “treat people like assets and they’ll create wealth,” which might be a play on the golden rule, but is surely worth remembering in the business environment.

But how often in business do we take the time to think about the Golden Rule and treating people like we would want to be treated. Does an effective leader need to apply the Golden Rule consistently or is there a time and a place when the Golden Rule doesn’t apply?

Gensler concludes by mentioning that “the golden rule is best seen as a consistency principle. It doesn't replace regular moral norms. It only prescribes that our actions (toward another) aren’t out of harmony with our desires (toward a reversed situation action). It tests our moral coherence. If we violate the golden rule, then we're violating the spirit of fairness and concern that lie at the heart of morality.”


Gensler, H. [On-line] philosophy/ gensler/ goldrule.htm [last updated: unknown] Reviewed 3rd July, 2011.

Lustgarten, M [On-line] artman/ publish/ article 12.shtml [last updated: unknown] Reviewed 3rd July, 2011.

The Golden Rule [On-line] pubs/ golden.pdf [last updated: unknown] Reviewed 3rd July 2011.