Bottom Line: Marketers should consider outside influences when designing product names, packaging, and marketing messages.
Slice of Life
Title: Thin Slices of Negotiation: Predicting Outcomes from Conversational Dynamics within the First Five Minutes
Authors: Jared R. Curhan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Alex Pentland (email@example.com)
Available Online: Click here.
Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 best-selling book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking highlighted the ability of human beings to make accurate judgments based on first impressions — or “thin slices” of observational data. In that book, Gladwell cited a 1992 study of married couples that accurately predicted those heading for divorce in the next six years based solely on observing three minutes of a marital dispute. This paper examines whether similar observational data can be used to predict the outcome of negotiations. (See “The Science of Subtle Signals,” by Mark Buchanan, s+b, Autumn 2007.) The authors asked more than 100 graduate students enrolled in an MBA course on organizational behavior to role-play an employment negotiation between a middle manager candidate interested in moving to a different department and an internal recruiter who is also a vice president in the organization. The parties were graded on their ability to negotiate favorable results for themselves. In some instances — such as when discussing salary or potential start dates — the middle manager and vice president had different objectives; the middle manager was seeking high wages and a first day that was convenient to him or her, while the vice president was protecting the company’s interests. For other issues, such as settling on a new job assignment for the middle manager, a mutually beneficial resolution was the best conclusion and earned the maximum points. The mock meetings were recorded, and the first five minutes of conversation analyzed by computer for vocal quality and conversational interaction.
Four factors influenced the outcome of the sessions: activity (the amount of time a person was speaking), engagement (the ebb and flow of the dialogue and who controlled it), emphasis (variation in pitch and volume), and mirroring (empathy shown by imitating the behavior of the other person). The vice president garnered a more favorable outcome when he or she spoke more often and maintained control of the conversation. The middle manager, in turn, benefited when using mirroring characteristics to communicate with the more senior colleague.
For both vice presidents and middle managers, too much emphasis was a negative factor in the first five minutes.
Bottom Line: People in organizations who understand when to use each of these four factors are more likely to get what they want.
Title: Productivity Effects of Information Diffusion in Networks
Authors: Sinan Aral (firstname.lastname@example.org), Erik Brynjolfsson (email@example.com), and Marshall Van Alstyne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Available Online: Click here.
It’s critical to distribute information quickly and reliably throughout an organization. Today, e-mail is the primary means of information dispersal, but is it the most efficient? The authors analyzed 10 months’ worth of e-mail (more than 125,000 messages in total), as well as five years of revenue data and employee interactions at a midsized executive recruiting firm. They identified two types of information that employees shared with one another. The first was “event news”: simple, declarative messages, about such news as forthcoming layoffs or a significant change in top management, that were spread both vertically and laterally throughout the organization in a rapid and pervasive manner. The information moved quickly among employees with little regard to reporting relationships. The second type was labeled “discussion topics”: more specific and procedural communications, with the information tending to be more complex and relevant to accomplishing specific tasks. Discussions were influenced by functional relationships and the strength of ties between people. This type of information was shared by colleagues who worked closely together and moved vertically up and down the organization.