Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

September 2021: Rotman professors on creating an autonomous work culture, AI, Canada’s innovation strategy and more

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Tiziana Casciaro, Laura Derksen, Richard Florida, Sarah Kaplan, Sam Maglio, Nitin Mehta, Adriana Robertson

In September, experts at the Rotman School weighed in on podcasts and in opinion pieces, on how power operates, creating a balanced workforce, fueling Canada’s growth through innovation, AI technologies and trends and more.

In a recent article for The Toronto Star, Tiziana Casciaro, a professor of organizational behaviour and human resource management, and Harvard Professor Julie Battilana explored how giving employees the flexibility to work more autonomously can create a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer.

“Making this leap toward employee autonomy requires companies to understand that power is not a zero-sum game. Empowering employees does not mean relinquishing power; it means creating mutually beneficial work relationships.”

The column was based on Profs. Casciaro and Battilana’s recent book, Power, for All: How It Really Works and Why It's Everyone's Business (Simon & Schuster, 2021), which examines how power operates.

Meanwhile, Sarah Kaplan, a Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy and the director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy, was a guest on the ChamberBreaker’s podcast. She discussed how fixing gendered capitalism means tackling everything from changing the language in job ads, to finding new ways to support diversity in entrepreneurship, to creating fairer promotion processes. Kaplan recommends managers step aside and step in front to create a more balanced system and provide equal opportunities to all.

“This stepping aside is giving up some of the positions that you have achieved because of your own privilege and ceding that to other people,” she says, adding that ceding opportunities that you actually want — such as appearing on a panel — can create openings for other people who are equally qualified but have been overlooked. Stepping in front could mean cancelling a job search if there is not a diverse enough panel, or promoting and championing people from more diverse communities, even if you have to face a backlash.”

On a different note, you may have heard the saying “talk with your mind before you talk with your tongue.” In addition to creating unintended consequences, an off-humour joke may be perceived very differently based on the gender of the narrator. That’s the highlight of the column co-authored by Sam Maglio, an associate professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School in The Wall Street Journal. Through a sequence of experimental research, Maglio and his research colleagues discovered “when the jokes go wrong, people think that women are more attentive to their audience than men, which leads people to view female humour errors as less serious than those of men.”  Nevertheless, females need to be vigilant in making a bad joke as “women are penalized just as much as men when people have reason to believe that women are trying to show off by telling jokes.”

Elsewhere, Adriana Robertson, an associate professor of law and finance at UofT’s Faculty of Law and the Rotman School provides insights into what’s really going on behind the scenes at “passive” ETFs and index funds in her recent interview with the Keep Calm and Carry On Investing podcast.

With the ongoing fourth wave of the COVID-19 virus affecting provinces across Canada, Laura Derksen, an assistant professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the Rotman School, says that vaccination is the key in preventing another lockdown. “Vaccines work a lot better than masks to prevent both COVID infection and COVID transmission. Without vaccines, masks are not enough.” In her column published in The Toronto Star, Derksen suggests, in addition to the vaccination and mask mandates, “We also need to target those at higher risk of infection, and workplaces more prone to outbreaks. This means expanding vaccine access, education, and vaccine policy. The Toronto District School Board has already mandated vaccination among teachers. This should be extended to all child-care workers, especially those working with young children who cannot be vaccinated themselves.”

Despite COVID-19 concerns, the Canadian federal election went ahead to determine the future leadership of the country. Ahead of the election in an column for The Globe & Mail, Daniel Trefler, J. Douglas and Ruth Canada Research chair in Competitiveness and Prosperity at the Rotman School, and Daniel Breznitz of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, explained the key to fuelling Canada’s innovation is to formulate a comprehensive innovation policy that would have a meaningful impact on the country’s economy and society.

Nitin Mehta, a professor of marketing, and his research colleagues co-authored an article for Harvard Business Review on how firms can mitigate the human biases and bridge the economic consequences arising from the growing use of artificial intelligence algorithms.  

“The common data science-driven approaches including processing data and calibrating model specifications are insufficient and inefficient. For business to best combat algorithmic bias issues, considering the perception and adoption of algorithms and the market conditions like the ones we have described should be a major part of rolling out algorithmic tools.”

Continuing with the subject of AI, Richard Florida of the Rotman School and UofT’s School of Cities looked at a new report from the Brookings Institution in a column for Bloomberg CityLab. The report says AI threatens to reinforce or magnify the same geographically uneven patterns of previous high-technology industries that are concentrated in leading tech hubs and superstar cities across the U.S.

Tiziana Casciaro is a professor of organizational behaviour at the Rotman School of Management and holds the Jim Fisher Professorship in Leadership Development at the University of Toronto. Her most recent book co-authored with Julie Battilana, is Power, for All: How It Really Works and Why It's Everyone's Business (Simon & Schuster, 2021). 

Laura Derksen is an assistant professor of strategic management and Amgen Canada professor in health system strategy at the University of Toronto Mississauga with a cross-appointment to the Rotman School.

Richard Florida is a professor at the Rotman School and the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. He is author of the global best-sellers The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and Cities and the Creative Class, as well as Who's Your City?.

Sarah Kaplan is director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy and a distinguished professor of gender and the economy, and a professor of strategic management at the Rotman School. Her latest book, The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation was published in September 2019.

Sam Maglio is an associate professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, with a cross-appointment to the marketing area at Rotman. He conducts research at the interface of cognition, motivation, and emotion, with an emphasis on implications for consumer behaviour.

Nitin Mehta is a professor of marketing at the Rotman School. His research focuses on structural models of consumer search, multi-category choices, imperfect recall and learning, consumers' healthcare decisions, adoption of AI by firms and consumers, and the societal impact of AI.

Adriana Robertson is the honourable Justice Frank Iacobucci chair in Capital Markets Regulation and an associate professor of law and finance at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and Rotman School of Management. She is also the head of research and policy at the University of Toronto Capital Markets Institute. Her research focuses on the intersection of law and finance.