Workshop brings together organizational psychology, engineering design leaders

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new workshop organized by Alicia Grandey, professor of psychology at Penn State, brought together leaders in the fields of organizational psychology, business and engineering design to advance the science of organizations through interactions between these disciplines.

The National Science Foundation funded the workshop, which was titled “Work Climate in Organizations.” Tim Simpson, Penn State professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and engineering design, also assisted in organizing the event.

“A key point of our workshop is that, despite attempts to design and optimize creativity and production using rational algorithms based on rigorous decision theory, in the end, people in groups make decisions and engage in behaviors that are not always rational, due to the climate in which they work,” said Grandey. “Unfortunately, organizations are often studied through only one lens, at the detriment of complete understanding of productive and innovative workplaces.”

While engineers tend to focus on optimizing the process, psychologists tend to focus on optimizing the people, and business scholars tend to focus on optimizing the organizational context. Grandey and Simpson brought together 45 scholars and students in the three fields because they believe moving forward requires cross-disciplinary discussions from scholars across academic silos.

“Innovations frequently occur at the intersection of different disciplines, and the NSF workshop provided a unique opportunity to bring together an interdisciplinary set of researchers to share their discipline-specific views on how innovation occurs and identify new ways to work across disciplines to improve how we manage and foster innovation,” Simpson said.

Graduate students from select programs in the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering were also invited to attend the workshops for free. Melissa Gutworth, a fifth-year doctoral student studying industrial/organizational psychology, appreciated the opportunity to interact with experts in her field.

“It was interesting to hear about how some of the top researchers from varying fields tackled the same concept from different perspectives," Gutworth said. "The experience helped me to think about my own research in new ways.”

“Penn State has depth in all three of these areas,” said Simpson. “The workshop was a great chance to learn more about what my colleagues are doing here in other colleges and find new partnerships to pursue new studies, projects and funding opportunities to improve innovation in industry.”

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Last Updated June 23, 2016