Faculty Recognition - Ryan Jacobson
September 25, 2018 - Leslie Venzuela
It’s Friday at 4:30, the end of the work week, and you’re having a garage sale on Saturday morning. You haven’t bought the price stickers for your merchandise yet – it’s been a tough few days and you’re tired. You pass the company supply closet; aren’t there blank stickers in there? If you took a sheet, who would notice? It will save you some time, it won’t hurt the company’s bottom line, and after all, nobody uses those stickers anyway. And no one is watching.
No one, that is, except for researchers in the Anderson School of Management’s new Behavioral Lab in the McKinnon Center for Management, who study a variety of forms of workplace behavior, including workplace deviance. The new state-of-the-art facility, spearheaded by Dr. Ryan Jacobson, an Anderson Alumni endowed Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, serves as a valuable resource for both students, instructors, and research faculty. Within the lab suite, which consists of multiple specialized rooms and technological equipment to facilitate a variety of types of behavioral research studies, researchers collect and analyze data on topics relevant to the science of human behavior applied to management principles. One aspect of behavior examined by the researchers is deviant conduct in the workplace, such as bullying, rumor-mongering, and time fraud. "The focus is to understand why people engage in these behaviors," says Dr. Jacobson. "What are the situational factors that make them more or less likely, and what types of people, given their specific personality traits, values, and attitudes, are more or less likely to perpetrate them." By analyzing these behaviors, he says, researchers can not only identify the causes of these harmful actions, but also suggest proactive methods for counteracting them.
In addition to Organizational Behavior research, like the workplace deviance example, the Behavioral Lab has also facilitated high quality published research in the fields of Marketing and Accounting. Dr. Jacobson emphasizes that the lab is an interdisciplinary, Anderson-wide resource - intended to stimulate scientific investigations of behavior as they apply to multiple business fields. This mission is consistent with a burgeoning global interest in behavioral business research, both in scholarly and applied domains, that has recently spawned entirely new sub-fields like Behavioral Finance and Behavioral Accounting. The Anderson Behavioral Lab represents a cutting edge research resource that positions the school at the forefront of interdisciplinary behavioral business research—increasing the quality and applied impact of the school’s scholarly contributions.
Dr. Jacobson is also pursuing possible opportunities to generate interdisciplinary partnerships with other schools at UNM as well as the New Mexico business community. The potential is great, he says, to use lab resources and the associated technological, scientific, and data analytics expertise of its researchers to bring applied benefits to New Mexico’s business community. Possible partnerships could include customized sponsored research, facilitation of focus groups for market research, or survey design and analysis focused on topics such as leadership, job satisfaction or organizational culture.
Dr. Jacobson is also enthusiastic about the potential of the Behavioral Lab’s benefit to students. Over 6000 students have already participated in research studies conducted in the lab’s previous and more modest incarnation—thereby learning about the scientific basis for the research findings and theories discussed in their classes. Over 30 graduate students have augmented their business educations and received financial assistance by working as lab graduate assistants—gaining a highly unique opportunity to better understand the scientific approach to understanding human behavior. Two of these former graduate assistant alumni have even gone on to earn PhD’s in Management and Marketing. "A better understanding of the process of conducting behavioral research expands students’ critical thinking skills, helping them grasp the complex array of factors that affect peoples’ decisions and actions," he says. "The application of science to management can help them make a better and potentially more impactful use of their education."