This continues my thoughts on SIOP 2015 about Big Data. In that article, I described how I/O psychologists can meaningfully position themselves as the “meaning-makers” of Big Data. But what I worry about is that I/O psychologists will not take the opportunity to become proactive in regards to innovative technology.
To date, we have almost universally been reactive, and as has been common in this situation, a new innovation is signified by a flurry of conference activity followed by near-silence in the academic literature.
To illustrate, I remember when the idea of “maybe social media is important” hit the SIOP conference maybe 3 or 4 years ago. The first year, there were a couple of presentations on social media. The next year, there were at least five or six, several standing-room only. This year, there were two again. I imagine next year it will decrease to one or none. In all these years, the I/O research literature has added maybe two papers on the topic, although a fair amount of research on workplace social media has appeared in non-I/O journals. And – surprise – social media is still a concern for those in the field.
I think what this represents is interest in the practitioner community – specifically, someone has asked what their informed, I/O opinion is on this new technology – yet the research literature remain mostly silent. In the absence of empirical research, the practitioner community develops its own internal understanding of the technology and then stops talking about it at SIOP. Thus the issue remains a concern in the field while few contribute empirical research. Decisions are made based upon rules of thumb and gut reactions.
This situation is not tenable if I/O hopes its research to be applied to the modern workplace. We risk the same pattern followed by newly minted MBAs and teachers – a brain full of knowledge from school that is discarded within the first year of “real” work. If we want I/Os to continue applying research on the organizational front lines, we need to craft more relevant research.
I don’t mean to imply by this that the responsibility lies solely with the academics. We seem to have forgotten the scientist-practitioner model, which does not imply that there are both scientist and practitioners, but rather that all I/O psychologists should be both scientists and practitioners. The harsh realities of billable hours make this balance difficult for people in the field, but more must be done. We must increase academic-practitioner partnerships for the good of our field, to produce research at the forefront of new organizational phenomena.
And perhaps it goes without saying, but if you have or are considering such a technology, give me a call!!
Somehow, every year, SIOP rises a little bit in intensity for me. There are a few more sessions I need to attend, a few more people I need to connect with, and a few more drinks I need to space out better throughout each evening. This particular year, things reached a fever pitch when I got a bit of long-term news mid-conference: I have been granted tenure at ODU! I suppose that means this blog wasn’t such a horrible idea after all.
One of the reasons for this ramp-up in conference intensity for me is the increasing focus at the SIOP conference on technology. It is a change I honestly was skeptical would ever happen; in fact, in our primary journals, it really still hasn’t. But at our annual conference, at least, there is a growing recognition and appreciation for technology research related to workplace behavior. This year, the focus was clearly Big Data, with about a dozen presentations on Big Data specifically and another dozen or so on related approaches, such as workforce analytics. One thing that became apparent quite quickly was that Big Data presentations all had essentially the same content, which I can summarize for you here: Big Data is complicated, Big Data provides answers to questions we didn’t know we had, Big Data can’t answer causal questions, and Big Data is so complicated that I/Os don’t really understand how it works. Depending upon whom you ask, this last part is either a huge problem or a huge opportunity.
The problem is obvious, but the opportunity is complicated. On one hand, there is a perception there is an opportunity for I/O to “take over” Big Data. There were many presentations about how Big Data is just an extension of what we already do, how we’ve already been doing Big Data for years, how Big Data is nothing new, etc. These are all based upon false assumptions, primarily driven by a misunderstanding of what Big Data actually involves. On the other hand is the viewpoint I endorse,which is that Big Data is an opportunity either 1) for I/O to enter a new era of interdisciplinarity, cooperating with computer/data scientists in a way we never have before or 2) for I/O to begin training graduate students in computer science so that can eventually be in a place to contribute meaningfully. Or maybe both.
There is some movement on both fronts. In terms of I/O training, one of the questions asked at one of the panels I was on was if computer programming should be taught to new I/O PhD students. I think it should, and I’ve been teaching it for a few years now. But one doctoral I/O program is not enough to make a dent in Big Data, and definitely not any time soon.
In terms of interdisciplinarity, businesses are beginning to realize that Big Data is not the solution to every problem, and this is a very promising shift for our field. As evidenced in part by this article in the New York Times, Big Data must be paired with might be called “small data” in order to fully understand any particular organizational phenomenon. The definition of “small data” could very well be “what I/O psychologists do.” It involves carefully validated surveys, a strong command of the research literature, and the interpretation of data based in expertise surrounding both. If we take that approach – that we are the meaning-makers for the Big Data folks – I think I/O will find a very comfortable position within the Big Data movement, one which neither sacrifices how we define ourselves nor pretends that change isn’t in the water.
The 2015 Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology conference has concluded, and I am honestly still reeling a bit! Below is an archive of my Twitter activity during the conference (much like I did last year), which includes a variety of both between- and mid-session tweets. I don’t know if this is useful to anyone but me, but I’ll be using this plus the notes I took during the conference to form more complete reactions which I’ll be posting in about a week. For now, I’ve bolded the tweets that I think captured something particularly meaningful I experienced during the conference and want to think more about.
|Monday April 20|
|14:31:17||NeoAcademic: SIOP 2015: Schedule Planning for Big Data, Mobile, and Gamification (http://t.co/9FUtpT2zwo) #SIOP #siop15|
|15:58:57||@ericknud Glad to help! There is certainly plenty to choose from this year.|
|Wednesday April 22|
|02:19:44||Yes, gonna be great!! @BelindaK04 @kevinimpelman @chloelemelle @JohnMuros @SIOPtweets|
|02:23:35||Is @mubrewery where you find MEANing at the bottom of every pint?!? *rimshot* @BelindaK04 @kevinimpelman @chloelemelle @JohnMuros|
|02:26:32||I think #siop2015 tweeters are just outing themselves at first time #siop tweeters – show the newcomers some love, #siop15|
|Thursday April 23|
|13:35:47||#siop15 starting high energy at the opening plenary!|
|13:39:34||Not sure how I feel about these new opening plenary production values #siop15|
|13:48:57||Congrats to ODU’s own Debra Major on her #siop15 award!!|
|13:57:32||A standing ovation for Frank Schmidt, who doesn’t sound all that retired #siop15|
|14:04:11||Is this narrator the same guy that does museum videos? #siop15|
|14:14:23||I’m liking Hakel’s speed-slide approach #siop15|
|14:28:19||RT: “Nobody likes losing to a former grad student -Steve Kozlowski #SIOP15″|
|14:48:26||Too many old timers set in their ways for a quick Revolucion, but I am curious and hopeful for how far Cortina will get #siop15|
|15:43:03||Hearing about tech and IO – we are often trailing and research moves too slowly #siop15|
|15:58:39||“Just don’t do what the client wants” is a kind of clueless advice given to practitioners that harms academic trustworthiness #siop15|
|16:17:52||Another disconnect between IOs and tech folks – not understanding limitations of SaaS in terms of customization #siop15|
|16:49:29||When someone says anything IO is part science part art, I only agree if art is defined as “science we haven’t done yet” #siop15 #techandIO|
|17:13:13||There is little worse to watch than a low energy, falling over themselves IGNITE #doesntliketrainwrecks #siop15|
|23:56:04||Sort of odd to realize that the opening plenary was the time I’ll be most awake for all of #SIOP15|
|Friday April 24|
|05:12:00||The midnight #siop15 question as always: would that 8am session be worth it?|
|14:18:33||Had a dream that I accidentally missed an 8am #siop15 session and then accidentally missed an 8am #siop15 session #thematrix|
|14:30:12||Great #siop15 IGNITE overview of assessment games and simulation by @WorkPsy|
|14:35:12||@Kdooley85 @WorkPsy Seems to be a vast untapped behavioral assessment landscape!|
|14:40:29||Call for IOs to be more involved in tech initiatives related to learning by @TRPoeppelman at #siop15 – don’t let tech ignore the human|
|14:47:20||@neilmorelli very excited about mobile potential; tech frameworks are a great idea but I’ve had our journals say “this isn’t psych”! #siop15|
|17:16:20||Big Data COI discrepant definitions of Big Data… Reflecting disagreements at all levels… “dust bowl empiricism” mentioned too #siop15|
|17:52:05||RT: “I-O psychology should devote focus to testing established theories, but top-tier journals only want “interesting” and “new” theories #SIOP15″|
|18:54:48||Time to harness the power of text! #siop15|
|19:00:39||@mayamansour_ Completing your own projects successfully doesn’t mean you can lead others well. Just look at many professors!! #siop15|
|19:01:33||RT: “If you missed out on this 2-for-1 deal today, shoot me a message and I’ll send you the papers! #gamification #SIOP15 http://t.co/6SCsAKjBOr”|
|19:05:46||Important to get a “feel” for text data; easy to mislead yourself if you rely on summaries…but that means we need better summaries #siop15|
|19:28:39||A #siop15 gift to me: I found out that I’ve been tenured at #ODU!|
|19:45:13||@Aaron_Kraus Thank you!|
|19:46:25||@ericknud Ha! That is a game I could have played much better!!|
|19:51:08||RT: “@rnlanders Congrats! I would have made sure to go to #SIOP15 if I knew one of the pieces of swag was tenure!”|
|Saturday April 25|
|00:01:15||In some ways, the reverse-escalator pass-by is the ideal #siop15 meeting|
|13:10:37||@AlSchwall Thanks! We have that distinction in stats too – some learn the nuts and bolts, others apply. Both can be useful.|
|13:11:51||@nojope Thank you! It has been an interesting ride.|
|13:13:48||Side effect of #siop15 8am sessions: no mad assault on the coffee and pastry tables #stillnotworthit|
|13:16:50||RT: “Coming up next: Game-Thinking in Assessment. Room 309-310 from 9-10 AM. #SIOP15 @rnlanders http://t.co/SWPbH2p1nZ”|
|13:40:12||Video presenter is defining #gamification quite narrowly… multiple very specific features… Maybe useful but required? #siop15|
|13:40:58||Goal of learning game is not necessarily to teach but to change learning culture… Interesting challenge #siop15|
|13:42:44||@IOSyIslam Been teaching programming to IO grad students for about 5 years now… Ahead of the curve I guess! #siop15|
|15:48:01||Being IGNITEd about research in organizations… Or maybe, about moving beyond it #siop15|
|17:34:06||@StefaniYorges So we did! The small world that is IO, right? Thanks so much!!|
|17:46:49||RT: “So who else is going to miss being able to stop at Reading Terminal Market for lunch? #SIOP15″|
|17:48:35||Still have same problems with social media selection… You can’t unsee gender, religion, etc from a casual profile review #siop15|
|17:49:24||@drb8618 “nerd” is a badge of honor at #siop15, right?|
|17:53:50||Someone in a #siop15 audience, in university hiring, recruiting on Facebook led to a drop in applications among Millennials #creepfactor|
|18:11:53||IOs don’t need to be experts in everything, but we ARE experts in selecting experts – and that is a strength to play to re: tech #siop15|
|19:05:30||@nojope I mentioned that at the session actually – I call it sanitization – could be done well, but sanitizing rules aren’t clear yet|
|19:06:09||@nojope e.g. what if a person uses race-signaling language or talking about stereotypical activities? Probably wouldn’t be screened|
|19:08:12||Lack of assessment mobile optimization seems to affect early dropout rate #siop15|
|19:09:02||AND time to completion on mobile is longer – paradox here? Do people want to save time with mobile but actually do the opposite? #siop15|
|21:48:04||#siop15 closing plenary takeaway: I really should have gone into painting and selling colored circles|
|Sunday April 26|
|15:20:55||RT: “Apparently I decided to leave my voice in Philly. So long #SIOP15!”|