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2023 USC Marshall Research Fair

2023 USC Marshall Research Fair

Scholars present their latest research on the impacts of new technology —March 10 from 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m. in the USC Hotel Grand Ballroom.

Graphic of 2023 USC Marshall Research Fair

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Five scholars from across USC Marshall departments will present their recent research at the 2023 Research Fair, to be held March 10, 2023, from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. in the Ronald Tutor Center Grand Ballroom located on USC Hotel Grand Ballroom.

The Research Fair originated in 2016 and has been a well-attended event since then, even during the pandemic when the fair was held remotely. This year’s fair will also be streamed live.

This year’s participants share research that takes a deep dive into how technological innovation is impacting everything from market demand to information sharing, digital platforms, and business education.

“From its inception, the Marshall Research Fair has been an opportunity to showcase the exciting research done by our faculty and make it available to a wider community,” said PEER FISS, associate vice dean for research at Marshall and the Jill and Frank Fertitta Chair of Business Administration and professor of management and organization. “It has quickly become a key event for our research community, and this year we again have a terrific lineup of first-class scholars who will share their cutting edge work.”

Following are titles and summaries of the research each faculty member will discuss, in order of their scheduled appearance:

Real-Time Management in Digital Platform Ecosystems: Probing the Next Frontier

OMAR A. EL SAWY,Administration & Professor of Information Systems in the Data Sciences and Operations Department

My published work demonstrates how AI-provided workplace training can enhance employees’ job performance beyond that provided by human managers, suggesting a threat of replacement faced by human managers from AI. Yet, this boost in efficiency comes with a caveat: the impersonal nature of AI may trigger negative perceptions among employees, underscoring the irreplaceable value of human touch in management for sustaining morale and trust.

This “human touch” is exemplified by the findings of an ongoing study, in which I demonstrate how leadership that enables managers to enhance their “people skills” can create a stronger synergy with AI. In the context of workplace training, I show that managers with strong “people skills” can leverage AI assistance to help employees achieve higher performance than when employees are solely trained by AI or these managers alone. Consequently, managers with strong “people skills” foster a complementary relationship between AI and themselves. In contrast, managers with weak “people skills,” even with AI assistance, cannot enable the employees they train to outperform those trained by AI alone. Therefore, managers with weaker “people skills” continue to face the threat of being replaced by AI.

In sum, the prevalent media narrative—that AI will render humans obsolete—is a gross simplification. My findings advocate for a more nuanced approach: by leveraging the distinct strengths of AI and humans, we can craft organizational and team structures that foster complementary relationships. This synergy, which neither AI nor humans can achieve on their own, holds substantial promise for enhancing the workforce and society at large."

Nan holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Her research interests include business-governance relationships and applications of Artificial Intelligence technologies in management. Nan’s research has been published in multiple top journals in strategic management. She currently serves as an associate editor for the Strategic Management Journal and on the editorial boards of multiple leading academic journals

Experimenting with Information Sharing

SHELLEY XIN LI, Assistant Professor of Accounting

In today’s workplace, we see trends toward continuous tracking of employee activities, deeper quantification of work, and the rise of enterprise social networks. How should organizations use these information sharing technologies to drive performance? Below, I summarize three field experiments we conducted with collaborating companies.

In the first field experiment, we examined how providing frontline employees with direct access to performance data (compared to getting feedback through managers) affected work performance. In the second field experiment, we examined the effect of sharing work itself. In a retail chain in India, we developed an app that salespeople could use to share hand-made sales posters and evaluated the effect of sharing creative work on the creativity, employee engagement, and sales performance. In the third field experiment, we worked with a large grocery chain in Europe and examine whether structured sharing of best practices would alleviate information overload in enterprise social networks and lead to better offline performance.

The Social Imaginaries of Entrepreneurship Education

R. DANIEL WADWANI PHDProfessor of Clinical Entrepreneurship

How do we make sense of such fantastical concepts as Web 3, decentralized finance, and circular economies that promise fundamental reconfigurations in the organization of business? Why are such constructs proliferating now? And what should business educators and educational institutions do about them? In this presentation, I examine major shifts in entrepreneurship education since the early nineteenth century and the role of new social imaginaries of business in driving them. I find that such shifts were based in political and moral critiques of extant business practice and business education, in addition to changes in technology and organization. I use those findings to draw out implications for business education today.

Business Communication Technology and Our Attitudes Toward It

Stephen Lind, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship

"In my research, I study how the social conversation around technologies impacts their adoption. In this talk, I look at the impact of digital technologies on craft authenticity. Webster’s word of the year for 2023 was “authentic,” the characteristic of being genuine or real. But ironically, authenticity claims hide as much as they reveal – they’re at least somewhat opaque, especially in craft. Craft has long relied on human skill and talent, which is tacit or unable to be easily codified or fully explained.

And while craft has long been used technology, its mediation by digital technologies has increased its opacity while also making it less reliant on human knowledge and skill. I address this negotiation with digital technology, an important yet overlooked research question in the study of craft authenticity. I propose a framework for how craft producers can navigate the changing tensions of craft authenticity and offer examples to help clarify its application. I conclude by discussing how the question applies across other 'authenticity markets,' including AI."

"Managing through Controversies"

EMILY NIX, Assistant Professor of Finance and Business Economics

"Managers and CEOs must provide thoughtful leadership in challenging situations, from reacting to worker misbehavior to deciding how to position their firms in an increasingly polarized socio-political environment. Yet leaders often have little hard evidence to rely on when making these decisions.

This presentation will explore two challenging choices managers face. First, in an increasingly polarized sociopolitical environment, firms are more frequently publicly engaging in politically and socially controversial issues, including guns, climate change, global conflicts, and abortion rights. Such engagement may be a positive signal for value-aligned current or prospective workers but could alienate those with differing viewpoints. The proliferation of firms and universities engaging in sociopolitical dialogue raises an important question: What are the consequences for these firms from engaging in socially or politically controversial topics, particularly when it comes to their workforce?

Second, #MeToo demonstrated that workplace harassment and assault are all too common. How do these incidents impact victims, perpetrators, and the broader workforce? What role can management play in exacerbating or mitigating these costs?

My research provides answers to these questions, leveraging unique big data from tax records, the police, Indeed, and Glassdoor to provide new insights to guide future choices."

Emily Nix holds a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University. She is a labor economist who studies the economic impacts of violence against women, the gender income gap, and inequality. Her research and expertise have been featured in Bloomberg, The Economist, the Financial Times, the Guardian, NPR, the Washington Post, and more. Her papers have been published in top economics journals, such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies,and Journal of Labor Economics.She has served as a consultant to both the Federal Reserve and the World Bank. Nix is also an award-winning teacher who made news in 2020 when she created a DIY light board to enhance the remote learning experience for her students, and has won multiple Golden Apple awards, the Dr. Douglas Basil Award, and an Excellence in Teaching Award.