“Demystifying Organizations” Podcast

Coordinating human activity toward a single goal

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I love podcasts.  The 30 or so in my rotation have supplemented my education, made me a more interesting person at social events and allowed me to survive 5am mornings with my 1-year old.  This new format brings some of the most interesting and innovative people alive to your earbuds for free, on demand.  Given my interest (obsession), it should come as no surprise that as a business professor at Washington and Lee University I assign a “walking to class podcast” for each class meeting.  In my organizational behavior classes I introduce students to This American Life, Reply All, Radiolab and Invisibilia, just to name a few.

While students are exposed to this new “radio 2.0,” I sometimes get comments such as “wait, how exactly does this Ira Glass story connect to employee well-being?”  Fair point. I explain how each podcast gives the class helpful background material or how a particular interview sheds light on a related topic.  But still, I have found that my justifications fall on deaf ears.  And then one class, a student of mine said “Professor, you want podcasts that explain how to improve organizations, what about creating an organizational behavior podcast of your own,” and so the idea was born.

This coming January, while I am on sabbatical, I will be launching the “Demystifying Organizations Podcast,” an interview-based organizational behavior program that takes some of the more abstract concepts in my field—well-being, motivation, goal-setting, leadership, etc.—and make them accessible to a large audience.  The modern organization is one of the most fraught and challenging of human endeavors— it is messy and chaotic, even in the best of circumstances. Coordinating action between individuals who have differing personal goals, values and personalities can feel like an insurmountable task; and yet research shows that attachment to organizations helps form a sense of identity, meaning and the positive emotions that can only come from participation in a “greater good.”  We organizational psychologists ask big questions such as “How can you get thousands of people to work toward a single goal and make a team greater than the sum of its parts?”  “How can leaders convince employees to act in a manner that is beyond their own narrow self-interests?” “What is a good work-life?” 

To help answer these questions and others, in “Demystifying Organizations” I will be interviewing business executives, academics, government officials, and thought leaders to provide listeners with specific, bite-sized episodes that showcase stories and the theoretical foundations to actually apply organizational concepts to their work, and hopefully to their lives more broadly.  I hope this podcast can be enjoyed by a diverse set of listeners across a wide range of organizations.  Thus far, I have booked some incredible guests that include Daniel Pink and Harvard Professor Gary Pisano, among many others.

As Adam Grant says it is the role of organizational behavior to “make work suck less,” and it is my aim that this podcast can do just that.

Jeff Schatten is a business administration professor at Washington and Lee University

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