Vicarious learning — individual learning that occurs through being exposed to and making meaning from another’s experience — has long been recognized as a driver of individual, team, and organizational success. Yet existing perspectives on this critical learning process have remained fairly limited, often casting vicarious learning as simply an intrapersonal, one-way process of observation and imitation. Largely absent in prior perspectives is a consideration of the relational dynamics and underlying behaviors by which individuals learn vicariously through interacting with others, rendering these perspectives less useful for understanding learning in the increasingly interconnected work of modern organizations. Integrating theories of experiential learning and symbolic interactionism, I offer a theoretical model of coactive vicarious learning, a relational process of coconstructed, interpersonal learning that occurs through discursive interactions between individuals at work. I explore how these interactions involve the mutual processing of another’s experience; are influenced by characteristics of the individual, relational, and structural context in organizations; and lead to growth not only in individuals’ knowledge but also in their individual and relational capacity for learning and applying knowledge. I close by discussing the implications of this conceptual model for the understanding and practice of vicarious learning in organizations.
There are typically two ways people try to deal with work stress. One is to simply “buckle down and power through”—to focus on getting the stressful work done. Professional workers often have a “bias for action” and want to find a solution quickly. The other common tactic is to retreat—to temporarily disconnect from work and get away from the stressful environment. Unfortunately, both of these approaches have pitfalls. Continuing to work while stressed and fatigue can tax us and lead to worse performance. And while a reprieve from work can offer temporary relief, it doesn’t address the underlying issues causing the stress in the first place. Research suggests a third option might be more effective at helping us manage stress and its effects: focusing on learning. This can mean picking up a new skill, gathering new information, or seeking out intellectual challenges. In two recent research projects, one with employees from a variety of industries and organizations, and the other with medical residents, researchers found evidence that engaging in learning activities can buffer workers from detrimental effects of stress including negative emotions, unethical behavior, and burnout.
Increasing attention has been paid to the selection of otolaryngology residents, a highly competitive process but one with room for improvement. A recent commentary in this journal recommended that residency programs more thoroughly incorporate theory and evidence from personnel psychology (part of the broader field of organizational science) in the resident selection process. However, the focus of this recommendation was limited to applicants’ cognitive abilities and independent work-oriented traits (eg, conscientiousness). We broaden this perspective to consider critical interpersonal skills and traits that enhance resident effectiveness in interdependent health care organizations and we expand beyond the emphasis on selection to consider how these skills can be honed during residency. We advocate for greater use of standardized team-based care simulations, which can aid in assessing and developing the key interpersonal leadership skills necessary for success as an otolaryngology resident.
Citation Frimpong, J.A., Myers, C.G., Sutcliffe, K.M., & Lu-Myers, Y. (2017, June). When health care providers look at problems from multiple perspectives, patients benefit. Harvard Business Review, Digital article. https://hbr.org/2017/06/when-health-care-providers-look-at-problems-from-multiple-perspectives-patients-benefit/
Summary Health care providers have vastly different ways of seeing and treating patients, as differences in profession, specialty, experience, or background lead them to pay attention to particular signals or cues, and influence how they approach problems. While diverse perspectives and approaches to care are important, if they are not managed appropriately, they can cause misunderstandings, bias decision-making, and get in the way of the best care.
Citation Myers, C.G., Sutcliffe, K.M., & Lu-Myers, Y. (2017, February). Dr. Jamie Thompson: Diagnosing an organizational issue. WDI Case No. 1-430-501. Ann Arbor, MI: WDI Publishing.
Myers, C.G., Sutcliffe, K.M., & Lu-Myers, Y. (2017, February). Dr. Jamie Thompson: Diagnosing an organizational issue – Teaching note. WDI Teaching Note No. 1-430-501. Ann Arbor, MI: WDI Publishing.
Summary Dr. Jamie Thompson: Diagnosing an Organizational Issue describes a challenging decision faced by Dr.
Citation Myers, C.G. (2016). Antecedents and performance benefits of reciprocal vicarious learning in teams. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2016. https://doi.org/10.5465/ambpp.2016.55
Conference Award Received the 2016 MOC Division Best Dissertation-based Paper Award
Abstract Vicarious learning - the process by which an individual learns from another’s experience - has long been recognized as a source of development and performance improvement in organizations, at both individual and collective levels. Yet existing perspectives on this critical learning process have been fairly limited, typically casting vicarious learning as a simplistic, one- way process of observation and imitation.
Citation Kopelman, S., Hardin, A.E., Myers, C.G., & Tost, L.P. (2016). Cooperation in multicultural negotiations: How the cultures of people with low and high power interact. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(5), 721–730. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000065
Abstract This study examined whether the cultures of low- and high-power negotiators interact to influence cooperative behavior of low-power negotiators. Managers from 4 different cultural groups (Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, and the United States) negotiated face-to-face in a simulated power-asymmetric commons dilemma.
Citation Marchiondo, L.A., Myers, C.G., & Kopelman, S. (2015). The relational nature of leadership identity construction: How and when it influences perceived leadership and decision-making. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(5), 892–908. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2015.06.006
Abstract This paper empirically tests leadership identity construction theory (DeRue & Ashford, 2010), conceptually framing claiming and granting leadership as a negotiated process that influences leader- ship perceptions and decision-making in interdependent contexts. In Study 1a, an avatar video- based experimental vignette (replicated in Study 1b with a non-video scenario), we found that when a team member accepted an actor’s leadership claim, observers’ leadership ratings of the actor increased, whereas when the team member rejected the claim, observers’ leadership ratings of the fellow team member increased.
Citation Chen, P., Myers, C.G., Kopelman, S., & Garcia, S.M. (2012). The hierarchical face: Higher rankings lead to less cooperative looks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), 479–486. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026308
Abstract In 3 studies, we tested the hypothesis that the higher ranked an individual’s group is, the less cooperative the facial expression of that person is judged to be. Study 1 established this effect among business school deans, with observers rating individuals from higher ranked schools as appearing less cooperative, despite lacking prior knowledge of the latters’ actual rankings.