Go ahead, be sarcastic
Research uncovers creative benefits — yes, benefits — in using sarcasm when people trust each other
Actor Bill Murray’s sarcastic style of humor has made him a favorite subject of Internet memes. New research from Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino and colleagues finds that sarcasm can boost creativity in those dishing it out and in those on its receiving end.
“Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.” That was how The Onion famously announced Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008.
Rather than a feel-good story trumpeting the historic occasion, the satirical publication sarcastically detailed the economic and political mess Obama would inherit (and be expected to mop up) from his first day in office. It was an unexpected and cheeky inversion of the day’s events played for laughs, that also highlighted the sobering reality the nation still faced even after the momentary celebration was over. Implicit, too, was the worry that the ascendancy of an African-American man to a previously unattainable position of global power might turn out to be a hollow victory.
Despite being the lingua franca of the Internet, sarcasm isn’t known as a sophisticated form of wit or a conversational style that wins friends. From the Greek and Latin for “to tear flesh,” sarcasm has been called “hostility disguised as humor,” the contempt-laden speech favored by smart alecks and mean girls that’s best to avoid.
But new research by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, and Li Huang of INSEAD, the European business school, finds that sarcasm is far more nuanced, and actually offers some important, overlooked psychological and organizational benefits.
“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking,” said Gino via email.
While practitioners of sarcasm have long believed intuitively that the “mental gymnastics” it requires indicate “superior cognitive processes” at work, the authors say, it hasn’t been clear until now in which direction the causal link flowed, or that sarcasm boosted creativity in those receiving it, not just those dishing it out.
“Not only did we demonstrate the causal effect of expressing sarcasm on creativity and explore the relational cost sarcasm expressers and recipients have to endure, we also demonstrated, for the first time, the cognitive benefit sarcasm recipients could reap. Additionally, for the first time, our research proposed and has shown that to minimize the relational cost while still benefiting creatively, sarcasm is better used between people who have a trusting relationship,” said Gino.
In a series of studies, participants were randomly assigned to conditions labeled sarcastic, sincere, or neutral. As part of a simulated conversation task, they then expressed something sarcastic or sincere, received a sarcastic or sincere reply, or had a neutral exchange.
“Those in the sarcasm conditions subsequently performed better on creativity tasks than those in the sincere conditions or the control condition. This suggests that sarcasm has the potential to catalyze creativity in everyone,” said Galinsky via email. “That being said, although not the focus of our research, it is possible that naturally creative people are also more likely to use sarcasm, making it an outcome instead of [a] cause in this relationship.”
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Of course, using sarcasm at work or in social situations is not without risk. It’s a communication style that can easily lead to misunderstanding and confusion or, if it’s especially harsh, bruised egos or acrimony. But if those engaged in sarcasm have developed mutual trust, there’s less chance for hurt feelings, the researchers found, and even if conflict arises, it won’t derail the creative gains for either party.
“While most previous research seems to suggest that sarcasm is detrimental to effective communication because it is perceived to be more contemptuous than sincerity, we found that, unlike sarcasm between parties who distrust each other, sarcasm between individuals who share a trusting relationship does not generate more contempt than sincerity,” said Galinsky.
More work needs to be done to better understand how the tone and content of specific kinds of sarcasm — such as sarcastic criticism, sarcastic compliments, and sarcastic bantering ― affect communication in relationships as well as the cognitive processes of individuals, Huang adds.
“We hope our research will inspire organizations and communication coaches to take a renewed look at sarcasm,” said Gino. “Instead of discouraging workplace sarcasm completely as they have been doing, they could help educate individuals about the appropriate circumstances under which sarcasm can be used. By doing so, both the individuals involved in sarcastic conversations and the organizations they belong to would benefit creatively.”
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One Life; One Love (A)
Online programs designed to help you master essential business concepts.
Eight full-time programs leading to a PhD or DBA degree.
What’s cooking in Class Notes?
One Life; One Love (A)
#harvard business press
Q. How do I cite a case study in Harvard Business Review?
Harvard Business Review – Case Studies
This format would apply to any business case including Harvard Business Review, Ivey and MIT Sloane cases:
Author(s). Name of the case. Business Case. City. Publisher. Date. Format (Print or Web) If your format is Web include the date it was accessed.
Yoffe, David B. and Renee Kim. Apple Inc in 2010. Case Study. Boston. Harvard Business Publishing, 2010. Web. 28 October 2010.
Harvard Business School Case Study
Citation elements required and general format:
Author(s). (Year). Title of case study. HBS No. number of case study. City, State abbreviation or Country of publication: Publisher.
Smith, S. (2003). Leadership. HBS No. 7-806-122. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
Eisenmann, T. Herman, K. (2006). Google, Inc. HBS No. 9-806-105. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.
In-text citation examples Harvard Business School Case Study
APA in-text citations include the author s last name, the year of publication, and the page number (for quotes), either as part of the text of your paper or in parentheses.
as the case study concluded (Smith, 2003, p. 6).
Smith reported (2003, p. 6) that the data was flawed.
Eisenmann and Herman did agree on the research findings (2006, p. 11).
as both researchers agreed (Eisenmann Herman, 2006, p. 11).
Harvard Business School s bricks-and-clicks spending spree
The inventor of the MBA is investing heavily to track changes to the global economy
Champion of the two-year course: Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria
As dean of Harvard Business School, part of Nitin Nohria’s job is to mythologise its vast campus. The inauguration last month of yet another new building offered a perfect marketing opportunity.
“One way in which one can understand the evolution of business is to just walk through HBS and see the names of the buildings,” Prof Nohria declared in a video to mark the occasion, alluding to facilities named after the likes of bankers John Pierpont Morgan, Andrew Mellon and George Fisher Baker, a father of Citigroup.
On this topic
IN Business Education
The new building, a base for executive-level courses named the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, does indeed constitute a milestone for HBS by commemorating the rise of China. It was funded with $40m from James Si-Cheng Chao, a Chinese-American businessman, and named after his late wife. It is the first building at HBS to bear the name of a woman — appropriately, as four of Mr Chao’s six daughters went to HBS — or that of an Asian-American.
Tellingly, the temporary structure that housed the dining hall for visiting executives during construction was so plush and solid that it would not have looked out of place as a permanent fixture on less-endowed campuses.
The Chao Center is just one of the more visible manifestations of the heavy spending currently under way at HBS — some arising from donations, some from its own resources — as it tries to adjust to the changing global economy.
The outlay can be tracked in the unusually detailed annual accounts that the school produces. Its 2015 fiscal year report showed its costs had on average increased faster than sales over the previous five years, dragging down its operating profit margin from 9.6 per cent to 6.6 per cent.
Although reversing this trend is a long-term priority for HBS, margins were expected to come under further pressure this decade as strategic spending continues to ramp up.
Investment in the MBA course that Harvard created more than a century ago accounts for part of the spending increase. While other business schools have diverted resources into one-year courses, such as the Masters in Management qualification aimed at recent graduates, HBS has remained wedded to the two-year MBA course catering for those with a few years of career experience.
The “core and soul of the school”, is how Prof Nohria describes the MBA in an interview with the Financial Times. “In the last five years we have been very determined to double down in some ways on the MBA,” he says.
Global MBA ranking 2016
Insead’s MBA becomes the first one-year programme to reach the number one spot
“Many of the investments we have made, they have been investments to strengthen and make even more compelling why you should spend two years in an MBA programme.”
One of those investments has been into a curriculum innovation it calls “Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development”, or “Field”, to use the inevitable acronym. This is designed to complement the more abstract discussion of case studies in the classroom. A typical project might involve travelling to China to research the market for personal computers on behalf of Intel.
Not all are convinced that it equates to real experience, however. Henry Mintzberg, a McGill University management professor, is a long-time critic of MBAs and the case method, which he sees as too theoretical. He characterises the Field innovation as “young know-nothings shooting off their mouths about things they don’t understand”.
The stubborn focus on a two-year course has its risks in a world where workers often struggle to make time for even short courses. But the Harvard MBA, which each year sucks in 900 students and levies a $64,000 annual tuition fee, is still an attractive calling card for those seeking to run the world’s biggest companies. In the past month alone, Nestlé and US industrial conglomerate Honeywell have opted to be led by HBS alumni, for instance.
In spite of its huge resources the venerable institution has not yet been able to develop a reputation for fostering entrepreneurship that is equal to its lustre in the traditional corridors of corporate power.
A round-up of free online business and management courses currently offered on Mooc platforms
An FT 2016 ranking of the best MBA programmes for entrepreneurship placed HBS in 13th position, for instance, whereas Stanford Graduate School of Business — with its strong links to Silicon Valley — came top.
Overall, HBS has this year’s second-highest FT-ranked MBA in the world, having come top in 2015 and 2014.
Harvard still has an entrepreneurial ace to play. This spring, the broader university won final approval to construct a new building next to the business school that will house the bulk of its school of engineering and applied sciences — a clear sign of desire to foster more partnerships between techies and MBAs.
Amid all the physical construction work and architects’ plans, there is another destination for HBS spending that could prove to be more significant than yet another building.
It has also been pouring money — the sum is confidential — into an online learning platform called HBX that targets different markets from its usual MBA and executive education offerings.
Launched a year ago, the product is very different from the Moocs — or massive open online courses — produced in vast quantities, often for free, by educational providers in recent years, with variable success.
There is the cost, for a start: a hefty $1,800 for HBX’s 12-week primer on the fundamentals of business thinking. say. There is an element of social learning, with students incentivised to answer each other’s questions. And the platform also contains a digital version of one of the scariest conventions of the Harvard MBA classroom — the “cold call”, where a professor randomly chooses a student to start the debate.
“HBX is a huge bet that we are making what will end up being a deeply important strand of our education,” says Prof Nohria. But HBS expects it will take time for the project to practise what it preaches — and make a profit.
Nitin Nohria: A political pragmatist
Born in India, Nitin Nohria is the first Harvard Business School dean from outside North America. After his appointment in 2010, he also became the first head of the school since the 1970s to live in the dean’s house on campus, giving him a prime view of all the building work.
His links to the world beyond the Charles River include a non-executive directorship at Tata Sons, the Indian holding company. Ratan Tata. its former chairman, attended the HBS Advanced Management Program in 1975, and bankrolled a glass-and-brick building at the school for other executive education clients four decades later.
Prof Nohria describes himself as a pragmatist about politics, saying that he has not been tempted to take a high-profile stance against the economic populism and hostility to globalisation that has characterised much of the US election campaign so far.
On the controversial issue of Donald Trump. a graduate of rival business school Wharton, Prof Nohria says it is important to differentiate between what a candidate says on the campaign trail and what they might do if elected president. “Campaigns make you recognise that there are checks and balances in our political system that will be an important counterweight to the rhetoric of any political candidate.”
And he feels that the mood is not in danger of creating the kind of backlash against leading business schools seen after the financial crisis, although he acknowledges that inequality is a serious issue for capitalism to confront.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. You may share using our article tools.
Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.
#harvard business school
Business School Overview
The Business School at Harvard University offers these departments and concentrations: accounting, consulting, e-commerce, economics, entrepreneurship, ethics, finance, general management, health care administration, human resources management, international business, leadership, manufacturing and technology management, marketing, not-for-profit management, production/operations management, organizational behavior, portfolio management, public administration, public policy, real estate, sports business, supply chain management/logistics, quantitative analysis/statistics and operations research, tax, and technology. Its tuition is full-time: $61,225 per year. At graduation, 81.0 percent of graduates of the full-time program are employed.
Graduate students at Harvard Business School get a hands-on education through the case method, which poses true-to-life problems students must tackle in teams. The experiential learning extends to field study teams, in which small groups of students evaluate existing organizations, and immersion trips, intense weeks of study in another country over winter breaks.
HBS students can complete an MBA or doctoral degree, or can take executive education classes. (HBS graduates can take many executive education courses at a 30 percent discount.) HBS students can also enroll in joint degree programs in conjunction with Harvard Law School. Harvard Medical School. the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Graduate business school students may live on campus in Cambridge, Mass. Students can also research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology .
To supplement their education, students can assume leadership positions in more than 70 clubs. The annual HBS Show, a live musical theatre production put on by MBA students, adds some levity into the rigorous course schedule.
There are more than 100,000 graduates of HBS, scores of whom have gone on to lead major corporations. Some of the particularly notable alumni include James Dimon, president and CEO of JPMorgan Chase Co.; Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard ; and Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric.
#harvard business publishing
Harvard Business Publishing
Harvard Business Publishing personalizes client relationships with Salesforce
Today s organizations want more than just one-size-fits-all training products. They want innovative, customized solutions that address their unique needs and help drive results. To meet client demands in this changing world, Harvard Business Publishing, which creates leadership development solutions for global companies, re-envisioned its entire model for engaging with clients. With help from Salesforce, the company is partnering more closely with customers so they can work together to develop the most effective leadership solutions.
A non-profit subsidiary of Harvard University, Harvard Business Publishing leverages the management insight, thought leadership, and expertise of Harvard Business School faculty and Harvard Business Review authors to provide solutions that are relevant to today s most pressing business challenges. Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning works extensively with Global 2000 companies to help them design and deliver learning solutions to build their global leadership capabilities.
Until four years ago, the company used a traditional product-sales oriented model, where two or three people from the company engaged with each client, and typically focused on selling one product. Individual teams operated independently and stored their data in multiple Excel spreadsheets, which usually weren t shared with other employees. The company s relationships with its clients were primarily transactional.
Managers realized that the value their clients expected the organization to provide went beyond the company s products. Harvard Business Publishing envisioned a new client-engagement model it would partner with customers to help them diagnose business challenges and craft leadership development solutions tailored to their specific needs. This required a cultural and behavioral shift across the entire organization. Everyone needed fast and transparent access to client data and the ability to work collaboratively with other employees.
According to Nick Clayton, Senior Director of Global Sales, We chose Salesforce because it was very flexible and easy to customize. That was very important to us to ensure that this became our CRM, and had our language and processes.
A collaborative approach
The company integrated client information, knowledge, tools, and engagement processes in Salesforce. It s easier for the field team to share information and collaborate, and approach clients consistently. And, the company can bring more pertinent information to the table faster, with greater confidence. Holly Fasano, Senior Strategic Relationship Manager, says, Salesforce lets us best represent our brand, and gives clients a sense of comfort and trust that we understand their business well.
Ian Fanton, VP Global Sales at Harvard Business Publishing, says, We need to be innovating faster and faster to provide more impactful solutions to our clients. One way we can do that is through the broadening use of this tool. Salesforce lets Harvard Business Publishing instantly share information across globally distributed client teams, making sure everyone has the latest information and accelerating time to impact with customers.
#harvard business press
Important Restrictions to the Use of Harvard Business School and Harvard Business Publishing in Courses
Harvard Business School, and Harvard Business Publishing, including Harvard Business Review materials (articles, cases, chapters, etc.) can no longer be assigned as course material. Students will need to purchase articles through MBS Direct.
Due to publisher’s restrictions, faculty/directors cannot assign articles from Harvard Business Review, Harvard Management Update and Harvard Management Communication (found in the Business Source Complete database), as well as anything published by Harvard Business School or Harvard Business Publishing, to students as course material. Faculty cannot request articles from these publications via eReserves. Faculty/directors can sign up for a free Harvard Business Publishing for Educators account to review ways to make materials available for the students to purchase.
As of August 1, 2013, Harvard Business Review became “read only” for 500 of the most popular Harvard Business Review articles. These articles may not be saved (downloaded) or printed due to the publisher’s restrictions.
This does not apply to the Harvard Business School Faculty Seminar Series videos found in the Business Source Complete database.
Visit Ask a Librarian for assistance locating similar materials from alternate publications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can students still use Harvard Business School Press articles in their own research and cite them in their papers and coursework?
Yes. This use of Harvard Business School Press articles in Business Source Complete is allowed by the publisher. However, 500 of the articles may not be saved (downloaded) or printed due to the publisher’s restrictions. There is not a list of which 500 articles are affected and the only way to determine this is to access the article via the database.
Can I direct students to find an assigned Harvard Business School Press article themselves in Business Source Complete? Isn’t this ok if I am not making a link to the article?
No. Even though Harvard Business School Press articles may remain available in Business Source Complete, they can no longer be used as course reading in any way per the publisher’s restrictions, regardless of how students are directed to the material.
Can I request a Harvard Business School Press article to be placed in eReserves?
No. You may sign up for a free Harvard Business Publishing for Educators account to review ways to make materials available for the students to purchase. You might consider alternative articles and publications that can be placed in eReserves. UMUC librarians are glad to assist you with locating similar materials from other publications that can be assigned to students as required readings; visit Ask a Librarian .
Does this change affect Harvard Business School Cases?
No. Harvard Business School Cases can still be requested for students to purchase through MBS by making a request through your academic director or program director.
Note: There is a section of Harvard Business Review called “HBR Case Study,” which features a fictional scenario followed by commentary from industry experts. Because these articles are part of the publication Harvard Business Review, they cannot be assigned as course material per the publisher’s restrictions.
Are there other options?
UMUC librarians will be glad to assist you with the process of searching for and choosing similar materials from other publications that can be assigned to students as required readings; visit Ask a Librarian .
Note: We can assist you with the search process. However as the instructor and subject expert, it is up to you to choose which resources are best for your courses and particular instructional needs.
Are any other journals affected?
No. At this time, Harvard Business School Press journals are the only journals restricted by the publisher in this way.
If you have additional questions, please contact Information and Library services via Ask a Librarian .