Developing Wisdom, Increasing Impact
- The Wisdom Studio features a series of live events where academics, artists, executives, students, and others engage in dialogues across disciplines to gain new perspectives on social problems.
- Recordings of each event are edited into 15-minute video episodes that feature the most compelling insights, which are then shared as playlists on our school’s YouTube channel.
- By combining engaging live interactions with an online video forum, the studio helps the business school become a co-creator of solutions that will foster greater happiness in organizations.
Given their role on university campuses, business schools are in the position to bring people and organizations together in ways that serve society and contribute to people’s well-being. But phenomena related to well-being are complex and multilayered, subject to study across different academic disciplines. In an era when organizations face major problems, supporting well-being in the workplace has become a growing challenge. To address this challenge effectively, people will need to cross established disciplinary boundaries and learn to think in new ways.
With the right partners and digital tools, business schools can connect people from diverse backgrounds to cultivate rich relationships, inspiring them to share ideas and work together toward solutions. A few years ago, making such connections became a priority for the College of Business (COB) at California State University in Sacramento (CSUS), where I am a professor of management.
To help achieve this objective, I joined forces with actress and producer Elisabeth Nunziato. We wanted to create a dynamic forum and a strong digital presence—spaces where leaders from all disciplines and at all points in their careers could pursue what many researchers call “organizational wisdom.” The result of our partnership is an interdisciplinary initiative called the COB Organizational Wisdom Studio Project.
Through the Wisdom Studio, academics, artists, executives, employees, and students can participate in live events to co-create dialogues across disciplines. Afterward, we present information in online videos that are both scholarly and entertaining, in ways that translate the findings of organizational research for broader audiences.
The studio encompasses a wide range of conversations and initiatives that inspire people to view organizationally important topics through an interdisciplinary lens. Together, they generate wisdom and translate that wisdom into solutions that enhance happiness in our society.
For the studio to make this level of impact, we have found that it must accomplish three important goals. First, it must create dynamic dialogues among diverse groups. Second, it must establish a welcoming and wide-reaching digital presence. Finally, it must build synergies across perspectives and boundaries.
Opening Eyes to Other Perspectives
When the COB launched Wisdom Studio in 2017, we were inspired by insights from management scholars who had explored why enhancing organizational wisdom can lead to significant societal impact. But as we created the Wisdom Studio, we knew we would need to follow an incremental approach to developing the organizational experiences that contribute to societal well-being.
Thus, Wisdom Studio creates live events that each focus on a smaller topic or problem that plays an important role in quality of life. We hold our live studio events to full-house audiences that include managers, employees, directors, and artists, as well as our students, faculty, and staff. Above all, we want the studio to feature a wide range of voices.
Therefore, we work with other colleges on campus and invite leading scholars and practitioners across the country to participate. During each event, we invite audience members to contribute their own comments and questions. Together, these dynamic dialogues often lead to novel, solution-focused ideas that address organizational challenges.
Our inaugural live studio event, held in November 2017, focused on how to manage anger in organizational settings. Speakers included Robin Fisher from our School of Music, who is a professor and opera singer; and Deanna Geddes from Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, who is an expert on anger in organizations. We also asked two business executives to participate: Dennis Gardemeyer, an experienced entrepreneur, and Paul Lambert, the founder of several medical companies. Elizabeth and I acted as hosts and ensured that each speaker’s artistic insights, scientific knowledge, and personal stories were integrated into the discussion.
We invite audience members to contribute their own comments and questions to dynamic dialogues, which often leads to novel, solution-focused ideas that address organizational challenges.
Geddes, for example, argued that although anger can be detrimental for work relationships, if expressed properly, it can lead to constructive outcomes. Fisher followed this analysis by presenting musical segments from two classical compositions known for their expressions of anger—Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and the “Queen of the Night” aria from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. She used these examples to demonstrate how employees and managers can diplomatically express their anger to others using well-thought-out timing and a carefully chosen pitch of the voice.
In their feedback after the event, which hosted about 195 people, audience members called the dialogue “fascinating,” “remarkable,” and “amazing.” One high school administrator stated that Fisher’s music-based presentation “opened my eyes to another perspective about expressing anger that I had never thought about before.” An elementary school administrator called the discussion an “opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together and grow intellectually and emotionally.” An undergraduate student mentioned being “impressed seeing everyone come together and talk about anger, which most people might not even think about in their own lives.”
Building on the success of this first effort, we held our second live studio event in 2019. Focused on emotional energy in entrepreneurship, our 2019 Wisdom Studio also attracted an audience of nearly 200 people. Speakers at this event included Bill Glasser, the co-founder of Language World Services; Jack Gallagher, the three-time Emmy Award-winning comedian and producer; Julian Dixon, the director of community engagement and education for the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera; and Lonie Paxton, a three-time NFL Super Bowl champion and entrepreneur. Based on their personal success stories, this diverse panel provided insights about how emotions such as hope, anger, courage, enthusiasm, pride, amusement, and fear interrelate with people’s entrepreneurial decisions and actions.
Establishing a Digital Presence
Our inaugural Wisdom Studio event was professionally recorded by the CSUS Creative Services team. NK Media, a video production company co-founded by Nunziato, edited these recordings to produce a series of video episodes, each featuring a compelling “wisdom cue” from the live interactions. We have recently started disseminating these episodes, each about 15 minutes long, via our YouTube channel in a playlist titled Understanding Anger in Organizations.
We have created additional video episodes on other topics as well. The first arose from virtual presentations that the Wisdom Studio hosted during the pandemic. Scholars from research institutions such as Harvard, Wharton, Yale, and the Israel Institute of Technology spoke about topics related to pandemic-driven challenges. These included preventing loneliness in a pandemic, using thought leadership to navigate chaos, cultivating intrapreneurship in a pandemic, regulating emotions in a pandemic, and supporting K-12 schools during times of social isolation. We are disseminating these insights in a second playlist titled Pursuing Organizational Wisdom in a Pandemic.
We based our next series of videos on film projects produced by several students in a senior-level human resource management course that has been taught at the COB for more than a decade. Student teams have produced these film projects to explore how to lead with emotional intelligence in organizations. We present these film projects every year in the COB Annual Film Festival, which thus far has attracted about 1,800 people. We feature a selection of film projects from each year in a third YouTube playlist, Leading with Emotional Intelligence.
Each Wisdom Studio video episode features a spontaneous conversation among experts that blends scholarly thinking with artistic viewpoints to gain practical insights.
To date, we have released 30 Wisdom Studio video episodes. Each features a spontaneous conversation among experts that blends scholarly thinking with artistic viewpoints to gain practical insights. The videos have been viewed by more than 12,000 people across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and America.
We are excited that these playlists help us establish a digital presence, which enhances the Wisdom Studio’s impact and ability to drive dialogue and change at the international level. Additionally, we have received ongoing support from CSUS administration—especially from the university’s president Robert Nelsen, its provost Steve Perez, and its interim provost Carlos Nevarez. Their belief in our project has provided us with additional leverage to attract the participation of other colleges and experts to our studio endeavors.
Fulfilling Our Role as Co-Creators
In its report “Collective Vision for Business Education,” AACSB recommends that business schools become co-creators that pursue “new insights and understanding about business, management, and leadership through collaborative networks of business schools, as well as through connections with other disciplines.” Moreover, more higher education institutions recommend that schools develop technology-enhanced learning environments to support interdisciplinary collaboration.
The COB Organizational Wisdom Studio addresses both objectives, as it brings people together across philosophical borders, creates dynamic dialogues across disciplines, and uses technology to create a digital presence that will drive future synergies and conversations. The more business schools craft these kinds of initiatives, the more they will act as co-creators of solutions with their stakeholders—and the more they will amplify their positive impact on society.