Impulsive Shopping, Temptation and Self-Control Reply

Photo of Professor Mark Fenton-O'Creevy
Guest blogger: Professor Mark Fenton-O’Creevy, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean External Engagement, The Open University Business School.

 

And I am a weapon of massive consumption
And it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function
Lily Allen, The Fear, 2009

The financial crisis that hit us in 2008 has been analysed in great detail by economists and journalists. A good deal of comment, including mine, has focused on the behaviour of bankers and traders. However this was also a crisis that was fueled by a bubble of debt fueled consumption. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to the psychology of consumer spending.

I want to delve into the emotional underpinnings of conspicuous consumption. Much of what I write below is illustrated more poetically in Lily Allen’s song, ‘The Fear’. At first, she appears to be singing a paean to conspicuous consumption and the relentless pursuit of a celebrity lifestyle, but as the chorus kicks in ‘I’ve been taken over by the fear‘; it become clear that this is a tale of the fear and emptiness that lies behind this impulsive consumption. This too is the story revealed by our research.

Mass consumption is the other side of Fordism.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retailers, marketing agencies and even academic researchers in the retail marketing field tend to consider impulsive buying behaviour as either harmless fun or a positive social good; certainly as something which retailers should exploit and obtain financial benefit from. For example:

“Marketers need to understand such consumer behavior in order to formulate appropriate marketing strategy, allocate marketing budget below-the-line and design effective marketing tactics…… In such instances the acts may be normatively positive and leave the shopper feeling good”

Bayley and Nancarrow 1998: 99

“…the profiles of high impulsives…may be identified, so that promotions and events can be targeted at those individuals”

Beatty and Ferrell 1998: 188

Myself and Adrian Furnham collaborated with the BBC to launch The Big Money Test, which was launched on the BBC flagship consumer affairs television programme Watchdog. Around 110,000 people responded to the survey which looked at their emotional and psychological relationships with money.

chromeshopWe found that people who were high on impulsive buying behaviour tended to be people who had poor strategies for managing their emotions and were more sensitive to the highs and lows of positive and negative emotion. In other words it seems likely that for many people impulsive shopping acts as a substitute for more effective ways of managing their emotions.

If impulsive shopping helps people feel good, does that mean it is a problem? Surely, as many retailers would argue, this ‘feel good factor’ we get from shopping is a positive part of the ‘retail experience’.

The story is not that positive. We also looked at the relationship of impulsive shopping to financial outcomes. Those high on impulsive buying behaviour were much more likely to find it difficult to make ends meet and much more likely to suffer adverse financial events. The problem with the way that retailers target impulsive spenders is that they often have most success with those who are more likely to be financially vulnerable.

  • Are you or is someone you know an impulsive spender?
  • Do you think that there is too much pressure on people to spend, spend, spend; or is shopping just an enjoyable part of a modern lifestyle?

You can read more about our study in this report on the outcomes of the  BBC Big Money Test and in this report we produced for the Friends Provident Foundation who kindly funded some of the analysis. There is also a BBC news magazine article. Those with an appetite for more academic discourse can find the research paper online.

Join us to gain further insights and share your knowledge on this topic at our forthcoming complimentary Business Perspectives Festive Networking event on
Thursday 1 December 2016 at 17:00 – 19:00. For more information and to register, please visit our website.

Webinar: Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times: Think Big Data. Think Business Models. Reply

The Business Perspectives webinar on Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times: Think Big Data. Think Business Models took place on Thursday 13 October. If you missed the webinar or want to watch it again, it is now available to view on demand.

WATCH THE WEBINAR

The one-hour webinar focussed on business models, strategic growth, digital strategy and big data. The webinar also included video highlights from our masterclass in London on 21 September.

Our webinar panellists included Professor Thomas Lawton, Professor of Strategy and International Management at The Open University Business School (OUBS), Jerry Teahan, Head of Strategic Business Development (Network, Cloud Services) at BT Group and Dr Hilary Collins, Lecturer in Management at OUBS. The webinar was facilitated by Peter Wainwright, MBA alumnus and Consultant at Askyra Ltd.

You can also share your views and comments about the event or topic by following us on Twitter @OUBSchool, using #OU_BP

Video highlights from our masterclass on Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times: Think Big Data. Think Business Models. Reply

Understanding how Digital Technologies can impact on Business Strategy (Part 1)*

Jerry Teahan, Head of Strategic Business Development (Network, Cloud Services), BT Group

*Part 2 of this video is available via our online webinar.

Data big and small: what works? what next?

Patrick Callinan, Global Head of Data and Analytics, A.V.

Further video highlights are available from:

  • Jerry Teahan, Head of Strategic Business Development (Network, Cloud Services) at BT Group, focusing on digital value chains
  • Professor Thomas Lawton, Professor of Strategy and International Management at OUBS, looking at leveraging your business model for innovation and growth
  • Antoine Boatwright, Chief Technology Officer at Hillgate Travel, gives his perspective on digital strategy

You can watch more videos on our online webinar, which took place on 13 October. Note, you will be required to register, if you haven’t already done so.

Webinar: Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times, 13 October Reply

The complimentary webinar from The Open University Business School (OUBS), will look at business models, strategic growth, digital strategy and big data. The online webinar will take place on Thursday 13 October 2016 at 18:00 – 19:00 (BST).

Register now.

During the webinar, we’ll explore the following key questions:

  • What are the critical components to design and deliver an innovative, effective business model?
  • How do you render a growth-oriented business model robust enough to deal with today’s unpredictable world?
  • How can you factor in global disruptions driven by digitalisation, big data and geopolitical risk?

The webinar will include video highlights from our masterclass in London on 21 September. We’ll draw on the contributions from our masterclass and further develop these discussion points during the webinar, and we invite you to contribute via our live online polls and Q&A forums.

Webinar panellists include Professor Thomas Lawton, Professor of Strategy and International Management at OUBS. The webinar will be facilitated by Peter Wainwright, MBA alumnus and consultant at Askyra Ltd.

For further information, please visit our website.

Strategy Matters: Leveraging your business model for innovation and growth Reply

Photo of Professor Thomas Lawton
Guest blogger: Thomas C. Lawton, PhD FRSA, Professor of Strategy and International Management at The Open University Business School.

The purpose of our Business Perspectives event in London on 21st September is to integrate research, consulting and practice in a discussion about the interface of data, digital and business models. Questions raised will include: what is a business model and how can managers innovate existing business models to create new market opportunities? How have digital technologies transformed business models? How can big data drive a growth-oriented business model? We are fortunate to have three excellent business speakers, representing insights and experiences from large corporations (BT Group), mid-sized companies (Hillgate Travel), and consultancy (Added Value/Kantar). I will add my thoughts, based on 20 years of research, writing and advisory work.

Whilst the tone of the day will be critical but upbeat and positive, it is worth reflecting in advance on the challenges and in some ways, existential threats that exist to disruptive and often asset-light business models. Let’s take two examples: Airbnb and Uber. Investors have valued Airbnb at $30 billion and Uber at close to $70 billion. But as I write, I am in Germany’s capital, Berlin, a city that has regulated to prevent entire homes being rented through Airbnb and that banned Uber, ostensibly on consumer safety grounds. As we know, lobbying by black cab drivers meant that London came close to restricting Uber’s business model when Boris Johnson was mayor. Sadiq Khan may yet impose Berlin-style restriction on Airbnb, as research indicates up to half of Airbnb rentals in London are offered by professional landlords, limiting further the number of long term rental properties available in a city with an already chronic shortage of housing.

My point is that it is easy to be carried away by the hype and hubris surrounding new, digital, data-driven business models. What the market and some consumers value may not be valued by all and if a company does not factor in wider stakeholder engagement, it risks unravelling the very fabric of its business model. In my research, I call this an imbalance or misalignment between a company’s market and non-market strategy. The non-market refers to the political, regulatory, social and environmental contexts in which a company operates. Airbnb rushed to grow its global footprint and sign up more and more hosts without considering the impact its nightly rental business model would have on neighbours and communities. Uber focused, understandably, on customer satisfaction but neglected to make a case to political and regulatory authorities about the positive impact its business model would have on urban congestion and pollution through, for example, its ride sharing option.

For companies to maintain growth, an aligned strategy, reflecting both market and non-market engagement, is critical to the integrity and success of business models and must occur at all levels, from city to state.

We can continue this conversation during and after Wednesday’s event. I look forward to meeting you there.

If you would like to attend our masterclass ‘Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times: Think Big Data. Think Business Models’, please visit The Open University Business School website for further information and details on how to book.

Strategy Matters in Turbulent Times: Think Big Data. Think Business Models Reply

Our Business Perspectives masterclass will take place in London on 21 September, led by Professor Thomas Lawton, Professor of Strategy and International Management at The Open University Business School (OUBS). Professor Lawton is a published author on international business and strategic management and has spent twenty years advising leaders, managers and entrepreneurs on business development and market growth.

Guest speakers include:

  • Antoine Boatwright, CTO, Hillgate Travel
  • Patrick Callinan, Global Head of Data and Analytics at Added Value (a Kantar/WPP Plc company)
  • Hilary Collins, Lecturer in Management, OUBS

A symbiotic relationship exists at the heart of successful strategy between what the customer wants and what the company can deliver. In this masterclass we’ll explore:

  • What are the critical components to design and deliver an innovative, effective business model?
  • How do you render a growth-oriented business model robust enough to deal with today’s unpredictable world?
  • How can you factor in global disruptions driven by digitalisation, big data and geopolitical risk?

We’ll also look at the latest thinking and frameworks to better enable growth oriented business strategies that are adaptable and responsive to technological change.

Places are limited. For more information and to register, visit our website.

Webinar: Staying on the “right” side of public opinion… and how to avoid controversy Reply

During our webinar, we explored issues of legitimacy in an organisational context and shared insight into the pharmaceutical industry, as a real life example of why legitimacy is so important for businesses.

WATCH THE WEBINAR

Our webinar panellists included Dr Björn Claes, Senior Lecturer in Operations Management at the OU Business School and Sonia Siraz, International Fellow at the OU Business School. The webinar was facilitated by Peter Wainwright, OU MBA alumnus and Business Consultant at Askyra Ltd.

Please share your views and comments about our business legitimacy event or topic by following us on Twitter @OUBSchool  #OU_BP

Business Legitimacy Roadshows Reply

You are invited to join the latest Business Perspectives ‘Business Legitimacy’ roadshows entitled ‘Staying on the “right” side of public opinion… and how to avoid controversy’; commencing at 18:00 until 20:15 with networking drinks and canapés reception afterwards on the following dates:

  • Wednesday 11 May 2016 in Dublin at Croke Park Conference Centre
  • Thursday 19 May 2016 in Munich at The Hilton Park
  • Thursday 26 May 2016 in Manchester at The Hilton Deansgate

We are especially delighted to announce Dr Björn Claes, Senior Lecturer in Operations Management at The Open University Business School (OUBS) will lead a highly interactive workshop to engage and debate.

Keynote guest speakers will be:

  • Dublin – Marc Sweeney, Thorntons & Partners Director, Thorntons Group
  • Munich – Andreas Klugescheid, Head of Steering and CSR, BMW
  • Manchester – Lucy Hinds, Head of Facilities, Covance

Facilitators will be:

  • Dublin – John Darcy, National Director, The Open University in Ireland
  • Munich – Paul Heardman, Consul General Munich, British Council
  • Manchester – Jim Yates, Director Fulcrum Management Limited

In the interactive workshop we will explore the issues of legitimacy in the organisational environment and activities will include:

  • Identify legitimators as evaluator
  • Identify legitimators as evaluees
  • Devise legitimation strategy from differing perspectives

During the event we will also cover maintaining legitimacy through CSR strategies.

To book and for further information, please visit our event website pages for Dublin, Munich, Manchester. Please note, places are limited.

Caring for an Ageing Population: Problem or Opportunity for Organisational Life? Reply

Photo of Dr Leah Tomkins
Guest blogger: Dr Leah Tomkins, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies at The Open University Business School.

In the West, we are all living longer. Indeed, the fact that our retirement ages keep getting pushed back suggests that we are expected to have many more years of productive life than was the case in previous generations. Whilst this is undoubtedly a triumph in terms of advances in medicine, nutrition and lifestyle, at the same time, it has thrown up a huge challenge for families, communities and institutions who have to work out how to care for elderly people for much longer periods of time than ever before. In particular, it has created a generation of ‘working carers’ who balance caring for an elderly relative with trying to build and sustain a career themselves.

Facts about carers – from the campaigning group Carers UK

  • 1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) is a carer.
  • By 2037, it’s anticipated that the number of carers will increase to 9 million.
  • Every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – that equals over 2 million people each year.
  • 58% of carers are women and 42% are men.
  • Carers save the economy £132 billion per year, an average of £19,336 per carer.

Working carers

  • Over 3 million people juggle care with work.
  • As of 2014, 30% of working carers were earning at least £20,000 less than before as a result of caring.
  • And the significant demands of caring mean that 1 in 5 carers is forced to give up work altogether.

Carers UK – facts and figures.

A problem for organisational life?

It is easy to see why the increasing numbers of ‘working carers’ might create difficulties for organisations, and for HR and resource planning departments in particular. The advent of caring responsibilities often comes unexpectedly, as an elderly relative suddenly becomes less capable of looking after him- or herself. Caring responsibilities can feel open-ended and unpredictable, and it is impossible to know whether they are going to last for months, years or even decades. It is not easy to adjust workload allocations and expectations when it is unclear how long-lasting or how intensive an employee’s caring duties will be.

For ‘working carers’ themselves, the advent of caring responsibilities can represent a serious challenge to their sense of identity. We live in a world where the idea that professionalism equals dedication reigns supreme. Corporate strategists and culture change specialists strive for high levels of organisational commitment from their employees. The business literature abounds with terms such as ‘employee engagement’ and models of organisational ‘transformation’ which emphasise the importance of employees being inspired by, even devoted to, their leaders and the corporate vision they espouse. Most management consultants and OD strategists would probably agree that employees need to have ‘skin in the game’ if an organisation’s objectives are to be achieved. And for ‘working carers’, of course, there is more than one ‘game’ making claims on their ‘skin’!

Across both private and public sectors, organisations are working hard to try to help the increasing numbers of ‘working carers’ in their midst. Many have established support networks, and introduced a range of policies including paid and unpaid leave to try to acknowledge the complexities of balancing work and care. Appraisal systems are being reworked to try to set ‘performance’ in context, and to focus on quality rather than quantity of contribution. In some of the organisations I have visited, senior leaders talk openly and publically about their own caring responsibilities and about the practical and emotional impact these have had on their work and sense of professional identity. This is powerful stuff, because it can help to dissolve the shame and anxiety that employees feel when their domestic lives make it impossible to be the perfectly ‘engaged’ employee that has traditionally been required for career success.

However, despite the valiant efforts of many organisational leaders, HR professionals and line managers, I think there is still an assumption that becoming a ‘working carer’ is basically a problem – both for the organisation and for the individual. However sympathetic colleagues, managers and support staff try to be, there is an underlying sense that care disrupts, even destroys, careers.

An opportunity for organisational life?

I want to challenge this assumption that care necessarily destroys careers by asking the question:

“What is it that we experience as carers that might help, rather than hinder, us in our organisational lives?”

In other words, I think we might look at our experiences of care as a valuable resource and source of expertise. This relates to our experiences of both giving and receiving care, and to how these inform and shape our interpersonal relationships throughout our lives. I make this somewhat provocative suggestion not because I want to downplay how tough being a ‘working carer’ is. Nor do I deny that having to incorporate different work patterns and unpredictable availabilities can be extremely disruptive in organisational life, and trigger all sorts of resentments amongst colleagues who are left holding the fort.

But there is an extraordinarily powerful upside to having the notion of care at the heart of our organisational lives. This is because care experiences are all about asymmetrical or unequal relationships – about the way in which people interact when one person has more power or capability or capacity than another. And this is precisely the kind of interaction that underpins many key debates in business, including:

  • Relationships between leaders and followers – which are marked by differences in status, power, experience and/or expertise.
  • Decisions over leadership and change management methods – especially those which involve deciding between ‘transactional’ and ‘transformational’ approaches.
  • Ideas about ‘tame’ and ‘wicked’ problems – and the extent to which stakeholders are either directed or empowered to participate in their resolution.

All three of these examples involve understanding the power dynamics of asymmetrical or unequal relationships. All three of them have a noticeable presence on the curricula of both corporate and academic leadership and management development programmes. And, in my view, all three of them are illuminated through the prism of our experiences of care.

This is because caring involves taking decisions about how to manage differences in status, power and expertise, without dominating or infantilising the other person. Caring also means coming to terms with being on the receiving end of a whole host of projected emotions, often in the form of anger, resentment and frustration. These are often completely unfair and unreasonable, but then again, so are the feelings of fury and disappointment that are hurled at leaders when they let us down and prove to be mere mortals after all. Our expectations of both ourselves and others in caring relationships evoke incredibly strong and primitive emotions. Acknowledging and coming to terms with these in our private lives might – just might – help us to acknowledge and come to terms with them in our working lives, too.

These thoughts dovetail with increasing calls for organisational life to be infused by an ‘ethic of care’. For me, the idea that care relates to ethics is really important, because it stimulates reflection on the meaning of our work and our organisational commitments, rather than pushing us always to be looking for ways to get more efficient. Indeed, my arguments about how care might enhance our working lives will lose their power and authenticity if they get leveraged into policies or procedures – or into jargon or sound-bites. In my view, an ‘ethic of care’ is not a shiny new model or theory that can be turned into a recipe for business success. Instead, it involves reconnecting with what we already know as human beings – with our understandings of the emotional dynamics of our selves and our relationships with others. Care is an ‘opportunity’, not in the sense that organisations can colonise and yoke it to issues of business performance, but more in the sense that, as human beings, we might reflect on how our experiences of our lives outside work might not be so different or disconnected from our experiences of our lives inside it.

An ‘ethic of care’ in organisational life involves:

  • Challenging the assumption that care is purely a domestic issue, or something ‘pink and fluffy’.
  • Reconnecting our experiences across the so-called ‘work/life boundary’.
  • Acknowledging the emotional undercurrents of our working, as well as our private, relationships.

If you are intrigued by any of these ideas, and want to learn more about my current and forthcoming publications in this space, please email me. Also, take a look at the videos from the Business Perspectives Masterclass (February 2016).

Is Organisation the Place for Care? – webinar recording available Reply

Our webinar on ‘Is Organisation the Place for Care?’ took place on 3 March. If you missed it or want to watch again, the webinar is now available to view on demand.

Watch the webinar 

The webinar showcases video highlights from the Business Perspectives masterclass, held in London last month and aims to stimulate thoughts around the challenges of incorporating care into working practices, HRM policy, leadership, organisational design, and organisational strategy.

Our webinar panellists included Dr Leah Tomkins, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies at The Open University Business School and Dr Clare Mumford, Research Associate at University of Manchester. The webinar is facilitated by Peter Wainwright, OU MBA Alum and Business Consultant at Askyra Ltd.

You can also share your views and comments about the event or topic by following us on Twitter @OUBSchool  #OU_BP