Characteristics of organizational climate and culture in Romanian knowledge-intensive organizations

A recent article published by two members in our laboratory (Cristina Leovaridis and Diana-Maria Cismaru, 2014)  in Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy focused on organizational culture and climate in knowledge-intensive organizations, aiming to identify the specific values and features of climate for each sector.The sample included organizations from five sectors: higher education, banking and financial, research and development, IT and marketing-advertising. The qualitative design of research included near 80 in-depth interviews with employees and managers.

Results showed that the presence of team spirit and support, cooperation among co-workers, as well as the existence of a positive atmosphere, help and cooperation can be found especially in the IT and banking sectors (all of the respondents), for three quarters of the RD sectors, two thirds of the advertising sector and for only half of the employees of the higher education sector. This level of satisfaction reduces while evaluating the vertical ascending communication: three quarters of the interviewees of the banking and higher education sectors and two thirds of employees in the IT sector are content that the superior “listens to them”; in advertising and RD, only half of the interviewed employees considered this form of communication satisfactory.

All the interviewed employees of the advertising, IT and banking sector experienced the presence within the company of some forms of organizational culture (Christmas parties, team buildings, award ceremonies ni advertising and IT sector, and also written and unwritten internal norms and values in the banking sector, or myths on the founders in the multinational companies sectors). In the higher education sector, only half of the respondents admit the presence of an organizational culture in their institution (represented through some anniversaries and co-worker anniversaries). Finally, in the public funded RD sector, employees reportedly did not experience manifestations of any type of “visible artifacts” or values of organizational culture.

The picture of climate dimensions has been very different from one sector to other: from autonomy, teamwork, creativity and friendship, on one extreme, to discipline, respect for rules and accomplishing goals, on the other extreme. Thus, in the advertising-marketing sector the climate is based on human relations and friendship (in the small Romanian agencies) and on co-worker competition and task achievement (in the multinational agencies); in the IT sector, climate is based on human relations, friendship, as well as on accomplishing goals, discipline and respect for rules; in the banking sector – on discipline and obeying rules followed by competition among co-workers and task achievement;  in the RD private  institutes on achieving goals, while in the public RD institutes on freedom, creativity as well as competition between colleagues; in the higher education sector on accomplishing goals, accompanied by encouraging initiative and creativity, along with competition.

As a recommendation, in the knowledge-intensive organizations, the rigid, hierarchical and control-based management should be replaced with a flexible management based on shared meanings, common identity, in order to motivate and maintain loyal the expert-employees.

Successful partnership in the „Euro-entrepreneurship” project: NUPSPA and the Institute of European Studies, Brussels

The National University of Political and Administrative Studies, Bucharest, is pleased to announce the fruitful partnership with the Institute of European Studies at the Vrije Universitiet Brussels (VUB). The partnership shall be conducted under the umbrella of the „Euro-entrepreneurship” project, a project aimed at developing and strengthening higher education in Romania. Also, the project aims to upgrade and diversify the programs at master’s degree relevant in the context of Europeanization of the Romanian society, the academic qualification validation „expert in European affairs’ and the introduction of the European entrepreneurship as transversally study area.

The partner is a prestigious academic institution and became Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence focused on the European Union’s role in international relations. The institute offers both courses and research programs in various fields and services to European institutions, scientists, stakeholders and the general public.

In the Institute for European Studies, the academic work is currently focused on the following research axes:

  • environment and sustainable development,
  • foreign and security policy of EU;
  • migration, asylum seeking and diversity;
  • economic governance;
  • curricula development.

The Partner Institute is a center of excellence in teaching European studies, coordinating advanced Master’s programs, including the renowned Program in International Legal Cooperation (PILC – Master in International and European Law) and Master in European Integration and Development. It also offers a range of services designed to disseminate scholarly investigations of the Commission and to stimulate academic debates on European topics and current.

The Institute for European Studies regularly organizes events such as the annual conference series, forum and other public policy conferences and workshops dedicated to the academic community members and / or the interested public. The Partner publications and collections include books, Working Papers IES, IES Briefing Papers and a newsletter that appears four times a year.

„Euro-entrepreneurship – academic qualification for Europeanization of Romanian society” (HRD / 156 / 1.2 / G / 140,578) is a project co-funded by European Social Fund through Sectoral Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013, Priority no. 1 – „Education and training in support of growth and development of knowledge based society”, Key Area of ​​Intervention 1.2 – „Quality in higher education”.


Current limits in crisis studies

Although the bibliography in crisis studies is rich, there are several limits that become clear after reading several articles and papers. Being spectacular, the crisis focuses all attention on peak stages (not only in media, but in the academic research) and ignore the other stages (preparation and/or final of crisis). Crisis management and immediate responses and/or strategies are in the center of interest of researchers. The consequences are that the less spectacular aspects of crisis are neglected by analysis and studies. For example, the topic of middle and long term effects of crisis is less investigated (although it requires a longitudinal analysis, and this type of analysis is less preferred). Or, the internal communication strategies in case of crisis are also neglected (even if they are crucial for the successful management of crisis). Further, the area of risk management and prevention of crisis is also less preferred in studies (although is of the same great importance for the effective management of crisis).

Another insight on the current limits in crisis studies refers to the types of crisis that are chosen for analysis. Thus, studies select less cases of chronic or complex crisis (the sudden crisis are more attractive, and easier to be studied) and focus less on the processes that maintain a crisis. Also, some complex cases of crisis are treated independently of their context and analysed after universal principles, while the context is essential in the correct interpretation of crisis.

On another hand, crisis studies —offer few frames in evaluating  objectively the symbolic damages, especially the reputation damages. While there is a long ongoing discussion about the reputation (including the topic of reputation assessment) the processes of reputation building and repair, in connection with crisis, are less investigated. It has been stated that a favorable prior reputation has a “protective power” in case of crisis situations (Coombs and Holladay, 2004), helping managers to find a better reaction to their response strategies in case of crisis. In exchange, the reverse relationship (the maintenance of reputation in time, after a crisis) has not been clarified yet.

Finally, even if scholars recognize the explosive potential of crisis created by the development of social media, they still not reached to a consensus about the methods to assess this risk.  Organizations are vulnerable to actions and statements of a potential unlimited audience (Coombs and Holladay, 2012) because of the greater control of users (either internal or external publics) over relevant information (Reddington & Francis, 2011), but still, neither researchers neither the practitioners are not able to give a firm advice about how  to manage communication crisis in the online space. Is this the end of the organizational rules and of the functional perspective? Or, rather, the organizations need to adopt another perspective about their status and mission, and align to it?  The answer is going to be visible in the next years.

„How to teach Europe”, a successful approach developed between NUPSPA and the Institute of European Studies from Brussels

The „European Entrepreneurship – academic qualification for the Europeanization of the Romanian Society”, developed by the College of Communication and Public Relations (SNSPA Bucharest) in partnership with the Institute of European Studies at the Vrije Universitiet Brussels (VUB), aims, firstly, to update and diversify a set of programs of study at master relevant in the context of new developments in the Romanian society in line with European trends.

NUPSPA employees have already received a first training session in Brussels, the second and third will take place in December. These training sessions, suggestively named „How to teach Europe”, implemented in partnership with the Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel within. VUB-IES is a prestigious academic institution, became Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence focused on the role of the EU in international relations, which provides both courses and research programs in various fields and services to European institutions, scientists, and Factors stakeholders and the general public.

In the training stages are planned also visits to the main European institutions, based in Brussels: European Parliament, Council of Ministers and the European Council, European Commission, Council of the European Union. From this point of view, the project brings a new market for academic Romania, direct contact with the institutional environment in Brussels.

As a long term goal, the project aims to contribute to the development and strengthening of higher education in Romania, Romanian universities by increasing the capacity to provide new professional qualifications adapted to labor market requirements. In this sense, the project aims to validate an academic qualification highly topical in the context of adjusting to European policies and practices, that the „expert in European affairs.” In terms of academic logic and contribute to a better visibility of objectives, the project „Euroantreprenoriat” was established a research center – Center for EU Communication Studies. This center is the first academic cluster in Romania dedicated public communication in the European context and aims to create an interdisciplinary and transnational networks of practice and research on European issues.

„Euroantreprenoriat – academic qualification for Europeanization of Romanian society” (HRD / 156 / 1.2 / – G / 140,578) is a project implemented by the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations (National School of Political Science and Public Administration, Bucharest SNSPA) in partnership with the Institute of European Studies at the Vrije Universitiet Brussels (VUB). The project is co-financed by European Social Fund through Sectoral Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007 – 2013, Priority no. 1 „Education and training in support of growth and development of knowledge based society”, Key Area of ​​Intervention 1.2 – „Quality in higher education”.

Mind mapping and concept mapping as techniques of teaching: a comparison

The two types of visual techniques have been developed by different groups of scholars. Thus, mind mapping was developed by Buzan (1974, 2000), while concept mapping was developed by Novak (Novak, 1981; Novak and Gowin, 1984).

A mind map is a presentation form of radiant thinking, utilizing lines, colors, characters, numbers, symbols, images, pictures or keywords, etc. to associate and integrate, visualize the learned concept and maximize brain potential (Buzan & Buzan, 1996).  Basing on free association and imagination, and using pictures and symbols to express the thoughts, mind mapping enhances creativity, problem-solving and deduction capacity.

The alternative notion, the concept map, has been developed as a research instrument. Novak şi Gowin (1984, p. 15) defined the concept map as „a graphic scheme that represent a set of meanings of the concept integrated in a frame of proposals”. A concept map uses diagrams organized in a tree structure, which include concepts framed in boxes. Starting from a key question, concepts are connected with linkage words, in order to form a statement.

The discussion about the potential of application of each technique in different areas and for different purposes should consider first their characteristics. For example, mind mapping can be used with no previous preparation in educational or professional settings. Being a deductive and a creative method, aiming to represent the mental structure of participants, cannot have as result major errors. Also, because previous preparations and lectures are not necessary (it is based on previous knowledge but the information needed as ground is rather general) it is not a need to select participants or to have a time reserved for preparation. Thus, can be used easily in professional and organizational settings (like group meetings, brainstorming, pitches, and so on). On the other hand, concept mapping cannot have the same degree of spontaneity as mind mapping. Concept mapping needs a previous time for preparation and a good understanding of definition of concepts. Therefore, concept maps cannot be created by any participant (should be selected upon their degree of competence to discuss a topic) and cannot be built spontaneously (it is not appropriate for an unannounced exercise in class). Finally, reviewing the types of application of method (for example, individual or group building of a map) becomes obvious that mind mapping can be applied in all types of settings (individual at home, in class individually, in group in class) and spontaneously, while concept maps are difficult to build in a group, and could be applied individually in class only after a time of preparation.

Entrepreneurship in the European space: the adaptation of qualifications to the European work market

The Romanian integration in the European professional space is a long and complex process, which is still not finished. One of the dimensions is the adaptation of qualification to the European Qualifications Frame. This frame has as objective the correlation of the national systems of professional qualifications by developing of clear description sets, that are valid throughout the European space and allow the identification of competencies required by a certain qualification.

The project „European Entrepreneurship – academic qualification for the Europeanization of the Romanian society”/POS DRU 140204, implemented by NUPSPA Bucharest in partnership with Vrije Universiteit Brussels, has as objective the adaptation of two areas to the work market – communication and European governance, and also the development of a new area of study, the European entrepreneurship. The project intends to promote also the academic qualification of expert in European affairs, which includes the professional skills that are necessary for performance in the European institutions as in organizations whose activities are expanded at the European level.

Three master programs in the College of Communication and Public Relations (Master of Communication and European Governance, Master of Project Management and Master of Brand Management and Corporate Communication) will benefit from this project, which will ensure a consulting process between academic institutions, employers and social partners, with the aim of determining the best construction of the academic qualifications.  The balanced and future-oriented design of academic qualifications in this project aims to support the vertical  professional mobility of postgraduates, to motivate the academic teachers involved for a superior level of performance and to offer for employers adequate instruments for the evaluation of competencies of job candidates.

Exploring the digital intelligence

Some decades ago (1983), Gardner initiated his theory about multiple intelligences, giving start to a persistent academic debate about types of intelligence, distinction from other concepts and instruments of development (with large echoes in pedagogy). However, even different schools of research took different paths (studying exclusively a certain type of intelligence, or trying to build frames of measurement), there is still room to find new paths or even develop new types of intelligence.

These new paths come not only from the large definition that Gardner proposed to intelligence, but from the linkage to content he performed when circumscribing the sphere of the concept: „Second, my intelligences are specifically linked to content. I claim that human beings have particular intelligences because of informational contents that exist in the world—numerical information, spatial information, information about other people.” (2011, p. xl).

Thus, if each type of intelligence is linked to content, then the first major change in types of information we should address, when trying to identify the changes occurred in the XXI century should be related to the „digital divide”. In our days, individuals receive and process information in a digital form, and their capacity to generate value products for community is essentially related to their capacity to use digital devices, to search, select and use digital information, to interpret social signals and interact with other beings via computer or smartphone.

Although the impact of the digital divide has been studied by some scholars (Deursen and van Dijk, 2010), a small number of studies explicitly inquired about the digital intelligence as a concept. But the omnipresence of digital content in studying or processing information, or  the impact of the online information and presence to the real life do oblige people to form abilities in managing digital contents. These are supplementary reasons for studying the digital intelligence as a definite type of intelligence that is different from individual to individual (in the spirit of Gardner definition), and is distinctly developed in generations (more developed in the so-called „Net Generation” than in previous ones).

A critical perspective on the Learning Organization theory

Glasmeier et al. (1998) revealed some weak points of the learning organization model:  the lack of a universally accepted definition of firm learning and misuse of terms; the lack of understanding of the nature of learning in organizations; little knowledge about how companies determine their need to acquire new information; a firm’s ability to absorb new information is a function of the previous experiences; learning is history dependent. The remarks of the authors focused on the definition and nature of learning, and on the way information is transformed in knowledge.

The critiques could be continued with several assumptions about the missing connections in the social and emotional continuum of the organization. (a) Learning is not only cognition, is also emotional growth and change for individuals. The way in which individuals integrate information in knowledge is personal (not saying is unique), thus the effectiveness of models in this aspect is doubtful. (b) Organizational identity is a dynamic concept, tied with the development experiences, and should play a major role in generating the learning organization. (c) The theory speaks very little of the aim of organizational learning: organizations learn not only for their business objectives, but for their mission’s fulfillment. The mission includes also playing a “social role” in the entire living that integrates the organization. (d) There were several attempts to compose “recipes” for building a learning organization; but in the authentic meaning a learning organization could only “grow naturally”. Items like trust, commitment and cohesion become important as possible generative factors, as frames for interpreting reality.

Developments of the Learning Organization theory

The learning organization was defined as “an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create the future. For such an organization, it is not enough merely to survive (…) adaptive learning must be joined with generative learning, learning that enhances the capacity to create” (Senge, 1990, 14). Senge proposes “five disciplines” for building a learning organization (Senge, 1990, 6-11): renounce to the old way of thinking (mental models), become committed to lifelong learning (personal mastery), gain the connection to the whole (systems thinking), share a common vision with all the team (shared vision), and work together for the achievement of the vision (team learning). The five elements were not new, but the model in which they were integrated was powerful enough to create a management orientation in North American area.

The initial theory was developed by other contributions. Lichtenstein (2000) proposed the term generative knowledge and insisted that all decision makers must move beyond a rational model of understanding to a transactional, open-minded and social model. Ratner (1997, 1-34) defined the learning organization as “one in which people at all levels are increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about.” Levine (2001) described the learning organization profile as being characterized by remembrance and learning, and using collective recording in work processes and decision-making, since learning is applied to produce or change strategies and procedures. Digenti (1998) explored the notion of learning community as a ground for building the learning organization, through: promoting socially responsible behaviors; visions and values; building cognitive skills inside the community. Thus, the organization could integrate the “whole self” of individuals in the organization. The concept of learning community was a step forward in defining larger social collective profiles; in some books appeared the concept “learning society”(as, for example, Raven and Stevenson, 2001).  In comparison with the learning organization, the learning community is a superior stage, because supposes a strong sense of identity and a high level of cohesion and trust.

Organizational Learning versus The Learning Organization: a comparison

In the general field of learning in organizations, confusion between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization is maintained and even intensified by several aspects. The two perspectives are often confused, because of the symmetry of terms. Second, “organizational learning” is used in many situations with the old technical meaning (reception and storage of information), which confuses more the receptors of studies. Third, the expression “learning organization” determined, for a segment of researchers, the idea that only educational organizations could be the subject of this orientation (assimilating in a wrong way the concept of learning organization with schools, universities or research centers).

From the two definitions cited before we can see that the spheres of the two concepts have something in common, but are not the same. Still, the two concepts and the scientific orientations need to be characterized after their main features.

The theoretical ground for OL is larger, providing more possibilities of development in the future). The evolution of theories in social sciences shows that an interdisciplinary ground is more nurturing for further development, compared to narrow and specialized paths. By the opposite, LO capacity to bring novelty of theory is limited to propose only related concepts (as the examples given above, learning community or evolving organization). The age of OL perspective is double than the age of LO, which proves also a greater capacity to survive and develop for the former perspective. And, if someone would evaluate the circulation between the two perspectives, would identify a traffic of ideas from OL to LO, but little traffic in the reverse direction.

Finally, the empirical field is not so generous in case of LO as intended by Peter Senge and his followers. On one hand, the percentage of studies in this school using original empirical data is under 50%. On the other hand, the application of the concept in the real organizational environment proved to be limited (questions were raised if “learning organizations” really exist or could be created in reality, following the various paths proposed by LO studies).