Researchers in the Spotlight

WU started awarding the title of Researcher of the Month in March of 2016. The initiative is intended both to show our appreciation for our researchers and to showcase the findings of their interesting work.

The topics investigated at WU are as diverse as the many researchers working at our university. Many of their findings are not only academically outstanding but also highly relevant to society. This is why we select one researcher to introduce each month, highlighting not only their research findings but also sharing a little bit about their personal sides. Below you can find a brief overview of our 2016 Researchers of the Month, in chronological order.

Martin Schreier

Martin Schreier is head of WU’s Institute for Marke­tin­g ­Ma­nage­ment at the Depart­ment of Marke­ting.

Research question: What happens when customers design products?

Results: Consumers are an excellent source of inspiration for new products. Crowdsourced ideas are not only rated as more innovative and user friendly than those developed by product designers, they also sell better. A Japanese company managed to increase their turnover by € 10 million with products co-designed by their customers. Sales were even higher when the products were labeled as customer innovation.

Relevance: Companies should make use of the enormous creative potential of their customers and create incentives to encourage users to become involved in product design.

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Jesús Crespo Cuaresma

Jesús Crespo Cuaresma is head of the Institute for Macroeconomics at the Depart­ment of Economics.

Research question: How do economic changes affect forestation levels and the global ecosystem?

To answer the question of how nature changes in relation to gross domestic product, Jesús Crespo Cuaresma worked with remote sensing experts and geologists to develop a unique study design, which superimposed national borders on satellite images. Areas with similar climatic and geological conditions within a 50 km zone on both sides of the border were selected for analysis.

Results: His results showed that poorer countries with growing economies cut down forests at a higher rate, but as soon as these countries reach a certain per capita income, deforestation levels off and forests begin to recover.

Relevance: These results are particularly important for climate research. Based on these findings, predictions of gross national product development will allow a prognosis of future forestation levels and give scientists insights into deforestation as a contributor to climate Change.

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Sylvia Frühwirth-Schnatter

Sylvia Frühwirth-Schnatter is head of the Institute for Statistics and Mathematics at the Department of Finance, Accoun­ting & Statis­tics.

Research question: What are the financial disadvantages of maternity leave?

Sylvia Frühwirth-Schnatter developed a new statistical model to investigate if women who take the maximum possible amount of maternity leave experience long-term financial losses.

Results: Mothers generally experience a loss in income in the first few years after returning to work after maternity leave. The results demonstrate clearly that women are well aware of how long they can afford to stay on maternity leave before experiencing financial losses: Women who stay home longer on maternity leave are generally back to their original income level within a reasonable time. In most cases, this is because these women had no potential advancement or pay raise opportunities to miss.

Women who chose a shorter maternity leave would have experienced long-term losses of 15% if they had stayed away from work longer.

Relevance: This study demonstrates clearly how important it is for many women to return to work as soon as possible and emphasizes the significance of sufficient child care facilities and other options to help parents better balance the demands of work and family.

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Jan Mendling

Jan Mendling is a professor at the Institute for Information Business at the Department of Information Systems and Operations.

Research question: How useful are radio-frequency identification (RFID) labels in fashion retail?

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) labels are used to help keep track of inventory items in retail stores.

Results: An analysis of the resulting data can help optimize sales processes: More accurate inventory keeping, information on the exact location of items on the sales floor, faster check-out procedures, and digital shopping consultants in the changing rooms could be the future of retail.

Relevance: Many companies aren’t taking full advantage of the opportunities presented by the digitalization of various business processes. The analysis of digital data can lead to increased efficiency and open new potential.

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Susanne Kalss

Susanne Kalss is a professor of civil and business law at the Depart­ment of Business, Employment and Social Security Law.

Research question:  How can legal protection for family businesses be increased?

Approximately 80% of Austria’s companies are family businesses. They use shareholders’ agreements that regulate internal arrangements such as the distribution of shares, share transfers, and the payout of earnings.

Results: A loophole was identified that made it possible for external investors to buy their way into family businesses. Susanne Kalss’ study revealed this loophole and explored possible ways to close it.

Relevance: An amendment was proposed to legislators to better safeguard family businesses. The amendment to the Austrian Civil Code implementing the new text took effect on July 1, 2016.

Gerhard Speckbacher

Gerhard Speckbacher is head of WU’s Institute for Strategic Management and Management Control and chair of the Department of Strategy and Innovation.

Research question: How can you manage creativity?

New ideas and innovation are paramount to any company’s success, but in a business context, creativity is almost never about spectacular flashes of inspiration. In fact, it tends to be part of the daily business of companies and is usually a team effort. The challenge is to manage teams in a way that enables the members to think creatively and out of the box while at the same time functioning well as a team.

Results: A survey of over 1,000 people working at several hundred companies in many different industries showed that clearly defined rules, norms, and targets are very important for the creative process.

Relevance: The key to promoting utilizable creativity in businesses is not so much allowing employees additional freedom, but rather defining spaces and directions for team members, to give free rein to their creativity and to help develop the team’s skills in a structured manner.

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Manfred M. Fischer

Manfred M. Fischer is a professor emeritus at the Institute for Economic Geography and GIScience at the Department of Socioeconomics.

Research question: How does adding a spatial dimension affect economic models?

Manfred M. Fischer is one of the world’s foremost experts on economic geography and regional studies, and a co-founder of quantitative and theoretical geography in Europe.

Results: His publications fill entire bookshelves: In his long scientific career, Manfred M. Fischer has published 40 books, approximately 120 original papers in academic journals, and 130 contributions to edited anthologies and compendiums. Since the 1990s, Manfred M. Fischer has been consistently included in all rankings of the world’s most productive and most frequently cited researchers in regional studies and economic geography.

Relevance: Including a spatial dimension in the observation of economic processes significantly increases the explanatory power of economic models.

Renate Meyer

Renate Meyer is head of the Insti­tute for Orga­niza­tion Studies at the Department of Management, and co-head of the Research Institute for Urban Manage­ment und Gover­nance, together with Verena Madner. She also teaches as a guest professor at Copen­hagen Busi­ness School.

Research question: Are new management trends short-term fads or long-term success factors?

Terms like shareholder value, CSR, or sustainability are labels for the ideas behind how companies should be set up, run, and managed. Management concepts like these often coexist side by side and follow certain cyclical patterns. Not every management idea can always work all the time and anyplace.

Results: Renate Meyer’s research focuses on the question of which management concepts frequently occur at the same time as others, and what each concept really means.

Relevance: It is important not to immediately follow every new trend, but to view each idea and concept as part of the big picture long term. That way, managers can make a considered decision on whether or not to implement new ideas in their organization.

Günter K. Stahl

Günter K. Stahl is a professor of Inter­na­tional Manage­ment at the Insti­tute for Inter­na­tional Busi­ness at the Department of Global Business and Trade.

Research question: What makes managers become corrupt?

Scandals like the manipulated emissions tests at Volkswagen or those seen in a number of other large concerns pose the question of what causes so many managers to act irresponsibly and create such chaos in their organizations. Günter Stahl and his team investigated this issue in their research project on respon­si­bi­lity and leadership.

Results: Stahl found that corrupt behavior results not only from individual, personal characteristics of the executives involved, e.g. narcissistic tendencies, but that aspects of the entire management team (including a lack of diversity and peer pressure) and of the institutional and cultural environment (e.g. shareholder value philosophy) play a very significant role.

Relevance: CEOs who serve as positive examples by practicing values like integrity, social responsibility, and sustainability, together with a diverse top management team who are aware of the needs of a large number of stakeholder groups and take these into account when making strategic decisions, can establish a culture of responsible management in their organizations.

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Wolfgang Lutz

Wolfgang Lutz is head of the Demography Group at the Department of Socioeconomics and founding director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU).

Research question: Aging population vs. unchecked population growth – what now?

The population in Europe is barely growing, but aging fast, while in Africa, it continues to grow unchecked. Wolfgang Lutz has been cooperating with international demographics experts to investigate the factors that contribute to a positive population development.

Results: Education was identified as a key factor. Better-educated women in developing countries want fewer children, are better equipped to defend their reasons in the face of traditional norms, and live longer, because they are more aware of how to live a healthy lifestyle. Education also leads to higher levels of participation in the labor market and increased productivity.

Relevance: In Africa, universal schooling for all young people, men and women must be the main developmental goal. Basic education and the closely correlated basic health enable people to help themselves. Europe’s goal should be to encourage more people to obtain higher education. In combination with a higher level of participation of women in the labor market and a higher retirement age, models predict that in Austria, for example, there will be enough workers available to keep the system afloat.

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