Nice guys finish first, says new study

March 18th, 2009 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 18 (IANS) Being nice and working well with others gives you a solid competitive edge, especially when you are leading a team assigned to developing and marketing a new product, according to new research.
A study co-authored by North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) Jon Bohlmann shows that project managers can get much better performance from their team when they treat members with honesty, kindness and respect.

A second study co-authored by NCSU’s Rob Handfield shows that product development teams can reap significant quality and cost benefits from socialising with people who work for their suppliers.

The first study focussed on cross-functional product development teams, which bring together engineers, researchers and business personnel.

The diverse backgrounds of the team members means there is a focus on finance and marketing, as well as design and functionality, from the beginning of the product-development process. But that diversity also makes effective communication essential, in order to ensure that team members are collaborating rather than working at cross-purposes.

The study finds that “interactional fairness perception” affects “cross-functional communication”. In other words, Bohlmann explains, “If you think you are being treated well, you are going to work well with others on your team.”

Bohlmann, associate professor of marketing at NCSU, said that the study evaluated whether team members felt they were being well treated by their project leader. This evaluation included questions as to whether team members felt their leader was honest, kind and considered the viewpoints of team members.

Bohlmann said the results of the study show that if a team’s leader was perceived as “basically being a nice guy, then team members showed a significant increase in commitment to the team’s success and to the project they were working on”.

This increase in commitment is important, Bohlmann explains, because it leads to enhanced performance in meeting team goals.

If the Bohlmann study tells us that nice guys finish first, the Handfield study finds that playing well with others can give a company an edge when it comes to product development, according to a NCSU release.

Specifically, the Handfield study shows that significant cost and quality benefits can result from informal socialising between employees of a product-development company and those companies that supply the product developers with material and labour.

Handfield explains that informal socialising, like going out to dinner after a meeting, can lead to considering new ideas that take advantage of the different perspectives and experience that suppliers can provide - and ultimately provide product developers with meaningful input.

These findings were both published in the March issue of the Journal of Product Innovation Management.

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