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Binge Drinking in College May Lower Chances of Landing a Job After College
9/20/2017

Drinking habits, not drinking itself, may impact future careers, say TAU, Cornell University researchers

Heavy drinking six times a month reduces the probability that a new college graduate will land a job by 10 percent, according to Tel Aviv University and Cornell University research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Previous studies were unable to determine the precise effect of alcohol consumption on first-time employment. But according to the new study, each individual episode of student binge-drinking during a month-long period lowers the odds of attaining full-time employment upon graduation by 1.4 percent.

"The manner in which students drink appears to be more influential than how much they drink when it comes to predicting the likelihood of getting a job upon graduation," says Prof. Peter Bamberger of TAU's Coller School of Business Management and Cornell University, who co-authored the study with Prof. Samuel Bacharach of Cornell University; Prof. Mary Larimer and Prof. Irene Geisner, both of the University of Washington; Jacklyn Koopmann of Auburn University; Prof. Inbal Nahum-Shani of the University of Michigan; and Prof. Mo Wang of the University of Florida.

"Binge-drinking" is defined as ingesting four or more alcoholic drinks within two hours by a woman and five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours by a man, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

How often, not how much

The research found that a non-binge pattern of drinking does not adversely impact job search results unless and until their drinking reaches binge levels.

Data for the study was provided by 827 individuals who graduated in 2014, 2015, and 2016 from Cornell, the University of Washington, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan.

"A student who binge-drinks four times a month has a 6 percent lower probability of finding a job than a student who does not engage in similar drinking habits. Those students who drank heavily six times a month increased their unemployment probability to 10 percent," says Prof. Bamberger.

Funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, the research is the first installment of a longitudinal study on how alcohol misuse affects the college-to-work transition. More than 16,000 individuals have been contacted as part of the five-year study.

"This paper is consistent with the recent emphasis on the impact of drinking behavior on career transition from Cornell's Smithers Institute," said Prof. Bacharach. "It is in concert with the previous work we've done on retirement, and on-boarding [the entry and socialization of newcomers into an organization]. Most importantly, it is also consistent with the Smithers Institute's continued programmatic interest in substance abuse not only in the workplace, but in the college community as well."

IDEAS Immersion Program to Host Six Startups from TAU in Chicago
8/30/2017

Acceleration program partners with Chicago's 1871 Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship to help budding entrepreneurs incubate startups

Logo: IDEASIDEAS Immersion will bring six early stage startups from Tel Aviv University to Chicago for a new two-week intensive acceleration program, hosted by 1871, Chicago's Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The opportunity-filled platform, which kicks off September 5, is designed to engage and encourage an elite new generation of innovators from Israel and is part of TAU's growing ecosystem of programming and support for its entrepreneurs.

More information about the event can be found here.

IDEAS (Israel, Digital, Entrepreneurs, Arts, and Science) Immersion partners with North American-based tech/entertainment/science business leaders, angel investors, and venture capitalists to serve as mentors to the participants, providing them with the tools and networks to succeed, while serving as a launch pad for their new business ventures. The students are alumni of the Coller School of Management MBA program at Tel Aviv University.

Six companies were selected to participate:

  • PANCHO: A mobile app that connects tourists with emergency services in any location. Represented by Moran Sverdlov and Daniel Yom Tov.
  • Vet My Hood: A mobile platform that connects users to on-demand veterinarian services. Represented by Eyal Zukovsky.
  • TFRESH: An on-the-go toothbrush/breath freshener. Represented by Hila Afriat Lauterbach.
  • PRforALL: Software that enables targeted queries for media personalities. Represented by Mor Aviram and Tamar Shlimak.
  • KINDR: A daycare finding platform for parents. Represented by Aviv Lazar.
  • Castor: A three-dimensional button that creates gaming characters, merchandise, and do-it-yourself items. Represented by Omer Blaier.

"IDEAS Immersion is a unique experience that will help prepare these outstanding entrepreneurs to become the future leaders of the digital technology world," said David Dorfman, Founder of IDEAS Immersion and Vice President of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University Western Region. "The program is designed to enable our participants to work collaboratively and learn from some of the most respected thought-leaders in the industry. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to bring this program to Chicago following its great success for the past two years in California, and look forward to working with the startups and our corporate sponsors to help further fuel the digital technology industry in Israel."

Uri Bar, a 2016 IDEAS Immersion Los Angeles participant, and his company Easy2Hike were recently awarded $100,000 as part of a start-up competition at TAU.

The University has played a key role in Israel's rise as a world leader in research and as a tech hotbed. Approximately fifty percent of all Israeli entrepreneurs are alumni of TAU and the university is ranked eighth globally for graduates raising US venture capital — more than $1 billion in five years.

With this in mind, TAU created TAU Ventures, a new early stage venture fund focusing on early stage ideas from students, alumni, and the wider Tel Aviv ecosystem. With its first close expected in September 2017, TAU Ventures will be able to invest in this year's participating IDEAS Immersion startups.

The first-time Chicago program, developed in partnership with 1871, includes a series of in-depth workshops, educational panels, community events, and on-site visits to major Chicago corporations, culminating in a community-wide Showcase.

The entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to present their ideas at a showcase event and receive feedback from the community, including leaders from the tech industry, 1871 members, and TAU alumni. The showcase will be held on Friday, September 15, at 8:30 a.m. and is open to the public. Advance registration is required. To attend, please contact Nadine Cohen at ncohen@aftau.org or 773.562.5474.

IDEAS Immersion partners with dozens of corporations, community organizations, and influencers in the technology, media, entertainment, lifestyle, and health industries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago to present the multi-week program. The California program was held this June in partnership with Google and Cross Campus.

For more information, please visit: www.ideasimmersion.com

IDEAS Immersion Program to Host Nine Female Entrepreneurs from TAU
5/26/2017

Acceleration program partners with Cross Campus and Google to help budding women entrepreneurs incubate startups

Logo: IDEASIDEAS Immersion will bring nine of Israel's most talented, aspiring women entrepreneurs to California's tech epicenters for a three-week intensive start-up acceleration program, hosted by Tel Aviv University (TAU) and its American Friends. The opportunity-filled platform, which kicks off at Cross Campus Downtown LA on June 5, is designed to engage and encourage an elite new generation of innovators, with a special focus this year on women in tech.

While women represent more than fifty percent of the US labor force, only a quarter of tech jobs at the top US tech firms are held by women, with only 18 percent of women holding leadership positions. Yet studies have shown that, despite receiving 50 percent less venture capital funding, women tech entrepreneurs are able to generate 20 percent greater revenue than their male counterparts. Still, only seven percent of VC funding goes to women-led startups.

IDEAS (Israel, Digital, Entrepreneurs, Arts and Science) Immersion partners with Los Angeles- and San Francisco-based tech/entertainment/science business leaders, angel investors and venture capitalists to serve as mentors to the participants, providing them with the tools and networks to succeed, as well as serving as a launch pad for their startups.

Five companies and nine outstanding female scholars were selected to participate from TAU's Delta pre-accelerator program:

  • AuDry: "Auto Diary" automatically gathers information to help preserve the user's most important memories by using qualitative data. Represented by Eden Zohar.
  • Botcast: An on-demand smart advisor that helps users discover and consume personalized podcasts. Represented by Leeron Kalish and Adi Dekel.
  • Co-Lab: A mobile platform which creates and promotes collaborative pop-up events between creatives and local businesses. Represented by Shani Singer, Tanya Cohen and Corrine Gotlieb.
  • CraftRide: A mobile truck that helps bring crafting activities to collaborators, such as craft stories, parks, artists, suppliers and more. Represented by Dana Arp and Janice Karbachinskiy.
  • DIT (Do It Together): A platform that helps plan productions by connecting users to crew members and contracted workers on a needs-basis. Represented by Mor Glotter.

"IDEAS Immersion is a unique experience that will help prepare these outstanding women to become the future leaders of the digital technology world," said David Dorfman, Executive Director of IDEAS Immersion and Vice President of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University Western Region. "The program is designed to enable our participants to work collaboratively and learn from some of the chief thought-leaders in the industry. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to work with this cohort of entrepreneurs, along with our corporate sponsors, to help further fuel the digital technology industry in Israel."

Uri Bar, a 2016 IDEAS Immersion participant, and his company Easy2Hike were recently awarded $100,000 as part of a start-up competition at TAU.

The University has played a key role in Israel's rise as a world leader in research and as a tech hotbed. Approximately fifty percent of all Israeli entrepreneurs are alumni of TAU and the university is ranked ninth globally for producing the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs.

With this in mind, TAU created TAU Ventures, a new $10 million venture fund focusing on early stage ideas from students, alumni and the wider Tel Aviv ecosystem. With its first close expected in June 2017, TAU Ventures will be able to invest in this year's participating IDEAS Immersion startups.

The second-year program, developed in partnership with Cross Campus and Google, includes a series of in-depth workshops, educational panels, community events, and on-site visits to major California corporations, culminating in a community-wide Demo Day.

Community events that will be open to the public include:

  • "The Start-Up Lifecycle: Seed, Raise, Exit, Fail" mini-conference (June 8th, 6-9PM at Cross Campus DTLA)
  • "Launchpad to Success: Finding the Next 1 Billion User Platform" (June 13th, 6-9pm at Google SF)
  • Demo Night (June 22nd, 5:30-9:30pm at Cross Campus DTLA)

The program will also be held in Chicago starting August 27, 2017 in partnership with 1871.

IDEAS Immersion partners with dozens of corporations, community organizations and influencers in the technology, media, entertainment, lifestyle and health industries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago to present the multi-week program.

For more information, please visit: www.ideasimmersion.com

"Nice" Women Earn Less than Their More Assertive Counterparts
11/21/2016

New TAU study confirms that nice women finish last

A new study finds that the nicer, or more agreeable, a woman is at work, the lower her salary is likely to be. The new research, published in The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, examines status inconsistencies between men and women through the lens of traditional male and female characteristics.

Dominant, assertive women, who clearly express their expectations and do not retreat from their demands, are compensated better than their more accommodating female peers. According to the researchers, the same goes for dominant men versus their more conciliatory male counterparts — but even dominant women earn far less than all of their male colleagues, dominant or otherwise.

The study was conducted by Prof. Sharon Toker of the Tel Aviv University Coller School of Business Management, Dr. Michal Biron of the Department of Business Administration at the University of Haifa, and Dr. Renee De Reuver of the Department of Human Resource studies at Tilburg University in The Netherlands.

Sugar and spice and everything nice?

"We have witnessed dramatic changes in the definition of traditionally male and female qualities over the past several decades. But some people still really cling to the idea that some qualities are exclusively male and exclusively female," Prof. Toker said. "Some professional women are still afraid to exhibit a trait that's incongruent with presumed notions of female character. The result is financial retribution."

"We found that women aren't aware that more agreeable women are being punished for being nice," said Dr. Biron. "The nice women we polled in our study even believed they were earning more than they deserved."

For the purpose of their study, the researchers surveyed 375 men and women at a Dutch multinational electronics company with 1,390 employees. The subjects were selected at random from all 12 of the company departments.

The researchers used both objective and subjective criteria for the study. For objective data, they analyzed tenure, education, and performance data relative to income and promotion statistics. For subjective data, they examined how the individual perceived the fit between their education, experience, and performance on the one hand, and their income and rank on the other.

More effort for less return

"We found that women were consistently and objectively status-detracted, which means they invest more of themselves in their jobs than they receive; and are compensated less than their male colleagues across the board," Dr. Biron said.

"But dominant women were not punished for reflecting such female-incongruent traits as extroversion and assertiveness," Dr. De Reuver said. "In fact, we found that the more dominant a woman is at work, the less likely she is to be status-detracted. We found a similar pattern among men — the more dominant a man is, the more likely he is to be better compensated. But alarmingly, dominant women were still found to earn less than even the most agreeable men who aren't promoted."

In the subjective part of the study, nearly all the employees responded that they felt dissatisfied with their input-compensation ratio, but agreeable and non-dominant women answered that they felt they earned too much.

"This blew our minds," said Prof. Toker. "The data shows that they earn the least — far less than what they deserve. And they rationalize the situation, making it less likely that they will make appropriate demands for equal pay."

The researchers hope to replicate the study in Israel and the U.S.

TAU Among Top 10 Universities for Venture Capital-Backed Entrepreneurs
9/13/2016

TAU joins Stanford, UC Berkeley, and MIT on global VC database list

Tel Aviv University ranked ninth in the master list of global universities producing the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs, according to the 2016-2017 PitchBook Universities Report. TAU placed ahead of Ivy League universities Yale (#12), Princeton (#13), and Columbia (#18).

TAU appears on the list for the third year in a row, powerfully reflecting the university's continuing success in the global business/investor community.

The prestigious list is topped by Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell. TAU is the only non-US university to make the top ten.

Its MBA program is ranked 12th in the world in terms of producing VC-backed entrepreneurs. According to PitchBook, entrepreneurs who got their start at TAU have raised capital in the amount of $5.1 billion.

Shlomo Nimrodi, CEO of Ramot, Tel Aviv University's Business Engagement Center, said, "This report is a testament to the successful strategy TAU's leadership has been implementing in translating excellent research into practical innovation and entrepreneurship. It involves creating a support system to encourage promising innovations, interacting with multinational corporations from around the world, and opening opportunities to the east, with strong and expanding relations with the emerging markets in both India and China.

"The number of inventions generated every year by TAU scientists and students compares favorably with all the other academic institutions in Israel. In fact, we rank among the top 50 in the world," he continued. "Our faculty and students establish more than 10 new companies centered on TAU technology every year."

Located in the heart of Tel Aviv, the second largest technology sector in the world, TAU is the innovation hub of the "Start Up Nation." With more than half the 30,000+ student body engaged in multi-disciplinary research, TAU is uniquely positioned as an incubator of groundbreaking ideas.

As a venture capital data provider, PitchBook is largely known for its exhaustive data platform, which includes information on tens of thousands of VC-backed companies, investors, and service providers, including more than 16,000 valuations. Pitchbook's database taps into the educational backgrounds of over 13,000 VC founders worldwide. The list ranks the top 50 universities that produced VC-backed founders on a global basis, and is based on the number of founders that received first-round venture funding between January 1, 2006, and August 15, 2016.

Battle of the Sexes? Not When Negotiating with Friends
9/7/2016

TAU study finds women achieve better results when negotiating on behalf of friends

A new Tel Aviv University study on women in the workplace finds women are as savvy and exacting as their male counterparts when negotiating with or on behalf of friends.

The study was conducted by Dr. Hilla Dotan of TAU's Coller School of Management and Prof. Uta Herbst of Potsdam University in Germany. It will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing.

Dr. Dotan and her team conducted two laboratory studies, which paired 216 MBA students in single-gender teams, some of whom were friends and some of whom were not. The teams engaged in several multi-issue negotiations — concerning pesticide products in one scenario, and airplane engines and parts in another.

"When we looked at the negotiation tactics and outcomes of these young professionals, we found several differences between men and women," said Dr. Dotan. "However, the one condition under which we found no difference between men and women was when women negotiated in teams of friends.

"We found that women negotiate better outcomes when negotiating on behalf of others whom they care about. Men do not exhibit a difference in this respect. What's important for women is the sense of fighting for others, for their friends, for something bigger than themselves."

Questioning assumptions

According to Dr. Dotan, existing research is "disheartening." Men initiate negotiations four times as often as women; women negotiators generally achieve 30% less than their male counterparts; 20% of women do not negotiate at all even when they believe they ought to; and women consider negotiations a chore rather than a pleasure.

"We consistently read that women negotiate lower outcomes than men. But is this really true?" said Prof. Herbst. "We know that women generally behave differently in the workplace. They focus on maintaining relationships and cooperation and fostering harmony, which are ripe circumstances for negotiations. This behavioral aspect and the process of negotiations have commonly been overlooked in existing research."

"Women tend to focus on the process of negotiations and on building relationships and reputations," said Dr. Dotan. "These outcomes may not be seen in the immediate commercial outcomes, but may be observed over time. This difference may indeed explain the differences between the genders and calls on researchers to take a more longitudinal perspective to evaluating negotiation outcomes."

The business benefit of workplace friendships

Dr. Dotan believes that company management would benefit from fostering and encouraging personal relationships at work.

"Women naturally form relationships and these organic friendships shouldn't be touched, because they ultimately prove profitable for the company," said Dr. Dotan. "Companies would also be wise to recruit employees' friends — although we should remember that 'not all friendships are created equal.'"

In prior research Dr. Dotan studied how friendships in organizations impacted various organizational outcomes, including performance. "I found that trust-based friendships are best for individuals and organizations," she said. "We're now studying whether women who form such trust-based friendships and negotiate in teams of friends achieve equal or better commercial outcomes than men."

Dr. Dotan and her colleagues are also currently exploring the implications of friendships among individuals on opposing teams and how they affect negotiation outcomes.

Follow Your Heart as You Pursue Your Career
10/29/2015

A new TAU study finds talent is less important than passion when it comes to professional success

More than half of working Americans feel disengaged from their jobs, according to Gallup's latest State of the American Workplace poll. Unenthusiastic, uncommitted, and uninvolved, male and female workers alike are now, more than ever before, unlikely to be "doing what they love" at work. Should you pursue your passion or strive toward a secure living?

A new Tel Aviv University study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology finds that the two objectives are not mutually exclusive — in fact, each feeds the other. Young people with strong callings are more likely to take risks, persist, and ultimately get jobs in their chosen fields, satisfying both their personal and professional career needs. The researchers also found that those who exhibit a passion for these interests in their teens are more likely to be successful later on, regardless of their inherent talent.

The research was conducted by by Dr. Daniel Heller of TAU's Recanati School of Business, in collaboration with Dr. Shoshana Dobrow Riza of the London School of Economics.

The head vs. the heart

"Given the economic reality today, people commonly face trade-offs as they make decisions that pit the two sides of careers — the 'heart,' or intrinsic side, and the 'head,' or extrinsic side — against one another," said Dr. Heller, "We wanted to examine people who chose to follow more challenging career paths, such as those in the arts, and assess their chances of 'making it.'"

Dr. Heller and Dr. Riza surveyed some 450 high-school music students at two elite US summer music programs over the course of 11 years (2001-2012) as they developed from adolescents to young adults to professional musicians.

"We found that participants with stronger callings toward music in adolescence were likely to assess their musical abilities more favorably and were more likely to pursue music professionally as adults regardless of actual musical ability," said Dr. Heller.

Even so, difficulties in pursuing their dreams were still evident. According to the study, participants who were involved in music professionally, even at a minimum, earned considerably less (a gap of $12,000 per year on average) than freelancers or amateurs who pursued their musical interests outside of work. But they also reported similar or greater satisfaction with their jobs and lives. For those with strong callings, personal rewards such as satisfaction may matter more than professional rewards such as income.

Weighing the options

"If you experience a strong calling, you need to be cognizant of your relative preferences for intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards and potential trade-offs between the two, then decide accordingly," said Dr. Heller. "However, we found that, in certain fields, one's drive or passion afforded a competitive advantage over others, even when unrelated to objective ability or talent.

"In general, society benefits from an excess of talented people competing for a limited number of positions in winner-take-all labor markets," Dr. Heller continued. "Individuals who 'win' in this market are exemplary. Although individuals entering this type of market eventually 'lose' in extrinsic terms by definition, they still benefit from intrinsic rewards and garner subjective value and well-being, such as the satisfaction derived from attempting to fulfil their calling, even for a short time."

The researchers are currently examining the implications of career choice on overall wellbeing.

Rudeness Damages Medical Staff Performance
9/8/2015

TAU researcher finds incivility has grave consequences for quality of medical care and diagnostic accuracy

Researchers have proven that rudeness — like poison in the water cooler — is toxic in the workplace, affecting both job and business performance. But what if your office is a hospital Intensive Care Unit where lives hang in the balance?

A new Tel Aviv University study published in Pediatrics suggests that even the most benign forms of impoliteness may impede medical personnel's ability to perform under pressure and damage the quality of patient care. Rudeness alone accounts for a significant drop in hospital staff's diagnostic and professional performance, according to research led by Prof. Peter Bamberger of TAU's School of Management. Prof. Bamberger collaborated on the study with Dr. Arieh Riskin, also of TAU's School of Management and the Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa, and Dr. Amir Erez and Trevor Foulk of the University of Florida Warrington College of Business Administration.

"Relatively benign forms of incivility among medical staff members — simple rudeness — have robust implications on medical team collaboration processes and thus on their performance as a team," said Prof. Bamberger. "This is important because rudeness is rampant in many medical contexts. Patients and their families may be rude to caregivers, and caregivers may be rude to one another."

Dr. Rude and Dr. Nice

For the purpose of the research, 24 Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) teams from hospitals around Israel participated in a simulation exercise involving a premature infant suffering from the common but severe medical complication necrotizing enterocolitis (in which bowel tissue disintegrates).

The teams were informed that an expert on team reflexivity from the United States would be observing them by live video throughout the stimulation, occasionally making suggestions over the two-way link. Half of the teams performed in the presence of a "rude" expert, whereas the other half completed their tasks under the watchful gaze of a "neutral" commentator. The expert's rudeness was expressed in a comment made before the team he was observing even got to work: "I've observed a number of groups from other hospitals in Israel, and compared to the participants observed elsewhere in the past, I can't say I'm impressed with the quality of medicine in Israel."

The simulations were videotaped and presented to a team of management experts, who evaluated them based on dimensions of help-seeking and information-sharing behavior among the medical staff, as well as their overall diagnostic and procedural performance. The researchers found that teams exposed to ill-mannered behavior shared less information with (and passed less information on to) each other, and demonstrated poorer diagnostic and procedural performance than those not exposed to rudeness.

A shift in focus

"We hope our findings will shift the focus of research on medical error toward interpersonal interactions and cognition," said Prof. Bamberger. "From a practical perspective, we hope it will call attention to the need to shift behavioral norms in medical contexts."

The researchers are continuing to explore the implications of rudeness in medical situations using other approaches and with an eye to better understanding protective and vulnerability factors.

“Trustworthy” Hedge Fund Execs Generate More Business but Weaker Returns
1/20/2015

TAU study finds attractive money managers attract more clients — but are also more likely to disappoint

First impressions are the most important, and that's as true in the business sector as well as anywhere else. But does a good first impression lead to investment success — and for whom?

According to a new study by Dr. Roy Zuckerman of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management, hedge-fund managers who appear "trustworthy" in photographs attract more clients than their more "undependable"-looking counterparts. But their clients also saw lower returns on their investments — rendering them less successful than their less "trustworthy" colleagues.

The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ankur Pareek of Rutgers University and published in Social Science Research Network.

Trust me?

"There is no evidence to suggest that perceived trustworthiness predicts actual managerial skill," said Dr. Zuckerman. "On the contrary, we found that the 'trustworthy' managers tended to make less money for investors and more money for themselves by leveraging the way they looked and how they presented themselves. 'Untrustworthy' execs were found to charge lower fees and generate more income for investors and less for themselves."

According to Dr. Zuckerman, personal appearance plays a dominant role in establishing the perceived trustworthiness of a hedge-fund manager. While facial appearance is an important determinant of trustworthiness for all individuals, institutions and high net-worth individuals use face-to-face meetings with hedge fund managers as an important criterion for making investment decisions.

The research used dozens of publicly available photographs of hedge-fund managers found on Google. The pictures were rated for personal characteristics, such as age and attractiveness, by a group of 25-30 subjects in an online survey platform. As part of the survey, respondents were also asked to rate the trustworthiness of the managers on a scale of 1 to 10 based only on their photographs.

"Using this measure of trustworthiness, we attempted to answer two questions: whether perceived manager trustworthiness had an effect on investors' behavior, and whether this effect was rational, i.e., was supported by results," said Dr. Zuckerman.

Investors, look deeper

The study found that the managers characterized as "less trustworthy" by the survey in fact performed much better than their "upright" colleagues. "When hedge funds begin to perform poorly, people are less likely to pull out their investments if their managers appear trustworthy," said Dr. Zuckerman. "But this just should not be the case. All evidence points to the fact that appearance should not matter in hedge fund decisions by investors. Unfortunately, in this study we found that it does."

According to Dr. Zuckerman, investors should avoid the simple mistake of buying into the physical appearance of hedge-fund managers. "Hedge fund investors are usually considered to be highly sophisticated, whether they are large institutions or high net worth individuals, and even they make the simple mistake of relying on the looks of hedge fund managers," said Dr. Zuckerman. "My advice would be to ignore the way a person looks when researching investment opportunities. Ignore your intuition. Focus only on the numbers, look at accounting reports. The idea is to focus on the hard data, and ignore the soft data."

Dr. Zuckerman is currently researching repeat insider-trading offenders.

Fear of Terror May Lead to Job Burnout Over Time
1/8/2015

TAU study finds anxiety-related insomnia depletes vital resources, paving the way for occupational burnout

Terrorist attacks around the world continue to grow in scope and severity. In the aftermath of such attacks, authorities are usually quick to address the needs of victims and their relatives. But what about terrorism's impact on a general public seemingly distant from the scene of attacks — "indirect" victims of terror?

A new Tel Aviv University study, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, addresses for the first time the direct link between terrorism and increased incidence of job burnout over time. The research, led by Dr. Sharon Toker of TAU's Faculty of Management, in collaboration with Dr. Gregory A. Laurence of the University of Michigan and Dr. Yitzhak Fried of Syracuse University and Texas Tech University, examines how the fear of terrorism can lead to insomnia, a major player in job burnout — the state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. The study suggests that fear of terror should be considered as a major job stressor and it also explores the positive contribution of workplace colleagues in reversing this troubling trend.

"Terror brings the saliency of death into our awareness," said Dr. Toker. "One tends not to be reminded of death on a daily basis, but terrorism every day drives home the idea that one can die at any moment. With terror attacks, there is nothing to be done, and that is really frightening."

Defining terror

The study was conducted in Israel, and the first measurements took place between 2003-2004, the peak of the Second Intifada, during which 550 attempted terrorist acts led to the deaths of 880 civilians. The researchers defined terrorism as a "sudden, rare, violent and destructive event capable of targeting anyone at any time," and characterized job burnout according to physical exhaustion, cognitive weariness, and emotional lethargy.

A random sample of 670 Israeli employees underwent routine checkups at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center as part of the Tel Aviv Medical Center Inflammation Survey led by Prof. Itzhak Shapira and Prof. Shlomo Berliner, and completed questionnaires to assess the incidence of insomnia, fear of terror, fear for personal safety, tension experienced in public places, level of workplace support, and signs of job burnout. Employees were followed from 2003 to 2009, and completed two additional questionnaires through the duration of the study. This extended follow-up period provided insight into the improvement and/or deterioration of their condition.

"We found that the higher your levels of fear of terror at baseline, the higher your risk of developing insomnia — and those who were more likely to develop insomnia were also most likely to experience job burnout several years later," Dr. Toker says. "Burnout is a direct outcome of depleted resources, so those who consistently don't get enough sleep report job burnout. Interestingly, we found that those who reported support from colleagues — but not managers — developed significantly less insomnia and little incidence of job burnout after several years."

While the researchers found that managerial support was not helpful in assuaging workers' fears of terror, the emotional and technical support provided by colleagues was instrumental in reversing insomnia and resulting job burnout as a result of the fear of terror.

Managers, take heed

But the research still bears a take-home message for those managers, Dr. Toker believes. "A workplace environment that is conducive to a strong social support network has the power to substantially alleviate the effects of fear of terror," she says. "Managers can promote interventions for healthy sleep habits, initiate retreats, and launch employee assistance programs, particularly in peak periods of terrorism. We believe these measures are very productive in alleviating symptoms of worker burnout."

Dr. Toker is currently working on developing interventions aimed at reducing burnout and enhancing well being, as well as identifying barriers to participating in such interventions.

A Toast to Old Age?
1/6/2015

TAU research finds conditions of retirement can lead to substance abuse disorders among older adults

Close to three million Americans aged 55 and older suffer from alcohol abuse — and this figure is expected to reach nearly 6 million by 2020. While alcohol abuse remains prevalent among them, the rate of illicit drug abuse in adults over 50 more than doubled between 2002 and 2013.

Many of the older Americans suffering from substance abuse are retired. But according to Tel Aviv University research, it is not retirement alone that leads to drug and alcohol abuse, but rather a host of circumstances surrounding leaving the work force, which often coincides with painful later-life events such as the death of spouses and friends.

Published in the inaugural issue of Journal of Work, Aging and Retirement, the comprehensive ten-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was conducted by Prof. Peter A. Bamberger of TAU's Faculty of Management and Cornell University's Smithers Institute, and Prof. Samuel B. Bacharach of Cornell University. The two also co-authored Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic (Oxford University Press, 2014), a layman's summary of their many studies on the subject.

More than lack of work

According to the study, older adults often lack the skills required to cope with the sudden vacuum produced by retirement as well as events common to later life — such as deteriorating health and the death of spouses and friends. The research also pointed to the impact of circumstances and conditions of retirement on feelings of depression, purposelessness, and financial strain, which are known to lead to substance abuse.

"We found that the conditions under which people retired — whether they were pushed into it or it was something expected, which they planned for — had great bearing on alcohol and drug habits," said Prof. Bamberger. "The worst combination we found was among people who took early retirement from jobs they loved because they were terrified their companies were going under. Among all groups studied, this one exhibited the highest incidence of substance abuse.

"Our second major finding was that the conditions experienced once in retirement influenced alcohol and drug habits," Prof. Bamberger continued. "Even if an individual plans for retirement, he/she might not fully grasp the changes that must be made to his/her lifestyle. As a result, many people experience serious financial straits. Feeling unstable, lonely, and depressed, it isn't surprising perhaps — but it is unfortunate — that many retirees look to alcohol or drugs for comfort."

The study, conducted as an annual phone-based survey of 1,200 service, construction, and manufacturing workers aged 52-75, also found that retirement can cause marital strain, and this too may precipitate or exacerbate substance misuse or abuse. "Financial strain and marital strain, both potential consequences of retirement, elicited problems with sleep. This in particular explained much of males' misuse of alcohol," said Prof. Bamberger.

A silver lining for the silver years

Much can be done to prevent retirees from bottoming out, including screening and brief interventions aimed at identifying behavioral changes that could lead to substance abuse. "Sometimes awareness alone is enough to bring about positive change," said Prof. Bamberger. "Even short phone calls or brief Internet-based feedback can be so instrumental. The other way of reversing this trend is to provide ways of coping with the stresses of retirement. Retirement groups and mentors are often able to pick up on signs of deterioration before they become a problem."

Prof. Bamberger is currently working on a new NIH-sponsored study examining the alcohol-related consequences of the college-to-work transition among younger people.

TAU Business School Awarded Top Ranking Alongside Harvard, Yale
12/15/2014

Eduniversal awards Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration highest "5 Palmes" accolade, rating it best business program in Israel

Logo: EduniversalLast month Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management — The Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration was ranked the best in Israel; second in Eurasia and the Middle East; and in the same "universal" category as the top business schools around the world, including North America and Western Europe.

Eduniversal, a global ranking and rating agency headquartered in Paris, released its annual ranking of the world's top 1,000 business schools in November, classifying the institutions according to "Palm leagues" of excellence — 5 Palmes (strong global influence), 4 Palmes (significant international influence), 3 Palmes (reinforcing international influence), 2 Palmes (strong regional influence), and 1 Palme (considerable local influence).

TAU's Recanati Business School received 5 Palmes and ranked in the top league as a leading "universal" business school along with Harvard, London Business School, and Yale. It was also rated the top business school in Israel, followed by business programs at Hebrew University (3 Palmes) and University of Haifa (3 Palmes).

Dean of TAU's Faculty of Management Prof. Moshe Zviran said the prestigious ranking was "another acknowledgment of the quality of research, faculty, programs, and worldwide reputation Recanati has enjoyed for years."

World-class entrepreneurship education

"Why did we receive it out of all the Israeli schools? First and foremost, the quality of our research and the quality of our programs, which are geared toward entrepreneurship and innovation," said Prof. Zviran. "In addition, we have a wide global outreach in teaching and research. In teaching, we have more than 100 student exchange programs with leading business schools across the world. In research we host international workshops and conferences in various functional areas, and our faculty members are invited to contribute to international research collaborations and share their knowledge with peers at top schools around the world."

Prof. Zviran added that Recanati is the only business school in Israel that enjoys international accreditation by the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).

Recanati's MBA program placed 11th out of the top 25 MBA programs in the world for alumni who became successful entrepreneurs, according to a global survey of some 13,000 entrepreneurs conducted last summer by PitchBook, a Seattle-based venture capital research company.

"Being identified with Israel, the Start-Up Nation, we are now restructuring both our local and international MBA programs in entrepreneurship and innovation to adapt to the rapid changes in MBA education and to ensure our global leadership in this area," said Prof. Zviran.

Glass Houses: Your Personality Helps Predict Your Real Estate Choices
12/3/2014

TAU research finds personality traits affect home-buying decisions on both micro and macro levels

Do you consider yourself a conscientious person? Then sign up for a fixed-rate mortgage. Neurotic? You'll probably opt for home ownership over renting.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, personality traits are strong indicators of real-estate decisions. The research, by Dr. Danny Ben-Shahar of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management and doctoral candidate Roni Golan of the Technion Institute of Technology, finds a correlation between personality and individual real estate choices, and a follow-up study by the same team finds an identical link between local personality types in America and statewide real estate trends.

"This research falls within the scope of a much larger discussion in the social sciences in general, and in economics in particular, about what constitutes decision-making: the rational view versus that affected by emotional and cognitive biases," said Dr. Ben-Shahar. "My work shows that people in the real estate framework act 'irrationally,' as economists say, and not according to traditional economic assumptions."

The "Big Five" and home ownership

In their first study, the researchers administered a widely-used personality assessment test called the "Big Five" to a diverse sample of 1,138 respondents. The test asks takers to rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 5 on questions that measure standard personality traits: Openness (artistic, curious, imaginative), Conscientiousness (efficient, organized), Extroversion (sociable, outgoing, energetic), Agreeableness, (forgiving, undemanding) and Neuroticism (tense, discontented).

Once the researchers established the personality types of the respondents, they asked five questions about their real estate preferences — such as the type and duration of a mortgage, whether to rent or buy, and whether to invest in real estate or stocks. The findings were controlled for a series of variables including, among others, level of education, homeownership, age, gender, and income.

The results showed a clear link between personality and real estate decisions. Neurotic people, for example, prefer homeownership over renting. When they do buy, they opt for a mortgage with a lower "loan-to-value" (LTV) ratio, which means the loan amount is low compared to the price of the home.

"It turns out, not surprisingly to psychologists and behavioral economists perhaps, that there are very significant correlations between personality traits and preferences in real estate," said Dr. Ben-Shahar.

State-by-state

In the follow-up study, Dr. Ben-Shahar examined the results of the Big Five personality test with respect to a much larger sample of 1.6 million Americans. By matching predominant "personality types" of US states with housing data from the US Census and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the team found that here, too, personality was associated with real estate choices. The so-called "personality" of a state was defined by previous studies in which researchers averaged the responses of individuals on the Big Five test for each state.

The neurotic state of New York, for example, tended to choose lower loan-to-value ratios on mortgages, whereas states with relatively high marks for openness, like South Carolina, leaned toward a relatively greater share of fixed-rate mortgages. Vermont, on the other hand, scored relatively highly on openness and tended to choose lower LTVs. "While not every state's real estate profile lined up exactly with its predominant personality, we saw the macro level reflect trends detected at the micro level," Dr. Ben-Shahar said.

Dr. Ben-Shahar is currently working on other models of non-rational decision making in the real estate market.

Tel Aviv University Among Top 10 Universities for Venture Capital-Backed Entrepreneurs
8/28/2014

TAU joins Stanford, UC Berkeley, and MIT on global VC database list

Tel Aviv University ranked ninth in the master list of global universities producing the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs. In the August/September edition of the venture capital database Pitchbook's VC Monthly, TAU vaulted to the number nine spot, ahead of Ivy League universities Yale (#11), Princeton (#17), and Columbia (#19).

The prestigious list is topped by Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell, but also includes the Indian Institute of Technology, the first non-U.S. university to make the top ten.

TAU's emergence comes as no surprise. Over the last several years, Israel has emerged as a technology epicenter and a hub for VC investment. In the last five years, TAU is one of only 19 universities whose alumni garner a combined total of $1 billion or more in venture capital financing. Two other Israeli colleges made the top 50 — the Technion (#19) and Hebrew University (#37).

As a venture capital data provider, PitchBook is largely known for its exhaustive data platform, which includes information on tens of thousands of VC-backed companies, investors, and service providers, including more than 16,000 valuations. Pitchbook's database taps into the educational backgrounds of over 13,000 VC founders worldwide. The new and expanded list ranks the top 50 universities that produced VC-backed founders on a global basis, and is based on the number of founders that received VC funding from 2009 through the end of July 2014.

For the list and more, read the article in Pitchbook's VC Monthly:
http://blog.pitchbook.com/the-top-50-universities-producing-vc-backed-entrepreneurs/

Crime Rates May Fluctuate Depending on Authority in Charge
8/11/2014

TAU study finds police more inclined to issue arrests when prisons have administrative responsibility for detainees

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court forced California to deal with the massive overcrowding in its prison system. The resulting reform shifted administrative and budgetary responsibility for low-level criminals from the state prison system to county jails. As a result, local California jails now face more overcrowding than ever, and local law enforcement is saddled with additional costs for imprisoning arrestees.

A new study evaluating the exact opposite reform in Israel, published in the Journal of Public Economics, offers insight into the long-term impact of the California experiment. In their research, Dr. Itai Ater of Tel Aviv University's Recanati Business School, Dr. Yehonatan Givati of Hebrew University, and Dr. Oren Rigbi of Ben-Gurion University examined the impact of transferring authority over jails from the police to the Prison Authority made on arrests and crime in Israel.

According to the study, crime dropped as a result of the reform largely because the police — feeling less budgetary pressure — felt free to arrest more suspects, many of whom would have gotten off in the past with a warning. Based on the results of the study, Dr. Ater predicts that the California reform may result in an increase in the crime rate.

Broad-based research

Basing their study on Israel Police data, the researchers evaluated every criminal arrest in Israel between September 2006 and September 2009: a total of 153,960 arrests and 95,521 arrestees. In addition to the arrest data, the researchers analyzed each of the nearly 834,000 crimes reported to the police during the same time period.

Between April 2007 and January 2008, control over jails in Israel was transferred from police departments to the Prison Authority. Police officers who manned the jails and budgets associated with the jails also became the responsibility of the Prison Authority. This transfer took place gradually, region by region, allowing Dr. Ater and the researchers to identify arrest and crime trends.

Once police departments no longer bore responsibility for arrestees' room and board, arrests went up by about 11 percent, Dr. Ater says. Arrestees were also held for longer periods of time, even though the newly added captives were arrested for less serious crimes.

Feeling less pressure on their budgets, police departments started arresting not only those suspected of lesser crimes, they also started arresting people less likely to be charged at all in the end. But some of the new arrests were valid, and reported crime dropped by 4 percent after the reform.

Beyond the jails

"Though we focus on law enforcement agencies in this paper, we believe that there are other settings, characterized by comparable underlying forces, to which our findings might apply," said Dr. Ater. "In a hospital, for instance, bottlenecks are likely to occur at the interface between the emergency department and internal wards, because the decision whether to accept a patient into the ward is subject to the ward's approval. Our study can help provide insight into many fields grappling with the same budgetary issues.

"It's true that unfortunately the reform has seen an increase in innocent people being charged — because more arrests automatically means more faulty arrests," said Dr. Ater. "But the trade-off has had a generally positive outcome in lowering crime rates."

But what does all this suggest for California, where control over prisons shifted in the other direction, closer to local law enforcement?

"Using the same logic of organizational responsibility from the case in Israel, the shift in California will likely lead to fewer arrests, reducing budgetary pressures to be sure," said Dr. Ater. "However, it may also result in an increase in crime rates."

Dr. Ater is continuing to study the link between police incentives, police activity, and crime.

Overdoing It: Multiple Perspectives Confuse Consumers
7/22/2014

Shifting images in advertisements can create a negative feeling about a product, says TAU researcher

Television commercials for luxury vehicles pack a lot in their 30-second running times: the camera offers quick shots of the soft leather upholstery, the shiny colors, the state-of-the-art entertainment system, and the four-wheel drive. But these multiple angles and shifting perspectives have a negative impact on consumer evaluation of products, according to a new study from a Tel Aviv University researcher.

Dr. Yael Steinhart of TAU's Recanati Business School and her collaborators Yuwei Jiang of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Rashmi Adaval of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Robert S. Wyer Jr. of Chinese University of Hong Kong say that multiple angles and perspectives in commercials may actually prevent consumers from forming positive associations about the products. The researchers found this to be particularly true for consumers who imagine using the products themselves in the course of evaluating them, according to the study to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"We have shown through four different studies that the perspective shift has a negative effect when consumers conjure personal narratives about the advertised product," said Dr. Steinhart. "On the other hand, the effect of perspective shift may be positive if consumers are only intent on collecting information about the advertised product."

Keeping it simple

Over a thousand people took part in four separate studies conducted in Hong Kong and the US. Using questionnaires, an eye-tracking system, and a memory-based cognitive study, the researchers measured distinct responses to ads featuring pictures from both similar and multiple angles. They then analyzed the impact of these responses on product evaluation.

In one study, participants were asked to view an ad for a resort hotel and to form a story about their own experience at the resort. There were two type of ads — each consisting of four photos. In one type of ads the images were from the same perspective, and in the other the images were from multiple angles. Participants who viewed the photos from different perspectives expressed more difficulty in conjuring a narrative and were also more likely to form a negative impression of the resort.

"There are practical implications for this research," said Dr. Steinhart. "Marketers want to provide as much information as possible about a product, but we have shown that the default strategy of consumers is to construct a personal narrative when forming their evaluation, and too much information from multiple perspectives may backfire."

Stay focused

"The best thing a company can do is allow the consumer to imagine himself in a scene with the product, without providing too much distracting stimuli — or information from too many perspectives," Dr. Steinhart advised. "The consumer finds it too difficult to move from one perspective to another, remembers less about the product and — ultimately — likes the product less."

Dr. Steinhart, an expert on consumer psychology, is currently working on various research projects, such as the effect of "brand arrogance," possible biases in financial decisions, and the tendency of early adopters to "share" and "scare" others about the innovations they adopt.

Is Stress a Perk?
4/9/2014

TAU research shows women experience more stress at work than their male counterparts

It's universally acknowledged that a gender gap exists in workplace salaries — but a new study from Tel Aviv University shows that it's not only money that's distributed unfairly.

TAU's Prof. Haya Stier and University of Haifa's Prof. Meir Yaish found that women's jobs not only pay less — they're more stressful as well. Women in industrialized countries lagged behind men in most elements of job quality. Women surveyed reported a lack of upward mobility, flexibility, and job security, adding insult to economic injury. The study was recently published in Work, Employment and Society.

"That women are paid less than men is well known. The study shows that in addition to lower wages and fewer opportunities for promotion, their jobs are also more stressful," said Prof. Stier. "We further argue that gender inequality is even higher in those occupations that demand higher education."

Researchers drew on data from the International Social Survey Programme, eliciting responses about work life from 8,500 men and 9,000 women in 27 industrialized countries, including the US, Germany, Japan, Israel, and Australia. According to the researchers, the gender gap in job quality tends to narrow as the number of women in the occupation rises, so moving more women into male-dominated fields could help redress the imbalance of women's workplace problems.

"We show that in many cases gender inequality declines in women-dominated jobs, so by choosing these occupations they minimize these penalties," said Prof. Stier.

For more, see the Huffington Post story:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/gender-gap-job-quality_n_4933823.html

Corporate Layoff Strategies Are Increasing Workplace Gender and Racial Inequality
3/27/2014

TAU research finds that current practices "downsize diversity"

Research from Prof. Alexandra Kalev of Tel Aviv University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology reveals that current workplace downsizing policies are reducing managerial diversity and increasing racial and gender inequalities. According to the study, layoff practices focusing on positions and tenure, rather than worker performance, minimized the share of white women in management positions by 25 percent and of black men by 20 percent. Prof. Kalev found that a striking two-thirds of the companies surveyed used tenure or position as their core criteria for downsizing.

The study, published in the most recent issue of the American Sociological Review, was based on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data compiled between 1980 and 2002, as well as data collected from a survey of 327 private US-based companies. Prof. Kalev, together with Prof. Frank Dobbin of Harvard University, is currently using all EEOC data to date to examine the effect of workforce diversity on corporate financial performance. "This study is a wake-up call," said Prof. Kalev. "Downsizing is increasingly done in ways that hit managerial diversity hardest, and practices that help protect diversity have become less and less common. Most diversity programs in place today are based on 'best practices', not on best data, which appear to undermine efforts at managerial diversity."

The law of unintended consequences?

Prof. Kalev's statistics-based study, one of the first of its kind, found that American corporations were losing managerial diversity in downsizing — at times even without their knowledge. Companies have formalized downsizing procedures to make them transparent and fair but by relying on position- or tenure-based rules for downsizing, they wiped out positions typically held by women or minorities.

"There has been little to no attention to the fact that women and minorities bear more of the risk and disproportionately lose their managerial jobs," said Prof. Kalev. "American corporations are investing a lot of effort in increasing managerial diversity, and they are not always aware that they are losing that diversity in position- or tenure-based downsizing."

Mining the data for evidence

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in the US on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. What followed, however, were several decades of experiments with "compliance" on the part of human resources departments. In 1965, the EEOC was established to monitor the representation and promotion of minorities and women in the workplace. But the research potential of EEOC-collected data was only fully utilized decades later, and companies were often left to define for themselves what constituted fair and equal treatment.

According to Prof. Kalev, employment practices in the US are not research-driven and instead follow the country's shifting political map. The 1970s were considered a "decade of enforcement," in which Supreme Court decisions and high enforcement budgets kept companies on their toes. This period saw the most significant gains in diversity to date.

The 1980s, however, ushered in an era of free market rule, brandishing a policy of small government and big economy. A period of weak enforcement ensued, and equal opportunity managers and affirmative action officers rebranded themselves as "diversity management," a new industry that made the "business case" for diversity. Their argument was that a more diverse workforce would boost creativity and innovation and expand a given company's customer base, making it that much more profitable.

The knowledge to act

"We have come full circle," said Prof. Kalev. "Starting with government issuing a law, then industry organically defining compliance for itself, then back to government accepting industry-defined compliance as evidence of non-discrimination — all this without ever using an evidence-based approach to diversity management."

But according to Prof. Kalev, there is a bright side to the story. With the right tools in their toolbox and the knowledge to support more equitable practices, human resources departments and diversity committees can make a major contribution to workplace equality. "We found that when managers become aware of the disproportionate impact of their layoff decisions, they make every effort to keep women and minorities on board," said Prof. Kalev. "Executives can make a difference if they are motivated and have the knowledge to do so."

Prof. Kalev's study was jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation. Together with Prof. Dobbin, Prof. Kalev is currently conducting a survey of 1,000 universities in the U.S. to examine the effect of personnel structures on faculty diversity.

Listening to Whispers at the Water Cooler
3/6/2014

TAU researcher finds that "pay secrecy" discourages employees from improving their job performance.

Just as she was about to retire, Lily Ledbetter, a production supervisor at an Alabama tire plant, learned that her employers had financially discriminated against her throughout her career. She filed suit for pay discrimination, losing due to a statute of limitations on equal-pay suits. As a result, President Barack Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009, drawing attention to the effects of pay secrecy on the workplace.

Now Prof. Peter Bamberger of Tel Aviv University's Recanati School of Business and Dr. Elena Belogolovsky of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations have published a study that explains why pay secrecy is likely to hurt an individual's work performance and prompt top talent to seek new employment. They conclude that pay secrecy weakens the perception by employees that a performance improvement will be accompanied by a pay increase. It also finds that high-performing workers are more sensitive than others when they perceive no link between performance and pay — suggesting that pay secrecy could limit a company's ability to retain top talent.

The study was recently published by the Academy of Management Journal.

The more secrecy, the worse performance

"We found only a negative effect of secrecy on individual worker performance," said Prof. Bamberger, who has been studying human resources compensation strategies for over 10 years. "But there are many different variables in pay transparency, and we wanted to study several variables in one experiment."

In that experiment, 280 Israeli undergraduates were paid a base fee to play a computer game for one hour. Half of the participants were told the amount of the bonus they and their peers would earn, but the other half were informed only about their own bonuses; the latter group was also asked not to discuss wages during breaks in the game. By measuring performance and peer-perception repeatedly over several performance rounds, Prof. Bamberger and Dr. Belogolovsky were able to reach conclusions about the effect of pay secrecy on performance.

"Secrecy has a negative effect on worker performance, but not for the obvious reasons," said Prof. Bamberger. "Trust and fairness may be part of it, but we found from our experiment that most of the effect is explained by a reduction in the perceived expectation of additional pay for better performance — for trying harder."

Little reward for working harder

Part of the basis for their research was a finding from earlier studies that participants who are unaware of what their peers earn tend to underestimate how much successful performers earn, while overestimating how little poor performers earn. "When the economic gap is imagined to be so minimal between good and bad performers, the employee thinks that working harder just isn't worth the effort," said Prof. Bamberger.

Pay secrecy can have negative ramifications on companies, which — as a result of undisclosed pay scales — have to contend with decreased worker performance and increased turnover, Prof. Bamberger says. "Companies don't value pay transparency, because it's thought to weaken overall efficiency. There are no shortcuts in transparency. For example, you can’t pay bonuses on the side to secure valued employees who are threatening to leave."

Prof. Bamberger is currently working with colleagues in other countries and using other approaches to better understand the consequences of transparency in pay systems.

Warning! Warning Labels Can Be Dangerous to Your Health
1/16/2014

TAU research shows that some warning labels can make products like cigarettes more appealing

Many products, like cigarettes and medications, are stamped with warning labels alerting consumers to their risks. Common sense suggests these warnings will encourage safer choices.

But now Dr. Yael Steinhart of Tel Aviv University's Recanati Business School, along withProf. Ziv Carmon of INSEAD in Singapore and Prof. Yaacov Trope of New York University, has shown that warning labels can actually have the opposite effect. When there is a time lag between reading a warning and then buying, consuming, or evaluating the associated products, the warnings may encourage trust in the manufacturers of potentially dangerous products, making them less threatening. Published in Psychological Science, the study findings could help improve the efficacy of warning labels.

"We showed that warnings may immediately increase concern and decrease consumption," said Dr. Steinhart. "But over time, they paradoxically promote trust in a product and consequently lead to more positive product evaluation and more actual purchases." The findings have important implications for regulators and managers in fields including consumer products, healthcare, and finance.

The best laid plans

The study is based on an idea called "the construal-level theory" (CLT), developed by Prof. Trope and Prof. Nira Liberman of TAU's School of Psychological Sciences. When thinking about objects over a period of time, people tend to construe them abstractly, emphasizing what they describe as "high-level features" and suppressing "low-level features." The high-level feature of warning labels is that they build trust in consumers by creating the impression that all the relevant information about the products is being presented. The low-level feature of warning labels is that they make consumers more aware of the products' negative side effects.

The CLT holds that over long periods of time, consumers deemphasize side effects and emphasize the feeling of trust communicated by warnings over time. Ironically, this may increase the purchase, consumption, and assessment of the associated products.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

To test this prediction, the researchers ran a series of experiments. In one experiment, they showed smokers one of two ads for an unfamiliar brand of cigarettes: either with or without a health warning. When smokers were told the cigarettes would arrive the next day, the warning worked — decreasing the number of cigarettes purchased by an average of 75 percent compared to a group that was not shown the warning. But when smokers were told the cigarettes would arrive in three months, the warning backfired — the number of cigarettes purchased increased by an average of 493 percent compared to a group that was not shown the warning.

In another experiment, the researchers showed women ads for an artificial sweetener, again either with or without a health warning. When women were given the chance to order the sweetener right away, the warning worked — decreasing the packages of sweetener ordered by an average of 94 percent compared to a group that was not shown the warning. But when women were given the chance to order the sweetener just two weeks later, purchases increased by 265 percent compared to a group that was not shown the warning.

Consumer entities that want to minimize the deterrent effects of warnings would be better off building in a delay of some sort than burying the warnings in fine print, the researchers say. But those who genuinely want to inform customers of risks should ensure warnings are seen, or repeated, shortly before products are bought or consumed.


Business Education: The Path to Peace and Prosperity?
5/8/2013

TAU and USAID program brings together Palestinian executives and top Israeli business minds

This semester, Tel Aviv University inaugurated a pioneering business development program aimed at Palestinian executives, designed jointly by LAHAV Executive Education, and Kellogg-Recanati Executive MBA program at TAU's Recanati Business School with USAID. Addressing the unique challenges facing Palestinian high-tech companies, the 12-day course gave participants the tools to effectively manage their business, court foreign funding, and break into international markets.

Mustafa Deeb, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector lead at USAID's Compete Project and a graduate of the Kellogg-Recanati EMBA program, says that this innovative course was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. "For just over 30 slots, we received more than 90 applications – a clear indication of the high demand for this type of programming," he adds.

Top academics from Israel and the US and leaders in the fields of high-tech and venture capitalism shared their expertise on topics including software entrepreneurship, international marketing and business management, technology markets, negotiation strategy, and more.

The organizers believe that this unique initiative can bring a much-needed boost to the Palestinian economy. "The Palestinian private sector has many companies that serve their local market, but only a few in the regional or international markets. Since Palestinian companies are typically either family-owned or led by engineers, their executives need to develop proper business skills to penetrate the complicated international marketplace," says Deeb.

Finding common ground

In selecting a host for the project, USAID wanted a university program that not only offers outstanding academics but also brings international expertise and top managers from technology-driven companies to share their knowledge and international experience with the participants. Having graduated more than 50 Palestinian Executive MBA students over the last 17 years and boasting a top world ranking, the Kellogg-Recanati program was a natural fit. The additional involvement and expertise of LAHAV, the executive education unit at the Faculty of Management, made TAU the ideal home for such an ambitious project.

Combining academic theory and on-the-ground experience, LAHAV has 45 years of experience building executive education programs to suit a variety of sectors and audiences around the world, says LAHAV's CEO Udi Aharoni. But they have never before had the opportunity to work with their neighbors.

"At the end of the day, every manager understands similar concepts and vocabulary of business, putting aside cultural, religious, or political issues," Aharoni says. "From our point of view, this is the first stone in a long bridge to business collaboration."  Lecturers, guest speakers. and participants continue to be in touch outside of class, he says proudly, which contributes towards the program's goal of facilitating a network of Palestinian business leaders with ties to the Israeli market.

Dr. Itay Kama of TAU's Faculty of Management, who was one of the lecturers during this session, calls this one of the most important programs he has been involved with. A teacher of financial accounting who believes that the language of numbers transcends boundaries, he thinks this program has similarly allowed Israelis and Palestinians to engage in a common dialogue. "If we are going to have a better future, based on peace and understanding, then we must learn to communicate," he says.

Forging a new way forward

Participants have been inspired by this unique experience and are enthusiastically recommending their colleagues for future sessions. "The topics we addressed and our guest speakers were extraordinarily relevant to their businesses and the issues that they encounter on a day-to-day basis," notes Denis Gallagher, Director of USAID's Compete project.

On the heels of such success, the organizers are hoping to design courses for Palestinians dedicated to professionals in a variety of fields, including commercial agriculture and tourism. Aharoni acknowledges the strong support of USAID for its significant role in this initiative.

It's True! Feeling Powerful Leads to Happiness
3/26/2013

Powerful people feel freer to be their authentic selves, TAU researchers find

Television characters from mob boss Tony Soprano to 30 Rock's Liz Lemon suggest that power is a gateway to loneliness, corruption, and unhappiness. But new findings from two Tel Aviv University researchers are challenging this perception.

In a quest to discover whether power inevitably brings misery and emotional devastation, PhD candidate Yona Kifer and her supervisor Prof. Daniel Heller of TAU's Department of Organizational Behavior at the Faculty of Management have shown that power can actually make people happier. In their study, published in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers found that a sense of power led to a heightened sense of well-being, and that one of the reasons for this effect is that power increases "authenticity"—the extent to which people feel they are being true to their deepest desires.

Overall, those who felt more powerful in their lives described themselves as 16 percent more content than those who did not. The effect was the most pronounced in the workplace, where those who reported having more power at work were 26 percent more satisfied at their workplace than lower-power colleagues. These findings reveal an interesting paradox, notes Kifer. While the pursuit of power has been found to reduce happiness, possessing power actually increases it.

Embracing your "true self"

Despite the prevailing notion that power leads to misery and alienation from the self, the researchers hypothesized that in reality, those who are powerful have the ability to live their lives more authentically—appeasing their internal desires and inclinations—and can therefore be happier.

In a set of three studies, they surveyed 600 participants about the effect of power on feelings of authenticity and well-being, both generally and in specific contexts such as work and personal relationships. The results showed that the possession of power leads people to be more authentic and true to themselves, allowing their actions to reflect their own beliefs and desires.

This effect was stronger in the context of the workplace than in a person's personal relationships, Kifer adds. The researchers believe this may be due to the different nature of the social relationships in each environment. Whereas work relationships are typically formed within the hierarchical structure of the workplace, personal relationships—whether with a romantic partner or friend — are usually based on mutual affection, meaning that power plays less of a defining role.

These findings can be a valuable tool for managers who wish to boost employee morale. "In organizations, giving people a sense of power can dramatically improve job satisfaction, which is linked to improved performance," Kifer advises. This can also have a positive impact on creativity. If an employee feels more authentic, they may be less guided by expectations and mainstream norms, and more willing to think outside the box.

Cross-cultural concepts of power

The researchers hope to expand on the study by exploring the impact of power in other cultures. Of particular interest is the East Asian culture, where power has different connotations. Whereas Western cultures are individualistic and glorify independence and self-actualization, East Asians are typically more collectivistic, Kifer explains. The researchers hope to discover whether the happiness associated with power is more common in individualistic cultures.

In addition, Kifer believes that it is important to look at whether the type of power a person exerts can make a difference in terms of happiness. One question is whether people are happier if their power is exerted through positive means, such as charisma, rather than negative means, such as physical punishment.

This work was done in collaboration with Prof. Wei Qi Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick, and Prof. Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University.

TAU's Innovation Incubator Hosts International Business Week
2/5/2013

StarTAU's fourth annual workshop nurtures global entrepreneurship

Heralded as the "start-up nation," Israel attracts professionals from around the world seeking to learn the secrets behind Israeli innovation. From March 4–10, 2013, a select group will get an inside look when StarTAUTel Aviv University's Entrepreneurship Center — hosts its fourth annual International Business Week.

Forty attendees — budding entrepreneurs, businesspeople, young professionals, MBA graduates and students from across the globe — will get a first-hand look at the country's unique start-up environment. International Business Week is designed to empower participants to take the steps necessary to execute their ideas and business plans, and to be inspired by Israel's innovative business landscape. Lecture series topics include starting a business, raising capital, effective resource management, and strategic planning.

Attendees also have the opportunity to develop their pitching skills by working with successful Israeli investors and entrepreneurs, attend networking events, meet with high-tech executives, visit start-up companies, and travel around the country. All events during the week-long program are held in English.

Elad Cohen, Vice President for Business Development at StarTAU, notes that International Business Week has over 100 alumni who continue to promote the program. "IBW is one of the best opportunities to become acquainted with the Israeli entrepreneurial scene. It is a unique chance to network with peers, with investors, and with serial entrepreneurs from Israel and all over the world," he says.

StarTAU has been offering support for aspiring entrepreneurs since 2009, and remains the largest center of its kind in Israel. "StarTAU creates positive side effects by encouraging other places, such as universities and municipalities, to launch centers like ours due to the high demand for entrepreneurial education," adds CEO and founder Oren Simanian.

For more information on StarTAU, visit: http://www.startau.org/

For more information on International Business Week, visit: http://www.intbusinessweek.com

Living Abroad Can Bring Professional Success -- If You Do It Right
11/6/2012

TAU research finds that embracing two cultures helps you climb the career ladder

“Travel broadens the mind” goes the old adage, and potential employers often agree, valuing the open-mindedness and creativity fostered by such worldliness. But according to new Tel Aviv University research, not all international experiences are created equal.

"Although living abroad does help to hone creative abilities, not all individuals who have lived abroad derive an equal benefit from such experiences," explains Dr. Carmit Tadmor of TAU’s Recanati School of Business, who conducted the study with Dr. Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Dr. William Maddux of the international graduate business school and research institution INSEAD.

The researchers discovered that the simple act of living abroad was not enough to bolster creative and professional success. The potential benefits of extended international travel depend on the ability to simultaneously identify with both home and host cultures, which the researchers call "biculturalism." Identifying with two cultures simultaneously fosters a more complex thinking style that views things from multiple perspectives and forges conceptual links among them.

“Unlike patterns of cultural identification in which individuals endorse only one of the two cultures, bicultural identification requires individuals to take into account and combine the perspectives of both old and new cultures," explains Dr. Tadmor. "Over time, this information processing capability, or ‘integrative complexity,’ becomes a tool for making sense of the world and will help individuals perform better in both creative and professional domains."

This study was recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Measuring creative and professional success

The researchers conducted three experiments to determine the impact of biculturalism when living abroad. In the first, 78 MBA students comprising 26 different nationalities at a European business school were asked to complete a series of tasks, including a standard creativity task that asked for as many uses for a brick as possible within a two-minute time limit. In the second experiment, a group of 54 MBA students comprising 18 nationalities at an American business school were asked to describe the new businesses, products, and processes they had invented during their careers. All of the study participants had lived abroad for a period of time.

The studies found that those who identified with both their host culture and their home culture consistently demonstrated more fluency, flexibility, novelty and innovation.

Finally, the third experiment extended the idea, exploring whether the biculturals’ advantages also gave them an advantage in the workplace. In this study, 100 Israelis living and working mainly in California's Silicon Valley were interviewed. The researchers found that Israelis who identified with both their home and host cultures enjoyed higher promotion rates and more positive reputations among their colleagues. Across all three studies, the researchers found that bicultural individuals ranked higher on integrative complexity tests than the other participants, and this drove their success.

Taking the hard road to success

The road to biculturalism is fraught with internal conflicts, notes Dr. Tadmor, in which two cultural identities struggle to coexist. It's much easier to surround yourself with your expat community than to straddle two separate worlds. But bypassing the conflicts means giving up the best benefits. Integrative complexity, which is responsible for creative and professional success, evolves through the repetitive resolution of these internal conflicts.

Ultimately, “it is clear that becoming a true bicultural is not easy, but it holds the key to translating foreign experiences abroad into a tangible toolbox that bolsters one’s creative ability and professional skill to the highest level," say the researchers.

TAU Hosts Second Annual Sofaer International MBA Case Competition
7/6/2012

Global competition cements Sofaer International MBA's place on world map

For the second year, Tel Aviv University's Sofaer International MBA Program at TAU's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration invited university teams from nine countries and Israel to compete in the program's case competition, held on May 23, 2012.

Designed to strengthen the bonds between academia and the real world of business, the competition embodies a core value of the Sofaer International MBA program, which encourages its students to learn from experiences both in and out of the classroom, and to think globally in an increasingly international business arena.

Brothers Michael and Phillip Sofaer, who created the Sofaer International MBA program, attended the competition to welcome the participants. "My brother and I are thrilled to see how this program has evolved, and we couldn't be happier to see so many universities compete," said Michael Sofaer.

A Babylon problem

Once a competition exclusively for Israeli universities, it was opened to international universities last year through the generosity of the Sofaer family. This year, teams from TAU, Ben Gurion University, the Technion, and Hebrew University competed with teams from from University of Toronto, UCLA, Copenhagen Business School, Fudan University, Hitotsubashi University, Indian Institute of Management–Ahmedabad, London Business School, National University of Singapore, and the Stockholm School of Economics.

Each year, the competing teams are presented with a challenge facing an Israeli company operating in global markets. This year, the students were asked to present a plan for the future growth of Babylon, one of the world's leading providers of translation services, with 45 million online users daily. Teams were asked to address the firm's strategic development into mobile platforms and social networks.

Udi Aharoni, the CEO of the Recanati School's LAHAV Executive Education program and the moderator of the event, noted that presentations would be assessed based on their analysis of the industry and the creativity and innovativeness of their solutions.

Fostering creative teamwork

The competition, and the Sofaer International MBA, have gone a long way towards putting TAU's MBA programming on the map, said TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter in remarks he made at the final round of the competition, calling "brain power" Israel's most valuable and main resource. He encouraged participants to always be creative in their business ventures: "It's out-of-the-box thinking that helps to develop new ideas."

Members of TAU's team said that the high spirit of competition was an inspiring addition to their educational experience. "The intensity of the competition made us work hard and come together as a group. We learned a lot," said Shai Zamir, noting that the team had "amazing" chemistry.

His teammate Nikki Avershal agreed. "Everyone was involved in all aspects of the case," she says, calling the competition an "element that puts Sofaer on the international stage, showcases the students, and gives opportunities for networking around every corner." Katie West and Dan Saguy were also part of the TAU team.


Mom Was Right: It's What You Know, Not Who You Know
3/29/2012

Conventional wisdom tells us that in the business world, "you are who you know" — your social background and professional networks outweigh talent when it comes to career success. But according to a Tel Aviv University researcher, making the right connection only gets your foot in the door. Your future success is entirely up to you, says Prof. Yoav Ganzach of TAU's Recanati School of Management.

When intelligence and socio-economic background (SEB) are pitted directly against one another, intelligence is a more accurate predictor of future career success, he asserts. Although those from a wealthy family tended to start higher on the office totem pole with better entry-level wages, Prof. Ganzach's research discovered a direct correlation between intelligence and an upward wage trajectory, defined as the rate at which an employee was rewarded with salary raises.

Prof. Ganzach says that these findings, published in the journal Intelligence, have a positive message for those who can't rely on nepotism for their first job placements. "Your family can help you launch your career and you do get an advantage, but it doesn't help you progress. And once you start working, you can go wherever your abilities take you," he says.

IQ impacts wage

For his study, Prof. Ganzach analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a survey of 12,868 Americans from 1979 through 2004. Participants underwent annual or bi-annual interviews in relation to promotions and earnings. From this group, he eliminated all participants who participated in any post-secondary education, ensuring that intelligence and SEB were the sole factors in the comparison.

Intelligence was calculated using the results of each participant's Armed Forces Qualifying Test, and SEB was calculated based upon parental education, family income, and the occupational status of the parents. By tracking the participants over 25 years, from the beginning to the middle stages of their careers, it was possible to obtain an accurate picture of the influence of each factor on their economic success, says Prof. Ganzach.

Taking into account each participant's rate of advancement throughout the career arc, the data confirmed that while both intelligence and SEB impacted entry-level wages, only intelligence had an influence on the pace of pay increases throughout the years. When looking at rates of advancement, intelligence won out over SEB in terms of career advancement.

Personality, teamwork could play a role

One of the limitations of the study, says Prof. Ganzach, is that it doesn't account for other possible variables, such as personality, social skills, and the ability to work well in a group — all factors that influence advancement. Future research might also look at different measures of success, such as occupational success or job satisfaction, and explore whether these results also apply to employees with different education levels, such as university graduates.

Burning Calories at the Gym Avoids Burnout at Work
2/23/2012

Obesity can be a dangerous risk to our physical health, but according to a Tel Aviv University researcher, avoiding the gym can also take a toll on our mental health, leading to depression and greater burnout rates at work.

Dr. Sharon Toker of TAU's Recanati Faculty of Management, working with Dr. Michal Biron from the University of Haifa, discovered that employees who found the time to engage in physical activity were less likely to experience a deterioration of their mental health, including symptoms of burnout and depression. The best benefits were achieved among those exercising for four hours per week — they were approximately half as likely to experience deterioration in their mental state as those who did no physical activity.

Drs. Toker and Biron say that employers will benefit from encouraging the physical fitness of their employees. If the fight against obesity isn't enough of an incentive, inspiring workers to be physically active lessens high heath costs, reduces absenteeism, and increases productivity in the workplace. Their research was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Preventing a downward spiral

Though depression and burnout are connected, they are not the same entity, says Dr. Toker. Depression is a clinical mood disorder, and burnout is defined by physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion. But both contribute towards a "spiral of loss" where the loss of one resource, such as a job, could have a domino effect and lead to the loss of other resources such as one's home, marriage, or sense of self-worth.

Originally designed to examine the relationship between depression and burnout, the study assessed the personal, occupational, and psychological states of 1,632 healthy Israeli workers in both the private and public sectors. Participants completed questionnaires when they came to medical clinics for routine check-ups and had three follow-up appointments over a period of nine years.

Findings indicate that an increase in depression predicts an increase in job burnout over time, and vice versa. But for the first time, the researchers also considered the participants' levels of physical activity, defined as any activity that increases the heart rate and brings on a sweat. The participants were divided into four groups: one that did not engage in physical activity; a second that did 75 to 150 minutes of physical activity a week; a third that did 150 to 240 minutes a week; and a fourth that did more than 240 minutes a week.

Depression and burnout rates were clearly the highest among the group that did not participate in physical activity. The more physical activity that participants engaged in, the less likely they were to experience elevated depression and burnout levels during the next three years. The optimal amount of physical activity was a minimum of 150 minutes per week, where its benefits really started to take effect.

In those who engaged in 240 minutes of physical activity or more, the impact of burnout and depression was almost nonexistent. But even 150 minutes a week will have a highly positive impact, says Dr. Toker, helping people to deal with their workday, improving self-efficacy and self-esteem, and staving off the spiral of loss.

Fighting stress at work

If they're feeling stressed at work, employees can always ask the boss to effect changes, such as providing more opportunities for emotional support in the workplace. But if the organization is unwilling to change, workers can turn to physical activities in their leisure time as an effective stress management tool.

Far-sighted employers can benefit by building a gym on company grounds or subsidizing memberships to gyms in the community, and by allowing for flexible work hours to encourage employees to make physical activity an integral part of their day, suggests Dr. Toker. Such a strategy pays business dividends in the long run.


Storm Warning: Financial Tsunami Heading This Way
2/9/2012

In today's global village, national coffers are more interconnected than ever before. And as the current economic crisis has proven, a downturn in one country can travel in a wave across the globe, like a financial tsunami. Now, researchers from Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with the Kiel Institute of World Economy in Germany, have developed a market "seismograph" — a new methodology that measures the interconnections between stock markets across the globe. It has the potential to serve as an early warning system and provide measures to manage and mitigate the spread of financial crisis.

The method sheds new light on the structure of the global financial village, says Ph.D. student Dror Kenett, working with Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of TAU's School of Physics and Astronomy and Matthias Raddent and Prof. Thomas Lux from the Kiel Institute. Recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, the research investigates connections among individual major world markets by analyzing the concurrent behavior of the stock market as a global whole.

Their approach studies individual economies in the context of the global financial village, exploring the flow of information between financial markets, says Kenett. "It has become both vital and critical to understand the relationships and dependencies among the world's markets," he explains, suggesting that each country could use this method as a tool for analyzing the extent of its connection to particular foreign markets and identifying where they are at risk — prompting protective financial measures.

Financial ties that bind

There's nothing new in analyzing the correlations between stocks in an individual market, using parameters such as market index and volatility to determine whether prices of stocks will rise or fall in tandem. But with this project, the researchers have introduced the concept of the "meta-correlation," in which they measure the average correlation of countries' stock markets against one another. The result is a precise understanding of how changes in one market impact another. At worst, these connections can lead to a fast spread of financial crisis.

To develop their method, the researchers looked at data from six major world markets — the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Japan, China, and India — from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2010. Choosing the leading stocks in each market, the team then mapped the correlations between the groups of stocks from each country over the 11-year period. With the exception of China, which tended to operate independently, the researchers discovered an interesting pattern of interdependencies between these markets. Some markets, such as the U.K. and U.S., were closely connected, as predicted. But there were also surprising findings, such the fact that Japan fluctuates in its financial alignment between western and eastern countries.

Predicting economic disaster

According to the researchers, this method of understanding market connections could help each country predict when a financial crisis is imminent, allowing it to set up policies that will protect their own markets from becoming dangerously intertwined with struggling markets. "In the current era, when the global financial village is highly prone to systematic collapses, our approach can provide a sensitive 'financial seismograph' to detect early signs of global crisis," Prof. Ben-Jacob says.

There are different safety mechanisms that each country can implement, continues Kenett, citing Greece's financial problems and their impact on the European market as a whole. "Germany is so invested in Greece that they don't have an option other than to bail Greece out," he says, noting that if it had been able to see the extent of their dangerous connection with Greece, Germany could have opted to reduce its investments earlier.

Having attracted the interest of governmental financial ministries, the project will now be extended to include even more markets. "With such high frequency data, you can have almost real-time or short-time predictions on how economic information flows throughout the world," Kenett notes.

To read the article, see:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0031144

Businessmen with Heart
1/20/2012

Now in its third year, the Sofaer International MBA program at Tel Aviv University's Recanati Business School has broken away from the pack. Benefitting from a well-rounded curriculum that includes practical business experience, career development, and a focus on social responsibility, students in the Sofaer program have distinguished themselves internationally. They've come out on top in a number of distinguished competitions and presented their projects all around the world, including at the United Nations.

The program's unique approach to business education, which makes each student's interests and individual development a priority, helps graduates succeed in the long term, says Admissions Director Erin Kopelow. Within three months of their graduation date, over half of last year's graduates had been placed in positions with top-notch companies around the globe, she notes.

This month, the program will be holding an online information session at http://imba.tau.ac.il/info-session-jan-22 in which candidates for next years' class can engage with administrators and students to learn more about the program and admissions process.

An emerging alumni network

Keeping an eye on the future success of each student has been a focus of the program, Kopelow says, providing a competitive advantage over many other MBA programs despite its brief existence. Since the program's first year, career services have helped students identify their fields of interest, develop the skills to access opportunities through networking savvy, hone interviewing and pitching skills, and connect to their industry of interest.

Visits to successful companies and guest lectures by industry leaders are a standard part of the Sofaer International MBA agenda. Now, with a growing number of alumni working in a number of countries, a new Alumni Association will be helping graduates of the program stay in contact and network professionally.

"It's a benefit of the international scope of the program that half our graduates live and work abroad. An active alumni community ensures that incoming students have a global network they can rely on," Kopelow says, noting that alumni use online communities and collaborate with TAU events around the world to keep alumni connected.

"MBA Cares" goes mainstream

A Sofaer International MBA flagship program, "MBA Cares," focuses on how businesses can help to better their communities. Originally an extracurricular club, it has grown into a full-fledged area of study — addressing issues such as development of corporate responsibility, non-governmental organizations, and social enterprise — which have made MBA Cares a cornerstone of the Sofaer program and philosophy.

"We address important issues such as what corporate responsibility means," says Kopelow, adding that a number of students have applied to the Sofaer program in order to take part in this unique initiative. "The values and messages that the students are exposed to are important to us as a program, they're values and messages they take with them."

Throughout the course, students are encouraged to tackle real-life social problems while gaining practical skills in their area of interest, such as finance or marketing. One project, a business plan for re-opening a textile factory in an economically troubled Druze village in the North of Israel, has applied for grants to move forward. One of the founders of the program, Osher Perry, went on to become a team member for a project called Nets of Peace, which focuses on developing fish farms in Gaza, was presented at the UN through the Spirit Initiative.

Winning more than titles

In three short years, the Sofaer International MBA can boast significant accomplishments, including a first-place win for the Sofaer team in the Dan David Case Study Competition.

Most recently, a Sofaer team was flown to India to present its business plan after making it to the final round in the India Future of Change Business Plan Contest. Four students — Marty Pollak, Israel Sadovitch, Brian Abel and Erika Funck — presented a plan for water purification technology to bring clean drinking water to the millions of Indians without access to this basic need. Israeli based solar technology was the inspiration for their idea, the team says.

As competition finalists, the team was also invited to join in on Jagriti Yatra, an annual train journey through India to inspire young entrepreneurs by exposing them to innovative companies and business people. "Our experience of winning the business plan competition and then participating in this journey was absolutely incredible," said Pollak. "We were able to make many contacts across India and the world and of course were able to represent TAU, Recanati, and the Sofaer International MBA on the international stage."

View video of Marty Pollak sharing his impressions of India and the Sofaer Team’s participation in the India Future of Change Business Paln Contest at a reception for the Indian Foreign Secretary:
http://youtu.be/jlyBmgCLIJY


Hang Out at the Water Cooler = Live Longer
8/4/2011

Getting along with co-workers can significantly increase your lifespan, says TAU researcher

Companies like Google and Zappos.com are famous for their "work hard, play hard" attitudes and friendly work environments, but are their employees healthier too? According to a Tel Aviv University researcher, a positive relationship with your co-workers has long-term health benefits.

Dr. Sharon Toker of the Department of Organizational Behavior at TAU's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that employees who believe that they have the personal support of their peers at work are more likely to live a longer life. "We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we don't have much time to meet our friends during the weekdays," explains Dr. Toker. "Work should be a place where people can get necessary emotional support."

Dr. Toker and her TAU colleagues Prof. Arie Shirom and Yasmin Alkaly, along with Orit Jacobson and Ran Balicer from Clalit Healthcare Services, followed the health records of 820 adults who worked an average of 8.8 hours a day through a two-decade period. Those who had reported having low social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to die sometime within those 20 years, says Dr. Toker.

The study has been published in the journal Health Psychology.

Reaching out

820 study participants were drawn from adults aged 25 to 65 who came into their local HMO office for a routine check-up. Researchers controlled for various psychological, behavioral or physiological risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and depression, and administered a questionnaire to participants, who were drawn from a wide variety of professional fields including finance, health care and manufacturing.

Researchers asked about employees' relationships with their supervisors, and also assessed the subjects' evaluation of their peer relationships at work, and whether their peers were friendly and approachable, a reflection of emotional and professional support. Dr. Toker suspects that the perception of emotional support was the strongest indicator of future health.

During the course of the study, says Dr. Toker, 53 participants died, most of whom had negligible social connections with their co-workers. A lack of emotional support at work led to a 140% increased risk of dying in the next twenty years compared to those who reported supportive co-workers, she concluded.

While building a supportive environment for employees may seem intuitive, Dr. Toker says that many workplaces have lost their way. Despite open concept offices, many people use email rather than face-to-face communication, and social networking sites that may provide significant social connection are often blocked.

How to make an office friendlier to your health? Dr. Toker suggests coffee corners where people can congregate to sit and talk; informal social outings for staff members; an internal virtual social network similar to Facebook; or a peer-assistance program where employees can confidentially discuss stresses and personal problems that may affect their position at work — anything that encourages employees to feel emotionally supported, she says.

Power burdens women, frees men

The study also addressed "control issues" in the workplace, Dr. Toker says. Study participants were asked if they were able to take initiative at work and if they had the freedom to make their own decisions on how tasks should be accomplished. Results indicate that while men flourished when afforded more control over their daily work tasks, women with the same control had a shorter lifespan. Those women who reported that they had significant control over their tasks and workflow had a 70 percent increased risk of dying over the 20-year period.

In one sense, explains Dr. Toker, power at work is a good thing. "But there is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders," she adds. "If you have to make important decisions with no guidance, it can be stressful." Women in high power positions, she adds, may be overwhelmed with the need to be tough at work, and still be expected to maintain stressful duties when at home.


Sofaer Case Competition Goes Global
7/18/2011

TAU team shares top prize in first international MBA contest

For the first time in its six-year history, the 2011 Sofaer International Case Competition at Tel Aviv University's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration included teams from MBA programs around the world — and even among this distinguished competition, a Tel Aviv University team walked away with a top prize.

Nine international teams from eight countries, including Philippines, Canada, USA, Columbia, China, Turkey, England and Korea joined four teams from Israeli universities to participate in the week-long event, which included an introduction to Israeli industries and day trips to sites around the country. Funding for the trip was provided by the Sofaer family.

Plans to expand the competition to include an international spectrum of top business schools have been in place since the contest was established in 2005, says Udi Aharoni, director of the competition and CEO of the Lahav Executive Education Center at the Recanati School. The contest was designed to exhibit Tel Aviv University's status as a global leader in business education and spotlight its Sofaer International MBA Program, which welcomes its third class in October 2011. For many of the students and accompanying faculty, the competition was the first time they had a chance to visit Israel.

Incredible solutions for Incredimail

The TAU team shared the top prize with Ben Gurion University for its case study of IncrediMail, an Israeli Internet content and media company seeking to increase its annual revenue from $30 million to $100 million by 2014. IncrediMail's flagship product is an email client that includes graphics, sound and visual effects. The study will be published shortly by ECCH (European Case Clearing House).

TAU's solution, which was presented before a panel of judges from all the participating universities and 150 executives from companies across Israel, centered on expanding IncrediMail's current products with a new platform that integrates IncrediMail with other online services like Facebook, Google and Groupon; diversifying services by offering an application for smartphone users; and expansion into the Chinese market. "We relied on each team member's strengths to come up with a good working plan," says Israel Sadovitch, who represented the Sofaer International MBA program alongside Alisa Kopanyova and Arie Praisman. The team also included Recanati MBA student Amit Aliman.

"There are few international competitions of this caliber," Aharoni said, noting that the Sofaer contest is on a par with well-known and well-established competitions such as the John Molson MBA International Case Competition at Canada's John Molson School of Business and the IESE International Case Competition at Spain's University of Navarra.

"It was a tough competition, and it was fascinating to see the different perspectives and business attitudes offered by the teams," he continued. All of the companies that participated in the cast study were Israeli companies that operate in international markets.

From academia to the real world

According to Aharoni, the contest bridges the gap between the academic study of business and the real business world. "This strategic case competition enables the students to implement their studies because they were facing real strategic dilemmas," he said. By developing a workable strategic plan, students were given an opportunity to combine theory and practice.

The company itself benefitted from getting a fresh and creative perspective from the students. "It showed that academia can bring applicable solutions to the real world," Aharoni noted.

The students agree. "The case was about a real company," explains Sadovitch. "We got to go to their offices, and hear first hand from the employees how they are applying theoretical knowledge into the real business world." Ultimately, he believes, the competition brought recognition to the quality of business and academics in Israel.


Is a Little Negativity the Best Marketing Policy?
7/11/2011

Most marketing departments work hard to establish a flawless reputation for their product or service. But new research from Tel Aviv University is showing that perfection is not all it's cracked up to be.

Dr. Danit Ein-Gar of TAU's Faculty of Management at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, working in collaboration with Baba Shiv and Zakary Tormala from Stanford University, has uncovered the "blemishing effect," a counterintuitive benefit of negative information. When utilized in the right way, she says, a small flaw can actually improve consumer opinion of your product — and make people more likely to purchase it.

"Intuition tells me that if I have a small flaw in my product — nothing harmful, just a minor imperfection — I should hide it," explains Dr. Ein-Gar. "But providing consumers with information about both strong benefits and a small shortcoming may improve their overall evaluation." The surprising study will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Think fast

According to Dr. Ein-Gar, three variables are involved in activating a positive response to negative information: the order in which the information appears; the magnitude of the negative information; and the effort the consumer is investing in processing the information.

To produce this effect, a consumer must first encounter positive information about the product and start leaning towards it. Only then can the introduction of a small piece of negative information, such as slightly torn packaging or limited color selection, be effective. Finally, the consumer must process the information quickly, making an effortless and fast purchasing decision without employing much cognitive effort.

From ads on buses to pop-up banners on Web sites, consumers quickly process advertising and marketing information to ease their cognitive burden, Dr. Ein-Gar says. This is the key to the "blemishing effect." If a consumer is already leaning towards a product based on the initial positive information they received, a small and seemingly insignificant piece of negative information causes the consumer to refocus on the positive appeal rather than put in the cognitive effort to re-evaluate their first impression.

Dr. Ein-Gar and her fellow researchers tested this theory in several ways. In one study, they invited two groups to evaluate a pair of hiking boots for purchase online. One group was allowed to go through the product information at their leisure. The others were interrupted by an additional task which created a distraction impeding their cognitive processing abilities. In addition, the hiking boots were presented in two different ways. Some participants were presented with positive written descriptions of the boots' positive qualities, followed by a picture with the boots and a damaged box. Others were shown the photograph with the damaged box first, and then given the positive description of the product. Given the right set of circumstances, says Dr. Ein-Gar, the first group had higher positive evaluations of the product.

Moving at the speed of modern life

If people have time to consider, think rationally and invest effort in the process, negative information can impair positive judgement, Dr. Ein-Gar says. Marketers can best put the "blemishing effect" to use when consumers are in a situation where they must process information with little effort, such as in impulse buying. Put a product with a small flaw near the cashier, such as chocolate with an impending expiration date, and buyers will compensate for the small downside with a more positive attitude toward the product.


Using Fear to Guide Smart Investments
6/30/2011

Playing the stock market can be a risky game. And when the market behaves unpredictably, public fear can lead to erratic investment responses and market chaos.

But there is a way to make this fear work in your favor, say Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob and Dr. Yoash Shapira of Tel Aviv University's Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy. The team's recent research demonstrates that a smart stock market portfolio should not only take into account negative correlations on returns among the stocks, but also the dynamics of volatility. "It's a way to build a portfolio that takes fear and other cognitive investor responses into account," says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

Reported in AIP Advances, the journal of the American Institute of Physics, this is the first study that uses the prism of volatility to study the effect of human behavior on financial markets.

Drawing inspiration from neurons

As they investigated trends in market volatility over long periods of time, the researchers, with their doctoral student Dror Y. Kenett, were able to discover a certain method to the market's madness — a pattern within the chaos.

Currently, Prof. Ben-Jacob explains, market analysis assumes that occurrences within the market are random — what happens one day is unrelated to what may happen the next. But this is unrealistic, he says. Any change in the market, from a declining index to a change in policy, informs the way people invest. They might not remember precisely what they reacted to, but the cognitive sensation of uncertainty will stay with them.

Like Prof. Ben-Jacob's earlier research into similarities between the U.S. market and the epileptic brain, this research was also inspired by neuron networks. The firing of neurons in the brain, says Prof. Ben-Jacob, might appear to be random, but when you measure variations of activity, a pattern emerges. The same can be said of stock market volatility.

The researchers looked at 50 years worth of information taken from 10 stock markets in seven different countries to analyse fear volatility, determined by time variations in the volatility. What emerged was a strong correlation between the level of volatility and price variations in the market. A higher level of volatility represents bigger fear, says Dr. Shapira, and less volatility, less fear.

Mastering fear of the market

The researchers believe that understanding how human behavior impacts the stock market will help investors conquer their fear of an unpredictable market. "People usually look at volatility as a danger. It makes the market risky," says Prof. Shapira.

However, being able to analyse the variations in market volatility can help redefine risk parameters — and this includes the factors that make people fearful, adds Prof. Ben-Jacob. Fear can be systematically measured by looking at changes in volatility.

Prof. Ben-Jacob suggests that investors can enrich their portfolios with stocks whose volatility behaves in different ways. A portfolio should include pairs of stocks with negative return correlations and similar high or low levels of volatility, as well as pairs of stocks with positive return correlations, but varying levels of high and low volatility. It should also include stocks with both rapid and slow changes in volatility, he suggests. When you assume there is a hidden order to the chaos, you can also estimate or predict with some level of certainty what the coming phases of volatility will bring.

For more information on Prof. Ben-Jacob's previous studies on similarities between the U.S. stock market and the epileptic brain, see:
http://www.aftau.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=14493


Diagnosing "Seizures" in the U.S. Economy
5/12/2011

Since 2008, the U.S. economy has been "seizing" uncontrollably. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher says that a comparison of the multifaceted economic downturn with the uncontrolled spasms of an epileptic is not inappropriate — and may say something about the origins of the disaster.

In a recent article published in the journal PLoS ONE, Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University's School of Physics and Astronomy, his doctoral student Dror Y. Kenett and economist Dr. Gitit Gur-Gershgorn examined the dynamics of the S&P 500 over the last decade, employing methods originally developed by Prof. Ben-Jacob to analyze the brain activity of epilepsy patients.

They discovered that a dramatic transition in the financial markets in 2001 would have been an accurate predictor of the meltdown that occurred in 2008 — and their methods also suggest a solution.

Dysfunction, diagnosis and treatment

In epilepsy, one sector of the brain takes over and tampers with the normal activity of other brain sectors. His analysis of the financial markets demonstrates the same dysfunction, Prof. Ben-Jacob says, revealing epileptic seizure-like behavior that resulted in the excessive dominance of the financial services sector, distorting healthy activity in other sectors of the economic marketplace, such as real estate investment and the activities of banks, governments and investment companies. This dominance led to "market stiffness," which proved to have fatal implications during the financial crisis.

This dominance and consequent "market stiffness" were manifested in the emergence of market "seizure" behavior — bursts of very high stock correlations that usually coincided with local minima in the S&P 500 Index.

"In epilepsy, the overdominance of the epileptic focus on the functioning of all other regions of the brain can result from excess activity of the neurons because the links between them are too strong, or from insufficient inhibition," Prof. Ben-Jacob says. Drawing an analogy to the stock market, he suggests that "surgical intervention" could sever some excess links between different sectors of the financial marketplace, along with a stronger inhibition of its excess activity — by increasing interest rates, for example.

The dangerous dominance of the financial sector might have been a direct consequence of hasty and dramatic U.S. interest rate cuts and other remedies used in 2001 to overcome the fallout from the "dot com" bubble collapse, Prof. Ben-Jacob says. He counsels that current U.S. policymakers may be trying to "avoid the major and painful surgery needed to cure the market."


Shopping Religiously
11/15/2010

Marketers hope to connect between the consumer and the products they represent by creating a strong brand identity. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher is giving marketers a heavenly new angle to consider — religious faith — on which to build their advertising strategies.

Prof. Ron Shachar of Tel Aviv University's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that a consumer's religiosity has a large impact on his likelihood for choosing particular brands. Comsumers who are deeply religious are less likely to display an explicit preference for a particular brand, while more secular populations are more prone to define their self-worth through loyalty to corporate brands instead of religious denominations.

This research, in collaboration with Duke University and New York University scientists, recently appeared in the journal Marketing Science.

Crucifix, Star of David or Nike Swoosh?

There is considerable statistical evidence that consumers buy particular brands to express who they are to the outside world, Prof. Shachar says. From clothing choices to cultural events, people communicate their personalities and values through their purchases.

Prof. Shachar and his fellow researchers decided to study the relationship between religiosity and brand reliance.

Focusing on the U.S., the team conducted both field and lab experiments. In the field study, they collected state-level and county-level data on the number of major-brand stores (e.g. Apple, Macy's and Gap) per capita and correlated this with the number of religious congregations per thousand people, as well as with individuals who reported frequent attendance at church or synagogue. Adjusting for economic, educational and urbanization factors, the team found a negative correlation between religiousness and brand choice.

In the lab experiment, college students were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to write a short essay about what religion means to them personally, while the second group wrote a more casual essay about their day. Both groups then participated in a simulated shopping experience that offered both national and store brands, including items such as sunglasses, fashion accessories, batteries and pain reliever medications. This was coupled with an internet study, in which over 300 participants were asked to write about their religious practices and then went through the same simulated shopping experience.

Where religions block the brand

Researchers discovered that those participants who wrote about their religion prior to the shopping experience were less likely to pick national brands when it came to products linked to appearance or self-expression — specifically, products which reflected status, such as fashion accessories and items of clothing. For people who weren't deeply religious, corporate logos often took the place of religious symbols like a crucifix or Star of David, providing feelings of self-worth and well-being. According to Prof. Shachar, two additonal lab experiments done by this research team have demonstrated that like religiousity, consumers use brands to express their sense of self-worth.

Next, he and his fellow researchers hope to clarify how the relationship between advertising and religion affects branding in international markets like Asia and Europe, considering whether a strong religious presence in a particular geographical area might block the expansion of brands. "This seems to be the case," he suggests, "but that is a question we are trying to explore right now.


Boosting Productivity Without Additional Capital
11/2/2010

Employers are constantly looking for innovative ways to motivate their workforce. "Self-efficacy," a typical technique, involves improving employees confidence in their abilities so that they expect greater success. This motivates them to exert greater effort and leads to better performance.

But according to organizational psychologist Prof. Dov  of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management, this is only part of the motivational package. Employees must feel confident not only in their own abilities, but also with the tools available to them to accomplish their task, whether those tools are computer software, particular office products or even their co-workers. He calls his new concept "means efficacy," and it can significantly impact workers' motivation and the effort they exert to complete the task at hand.

His approach was presented as a chapter in the book Work Motivation in the Context of a Globalizing Economy (Lawrence Erlbaum).

The best of the best

To put means efficacy into action, says Prof. Eden, you need to convince the target group that they have the best tools available. To test the effectiveness of the concept, he and his fellow researchers conducted two controlled experiments.

In the first experiment, Prof. Eden introduced the same computer system to two groups in a large governmental organization in Israel. For one group, the new computer system was put into effect without commentary. The second group, on the other hand, was given positive information about their system — they were told it was the best system available, tested in the U.S. and improved for their benefit.

The second experiment took place in a university setting, in which half a class of several hundred physics students were told they had access to the best possible course site — the same course site as the other half, which received no such characterization.

The results, notes Prof. Eden, were outstanding. In the governmental organization, the experimental group, which believed they had a superior computer system, increased their information processing time by fifty percent compared to the control group, which did not increase their processing time at all. The physics students showed an increase as well — those who were told they had a superior course site scored 5% higher as a final grade for their course.

Stamping out the negatives

A good manager, says Prof. Eden, knows how to get out and talk to his workers. He should be able to talk to employees about the tools of the workplace and encourage enthusiasm. Workers should be encouraged to believe in the efficacy of the tools.

Moreover, he says, a manager should never give in to negativity from his team. "If you hear anybody say something negative about the tools they have at the office, workplace or any other environment, counter it! Find the positives." All in all, notes Prof. Eden, motivating workers with means efficacy is an opportunity to display good leadership.


Fishing for Peace at TEDxTelAviv
5/5/2010

As one of the largest seafood producers in the Middle East, Israel's innovative fish-farming industry is booming. Just a few miles downshore in Gaza, though, fishermen can barely eke out a living.

But a new on-land aquaculture project proposed by five Tel Aviv University graduate students could change that reality and develop a thriving industrial park in the heart of Gaza. The team proposes a "Nets of Peace" project to launch the industrial park, designed both to provide a healthy protein supply for Palestinians living in Gaza and to connect the region to foreign business investment and trade.

Two of the project's student creators are part of the inaugural class of Tel Aviv University's Sofaer International MBA program, a curriculum designed to nurture future executives and entrepreneurs who can work knowledgeably and creatively across international borders. Two other team members are graduate students in Conflict Resolution, and the fifth is earning a Hebrew MBA. It is a nationally diverse group, consisting of Israeli, Turkish, Irish and American students, including David Welch, a native of Sacramento, CA.

International exposure

Their Nets of Peace project was presented on April 26, 2010, at TEDxTelAviv, a new conference held at TAU's Recanati School of Business modelled on the widely-respected TEDx conference in Long Beach, CA. TED (an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a private American non-profit foundation dedicated to "ideas worth spreading," with meetings showcasing some of the world's most influential minds — both established and up-and-coming.

The TAU Nets of Peace team was also a finalist in the United Nations "Spirit Initiative," a business case competition for actionable solutions to long-standing international conflicts. They presented the project at the UN on April 9, 2010.

Teach a man to (farm) fish …

"Conflict is rooted in these two nations," says Osher Perry, one of the Sofaer International MBA team members, "and we need to change the atmosphere of mistrust and frustration. As business students, we are saying let's bring in foreign investment, not offer charity. There are companies with records of success willing to invest in this area to make profit both for themselves and for the people of Gaza."

To alleviate any suspicions on the Palestinian side, Nets of Peace proposes to keep Israeli involvement to a minimum and source capital expenditures from international conflict resolution funds. An international fish-farming company would then be sought to take majority ownership of the company and manage the Gaza facility, with a minority equity stake granted to a trust to fund local marine science education and training projects.

As a stepping stone to a fully developed industrial zone, Nets of Peace could improve the economy in Gaza, and increase the possibilities for peace and prosperity between Israelis and Palestinians, the students hope.

Fish farming potential in Gaza is significant. The local demand for seafood is high but much of it is currently imported. The size of the opportunities for fish farming are not only substantial, the students report, but also increasing rapidly: "Total seafood imports are expected to grow by as much as 20%."

Farming locally, thinking globally

At TEDxTelAviv, the TAU students highlighted their project's potential for financial advancement in Gaza. "Through Nets of Peace, we are looking to see how we can make the economic situation better in Gaza," Osher Perry says.

He had originally planned to study for his MBA in the U.S., but was impressed by the sophistication of the one-year Sofaer International MBA program, which he is currently completing. That scholastic incubator nurtured the thinking behind Nets of Peace. "Israel is, in a way, an island, but the Sofaer iMBA is exposing us to the best of international speakers, and the best entrepreneurial companies that Israel has to offer."


Close, But Not Too Close
5/4/2010

Charitable giving is an important pillar of the American way of life, but in these choppy economic waters, philanthropies need to look more closely at their appeal to prospective givers. A new series of studies from Tel Aviv University may have the right formula to get people giving where it counts.

According to three research studies by Dr. Danit Ein-Gar of the Marketing Department, Recanati Graduate School Of Business at Tel Aviv University, and her research partner, Dr. Liat Levontin of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, organizations need to consider their audience's psychological distance to the charity to determine the most effective giving campaign.

While the Sally Struthers approach — such as using a starving African child to personify the aims of the organization — may elicit an effective emotional response, this kind of "victim highlighting" isn't always right when givers are geographically distant from the victim, the researchers found. And in some cases, says Dr. Ein-Gar, it's not always appropriate. Child abuse and battered women's charities, for instance, need to protect the victims' identities. And in environmental NGOs, there are often no human victims — the victim is the world itself.

Focus on the person or the deed?

"If you look at the trend of charitable giving campaigns around the world, you'll notice a focus on a person, a personalized message," says Dr. Ein-Gar. Breast cancer foundations use stories of real women, victims from Hurricane Katrina talk about losing their homes, and general stories of "personal" loss and tragedy, like poverty in the family, are used to elicit donations.

But in a series of experiments, Dr. Ein-Gar and her partner found personal "victim stories" only work in certain circumstances — when the giver can identify with the victim. Otherwise, it may be best to use a more general marketing campaign.

A breast cancer charity, for example, should develop a general campaign if the ad will be seen by both genders in varying age groups. But if it's targeted to women at risk for breast cancer because of age, then a personal approach might be more effective.

"It's a bit contrary to what we might think, because we're more likely to think that people are more responsive to individuals than organizations," says Dr. Ein-Gar. "But what we found is that if the ad is spread to a variety of populations — wealthy people, old people, people without children — then you might want to focus on the general organization and not just a certain victim."

How to reach a helping hand

In the first of three studies upon which the researchers based their conclusions, they looked at university students and their willingness to help under-privileged kids with homework. If students were asked to help the subject in the near future, they were more responsive to a campaign centered on an individual-in-need than a more generally focused ad campaign.

In a second study, a group of students was asked to help new immigrants with certain tasks like opening a bank account. The group was more willing to help students like themselves instead of people older than themselves. But when the campaign emphasized the immigrant center in general, the students were more willing to volunteer their time to older immigrants.

In the third study, the researchers asked people in an online survey if they were willing to donate money to help people injured in car accidents. In a campaign focusing on individual accident victims, women were more willing to help female victims, and men more willing to help male victims, rather than give to a general organization. But when the ad campaign focused on the organization itself instead of injured individuals, women were more willing to help injured men and men were more willing to help injured women.

General appeals are effective for long-term giving campaigns when the giver is temporally and socially distant from the charity, the researchers concluded. For example, if a charity is looking to raise major funds for young victims from older donors, it might be best to focus on the organization's long-term goals. But campaigns that start "today" with the possibility of helping "today" (online campaigns collecting small donations with a single click) evoke giving behavior when the giver can easily identify with the victim in need.


Flexing Your Marathon Muscles at Work
3/3/2010

Budget cutbacks have left many of us with more work than ever. Now new research by Dr. Danit Ein-Gar of Tel Aviv University's Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration offers us tips to help us stay at the top of our game. And the good news is there's no need to be a "control freak."

With her co-author Dr. Yael Steinhart of Haifa University, Dr. Ein-Gar is investigating multi-tasking control freaks. Contrary to the notion that they get the job done well, people with high-levels of self-control tend to burn out the fastest, she warns.

High in self-control people tend to use all of their resources at once — concentrating intently on the task immediately at hand — but are stymied when unexpected challenges are thrown their way. Dr. Ein-Gar quantified this surprising finding in a new series of studies presented last year at the Society for Consumer Psychology in San Diego.

"The general notion is that we all have a pool of resources available for different tasks," says Dr. Ein-Gar. "Stamina is like a muscle, but it's not an endless resource. Our new research shows how our personal, work-related resources can be measured and our on-the-job performance improved."

Conserving energy like a marathon runner

In new experiments and surveys, Dr. Ein-Gar found that people who define themselves as high in self-control are in fact the least able to manage their own internal resources in situations which are very important to them. They burn out quickly when flooded with unexpected challenges.

"They tend to invest all their energy at once and are then left with insufficient resources for additional tasks," says Dr. Ein-Gar, who used shopping as a way to measure the effect. Analyzing results from hundreds of volunteers, she found that when high self-control people went shopping at a grocery store they were far more impulsive than those who defined themselves as low in self-control. Most surprisingly, high in self-control people made more spontaneous purchases at the checkout counter without regard to price.

According to surveys Dr. Ein-Gar conducted afterwards, such people "didn't foresee certain events like having to wait in line. It's the same in the workplace when the boss hands out a major assignment moments just before quitting time."

But maintaining energy and avoiding burn-out can be done with a little altering of one's mindset, Dr. Ein-Gar counsels. Those who think like marathon runners — who start slow but pace themselves — are better able to keep their energy tanks full, unlike a sprinter who gives all his effort at once.

Tips for a marathon mindset

In a second study, "Participants were told they are about to perform two tasks. Those with forewarning did better than a second group who thought they had only one task but then were given a 'surprise' second task. This warning put the first group in the marathon mindset," Dr. Ein-Gar says. "Our results can be applied across the board from managing a business to making sure we run our personal lives more smoothly."

She suggests that managers prepare employees for a particularly difficult workload by alluding to upcoming challenges in advance — not on the day of the conference or big meeting.

"The world may be multi-tasking at a frenetic pace," Dr. Ein-Gar concludes, "but in thinking like a marathon runner, people with high self-control won't mind other people passing them. Marathon runners know that the race is long, but the winner is the one who can finish the race at the end with power left over to keep running."


Sofaer IMBA Uniting Town and Gown
2/4/2010

With 55 students from 21 countries, the Sofaer family’s vision of a pluralistic, International MBA experience in business is already being realized at Tel Aviv University.

Including a high percentage of women, and representation from the Arab world and the East, admissions director Erin Kopelow reports that the new Sofaer IMBA — now ending its first semester — is successfully fulfilling its mission.

“Our talented and impressive students are engaging in, and winning, local business competitions,” reports Kopelow. “Their ambitious spirit and out-of-the-box thinking is already trickling down to the Israeli business community at large, where they’ve been presented with certain business dilemmas to solve.”

As part of their course load in finance, marketing, and accounting, students have participated in a variety of seminars that closely link with the local business scene in Israel. They've heard from a visiting professor from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School on biomedical entrepreneurship and related niches in the Israeli market. And the group has had the chance to examine opportunities in the electric car market, an Israeli specialty.

The students are also involved in international contests, such as Asia’s Global Business Challenge, and eventually will begin work on internships in local businesses that offer footholds in the international business world.

Learning how to manage multiple cultures in a business setting and how to infuse corporate social responsibly into business practices was also part of this semester’s training. Students broke for the semester on January 26, and will return to Tel Aviv University for two more semesters in the accelerated program — one in the spring and a third semester this summer.

“Many students choose to study in Israel for its unique location between East and West, and for its growing reputation as a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Kopelow. “Via our academic curriculum and extracurricular initiatives, our students are connecting with the companies and business players behind Israel's innovative and entrepreneurial energy.

“Our goal is that through these connections our students expand their knowledge and build relationships that they will take with them throughout their careers — whether those careers are in Israel or abroad."

Read more about the program at the Sofaer IMBA Web site:
http://imba.tau.ac.il/


To Be or To Become: That's the Question for Advertisers
2/2/2010

If you won a million dollars today, what would you do?  Say “sayonara” to your boss and head to Bora Bora, or invest your newfound wealth in a long-term T-bill?

According to new research by Dr. Danit Ein-Gar of Tel Aviv University’s Recanati Graduate School of Business Studies, your answer may not be so clear-cut.  She and her American colleague Dr. Camille Su Lin Johnson found that whether you’ll indulge or be prudent is not necessarily based on your personality type or education, but may be strongly influenced by advertising and other environmental cues.

This research, the first to quantify the effect of advertising on personal desires using these parameters, was recently presented at the Academy of Consumer Research Conference in Pittsburgh.

“Being” versus “becoming”

In their studies of about 500 participants, the researchers divided consumers into two mindsets. The “being” mindset was related to one's current state in life, while the “becoming” mindset reflected a desire to think of one's future goals. The researchers showed volunteers an advertisement that induces a “being” state of mind, using a simple slogan like, “Think of who you are right now.”

Advertisements with this approach were successful in attracting consumers to products like chocolate.  But those volunteers who read future-oriented ads using a simple slogan like, “Think of who you will become in the future," before embarking on a grocery run, were more likely to choose healthy products, such as fruits and granola bars.

In another study, the subjects were told they had won $1,000. Those identified as having a “becoming” mindset elected to buy practical products such as textbooks with the money, while those in the “being” mindset said they’d purchase indulgent products such as a plasma TV.

“Sometimes we are goal-driven and sometimes we are self-indulgent,” Dr. Ein-Gar says of her conclusions. “But we’ve established that simple advertising cues can shift your mindset from one category to the other. It can determine how you shop in the supermarket, choose a snack, evaluate a new car or invest your family’s fortune.”

To be most effective, Dr. Ein-Gar says advertisers should determine if their product is “now” or “future” oriented, then position it to fit that mindset.  For chocolate, red sports cars or Club Med hedonism vacations, advertisers should appeal to a “being” mindset and suggest immediate gratification. However, products with future benefits like gym memberships, mutual funds or health foods should appeal to the “becoming” mindset, using ads that trigger one's desire for a brighter future.

Dangers and benefits

The study found it is also easy — over the long term and with frequent repetition — for advertisers to shift a mindset radically.  Companies can benefit from playing up the difference between a person's current self and who they’d like to become, so consumers should be aware it’s not that hard to have their preferences manipulated. That’s where advertising is most powerful.

“Manipulating people to maintain an ongoing state of mind is hard to do successfully, but manipulating them into a temporal mindset is easier. Using this approach, companies can be very successful in manipulating you to buy their products, especially in cases where the purchase decision is made spontaneously, like grabbing a snack at the store. Also beware: companies can influence your mindset and affect your pocket book if you’re not careful,” Dr. Ein-Gar warns.

Conversely, researchers were also able to show that advertising can benefit consumers, especially when it promotes healthy eating or wiser decisions about money.  “The U.S. Army used the ‘Be All You Can Be’ slogan for more than 20 years,” Dr. Ein-Gar reminds us.  “It induced a ‘becoming’ mindset that encouraged young people to think of long-range goals as they considered a career in the military.”

Zohar Zisapel Defines "The Art of Innovation" for TAU's American Friends
1/25/2010

Why are Thomas Edison, Christopher Columbus, and Pablo Picasso household names? What makes their achievements so remarkable they're universally known, even centuries later?

"The Art of Innovation," part of American Friends of Tel Aviv University's invitation-only "Israeli Innovation: Leading the World" series, provided some intriguing answers from featured speaker Zohar Zisapel, cofounder of the technology giant, RAD Data Communications.

Among the nearly 200 American Friends who enjoyed the program and a private cocktail reception in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, January 20, 2010, hosted by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, were Barclays Capital vice chairman Harvey Krueger, RiverBank Capital Securities, Inc. president Peter Kash, and Israel Discount Bank USA president and CEO Reuven Spiegel.

A big idea isn't enough

With wit and a cleverly illustrated presentation, Zisapel identified the essentials for innovative greatness — first, a new idea in a new field, and second, a real impact on the world.

But speaking from the rarified perspective of an enormously successful entrepreneur himself, he cited other qualities shared by inventors, artists and explorers — the ability to foster teamwork, great persistence, staying abreast of the competition, and an unshakable belief in one's work.

Zohar Zispel's name is virtually synonymous with Israeli high-technology. He is the chairman and co-founder of RAD Data Communications, a group of 14 companies with aggregate sales of $850 million, five of which are traded on the NASDAQ: Radvision, Ceragon Networks, Radware, Radcom and Silicom.  Previously, he served as head of the Electronic Research Department of the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, and received the Israel Defense Prize in 1979.

Attendees also heard from Prof. Amiram Yehudai who chairs the Blavatnik School of Computer Sciences at Tel Aviv University — a well-spring of high-tech innovation locally and internationally.

American Friends in attendance included event chairs Nomi Ghez of Circle Financial Group and Michael Shaoul of Oscar Gruss & Son, Inc., and event committee members Moshe Golumb of Praxell, Inc., Oren Heiman of Shiboleth LLP, Yoram Kinberg of YK Consulting, and Jacob Schori of Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC.

IDB Bank sponsored the event.

The next installment in the "Israeli Innovation: Leading the World" series is scheduled for June, 2010.


Marketing a "Spoonful of Sugar"
12/15/2009

Your kids won't wear their seatbelts, take their vitamins or brush their teeth? A new study by Tel Aviv University offers a simple formula that will get better compliance in the kid department — and has implications for health specialists and consumer marketers all over the world.

According to the new study "Happy Today: Healthy Tomorrow?" by Dr. Danit Ein-Gar of the Marketing Department at TAU's Recanati Graduate School of Business, providing consumers with a very small or even trivial immediate benefit encourages people to use products that may have more significant long-term advantages. Her research may offer the key to getting kids to wear their seatbelts and encourage adults to use sunscreen. Dr. Ein-Gar collaborated with colleagues Prof. Jacob Goldenberg and Prof. Lilach Sagiv from the Hebrew University, for this research.

Using the technique in field experiments on about 300 people, the researchers were able to get more subjects to use so-called "virtue products" like dental floss and sunscreen on a daily basis.

"Virtue products offer a future benefit such as protection against skin cancer, but because the benefit isn't immediate, it's harder for health authorities and companies to ensure that their products will be used continuously. We all buy them, but do we actually use them as frequently as we should?" Dr. Ein-Gar also cites examples such as condoms and gym memberships.

Throwing in the towel

A gym may discover that giving a free towel to new subscribers boosts initial membership, but getting people to stay members of the gym over the long haul requires some new kind of marketing scheme. Free towels or any other free handout might work once, but they won't work forever, she says.

In the study, researchers gave volunteers samples of dental floss and facial sunscreen. In the control group, volunteers got regular run-of-the-mill dental floss and sunscreen; volunteers in the second group were given the same products with highlighted features such as a minty taste in the dental floss and a "moisturizing sensation" in the sunscreen.

Marketing for the good of our health

Over a period of about three weeks, the researchers measured how much of the products in each group were used. In the group which received the added-feature products, use increased significantly. In fact, use increased mainly among participants who identified themselves as being low in self-control.

Dr. Ein-Gar says that if companies, health authorities and parents offer an immediate benefit, no matter how small, that may have a long-term advantage and lead to more success in continued use. It shouldn't be that expensive either: in one test case, the facial sunscreen lotion, a 3% increase in manufacturing cost led to a more than 30% increase in average daily use.

While market research firms have conducted surveys to find ways to promote usage of virtue products, Dr. Ein-Gar's is the first study to quantify this promotion, and test it on ongoing consumption in a natural setting, and she says that numbers speak louder than survey recipients' words. "No consumer is going to say that they used the dental floss because of the mint taste or the facial sunscreen lotion because of the moisturizing sensation. But this information still sits there in the back of their minds and influences their behavior," she says.

"Virtue products present a tough sell to some people, but we see that this can be over-ridden with some small and simple forms of manipulation. Kids, for example don't like putting on their seatbelts, but if parents — or car manufacturers — gave them an immediate benefit, like a toy attached to the belt, more kids would be willing to use them. Children don't see the future benefit of protecting themselves from car accidents, but a toy will give them short-term pleasure and will make the experience more enjoyable."

The research was part of Dr. Ein-Gar's doctoral dissertation and was presented at the international Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference and the European Marketing Academy Conference.


Your Tools Are as Good as You Think They Are
8/4/2009

Your office or firm might not own — or be able to afford — the latest software or computers. But that may not impair the productivity of your workers, concludes a new Tel Aviv University study.

More important than the tools themselves is the belief in their effectiveness, says leading management specialist Prof. Dov Eden of TAU's Faculty of Management. His advice may spare a vulnerable company the costs of expensive technology upgrades in these tough economic times or help companies smoothly transition through mergers. His study will soon be published in the Journal of Management.

The power of belief

For the study, Prof. Eden and his colleagues split a group of 240 physics students in half. Both groups were able to access the same online tools on the course Web site, but the students in the test group were convincingly told how useful the tools were for course success. These students significantly outperformed their peers on exams by about five points on a 100-point scale.

"Our emphasis on the superiority of the accompanying course Web site got students to believe in it and expect that it would work for them. By believing in the tools more, they used the tools more often and performed better in the course itself," says Prof. Eden.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that managers can strengthen their workers' belief in the utility of their tools to promote successful performance. "It was well documented with the M16 rifle in the Vietnam War," says Prof. Eden, who is now on sabbatical at Baruch CollegeCUNY in New York City. "If the M16 fails a soldier and the other soldiers in the unit find out about it, commanders see high rates of demoralization and poor combat performance in that unit. While offices and factories aren't exactly war zones, we've learned from this new study that the faith individuals have in their tools may be just as important as the tools themselves."

An easier "merge"

Prof. Eden notes that getting employees to believe in their resources can radically improve the transitions when companies go through mergers and acquisitions, especially when the different companies involved use different accounting and management systems.

"If employees believe they have competent managers supporting them, excellent equipment in their hands, and helpful staff to work with, their performance at work will be energized," says Prof. Eden, who has carried out more than three decades of research on expectations and performance in the workplace. This particular study was done in collaboration with Prof. Yoav Ganzach, Rachel Flumin-Granat and Tal Zigman, all from the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University.


More McBang for Your McBuck
7/13/2009

McDonald's seems recession-proof, its profitability apparently untouched by the newest economic crisis to hit America. Though the average family may not be able to eat out in style, they can afford a Dollar Menu double cheeseburger — or four.

"People think about McDonald's as a place to eat cheaply, a place where you get value for your money," says Dr. Itai Ater of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management. Dr. Ater, who recently did a case study of the McDonald's Dollar Menu, argues that clever pricing, and the ability to spread that pricing across all the chain restaurant's franchise outlets, is a key component in McDonald's winning formula.

The ability to keep prices low is what attracts consumers in any economic climate, and this is one of the building blocks of McDonald's corporate strategy, he says. A revolutionary concept in fast food at the time of its introduction, the Dollar Menu has been instrumental in maintaining McDonald's reputation as an affordable luxury, even in today's tough times.

Dr. Ater presented his research recently at the annual American Law & Economics Association conference held at Harvard Law School.

A menu to save a restaurant

In 2002, when McDonald's first unveiled the Dollar Menu in the U.S., the chain was faltering. "Before the Dollar Menu, McDonald's franchise owners were beginning to charge higher prices for the menu items," says Dr. Ater. "McDonald's stock was down. Now it's doing very well. It is one of the factors that has made them more successful over the past six or seven years."

The Dollar Menu puts price control and consumer motivation in one wrapper. McDonald's heavy advertising of the new initiative was central to price uniformity throughout the chain. Approximately 14% of McDonald's advertising budget is spent on the Dollar Menu annually.

Because of this emphasis on advertising, consumers expect the Dollar Menu to be available in all the restaurant's franchises. "Individual franchisees faced consumer disappointment if they didn't offer the deals advertised," Dr. Ater notes. They adopted the Menu rather than risk losing customers.

Throwing quality control into a pickle

McDonald's knows that today's Happy Mealers are tomorrow's Big Mac fans. By making McDonald's an affordable family outlet, the corporation encourages customers to become repeat consumers from a young age. And it's a treat that isn't tough on a parent's bank account.

Dr. Ater says McDonald's remains able to offer such low-priced meals due to the organization of the company. They purchase in bulk and the preparation and content of each menu item is highly regulated. "Prices may be set by franchisees, but corporate controls how many pickles go on each bun," Dr. Ater says.

Although the concept of the Dollar Menu sells well in the current recession, Dr. Ater warns that there is no guarantee that factors such as the cost of goods and inflation will not affect this offering in the future. "McDonald's could get stuck with this Dollar Menu," he warns. "In some places, they've already changed the name to 'Dollar Menu and More.' The name 'Value Menu' would have given the corporation more flexibility — but less impact."


If You Do Good, You Look Good
6/11/2009

In today's economy, it's increasingly difficult to elicit donations for charitable causes — but new research from Dr. Anat Bracha of the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv University can provide fundraising organizations with a potent tool.

A powerful spur to giving, Dr. Bracha's research demonstrates, is "image motivation," the positive recognition a giver gets from other members of the community. Her study, published in American Economic Review, can help organizations understand how to elicit maximum donor response in today's tough times.

"Charitable giving is a much greater sacrifice now than it was at this time last year. Budgets are tighter for everyone, so giving is likely to have greater image value," she says. That's why it can be important for organizations to emphasize the image benefits of charitable giving. But she cautions that if any other main motivators for giving collide with image motivation, they may have a "crowding-out" effect.

Reputation is everything

Dr. Bracha's research focused on the effects of participating in charitable events in two settings — one public, one private. Her study also examined two kinds of motivators — image and financial — and was able to show a negative interaction between monetary incentives and image, the thesis she and her colleagues were testing.

In one experiment in the gym at MIT, the study created a "Biking for Charity" scenario in which participants were invited to bike for ten minutes to earn money for a charitable cause based on the effort they exerted. Some were also paid for their participation.

"We had one group do it in public, and one in private," says Dr. Bracha. "The 'public sphere' was in the main room of the gym, and the 'private sphere' was on the third floor, in its own room. What we demonstrated was that giving was affected by how visible the participation was. The more public, the greater the image boost, and the greater the contribution."

When monetary incentives were introduced, however, they were more effective in private than in public. "Monetary and image motivations clashed," Dr. Bracha explains.

In the public sphere, people exerted the same level of effort on their stationary bikes with or without compensation, aware that positive social acclaim might be undermined if viewers were aware of their personal monetary gain. In the private room, where participants did not have to contend with social judgment, they biked more miles on average when they were paid to do so.

The public value of personal sacrifice

Of course, a more positive image in the eyes of the community requires greater visibility in that community. Dr. Bracha points to the Lance Armstrong Foundation Live Strong campaign as an example, in which donors are visibly recognizable by unique wristbands. Web sites that acknowledge donors by name serve to have the same effect. "This is a very public thing — everyone sees you when you participate," she says.

Dr. Bracha's research was done in conjunction with Dr. Stephan Meier of Columbia Business School and Dr. Dan Ariely of Duke University.


Three Degrees of Separation for Getting That Job
6/8/2009

Experts estimate that personal contacts are instrumental in landing 70% of all jobs in the U.S., but they don't talk about what kinds of contacts they are or should be. Social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook may be valuable for the first contact with recruiters, but "virtual relationships" with company employees will probably not be enough to land the job, says workplace relationship expert Dr. Hilla Dotan of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management.

Her tip: Look into real-life relationships before — and after — you tap into the virtual life. "People need to exploit their network of friends and acquaintances from the real world prior to the job interview," advises Dotan.

After surveying thousands of employees from American companies, including those on the Fortune 500 list, Dotan created the "Relational Tendency Tool," which identifies the types and value of workplace relationships. It's also an effective tool for digging out "non-public" job openings, gathering information about the potential interviewer, and preparing for the interview itself, says Dotan.

"Many people think it is the best friend that can help get the interview, but research evidence and results from the tool show that it is the friend of the best friend that is most effective. The tool can also predict who in the friendship network is the ideal person to provide the recommendation that would put you on the top of the pile," she says.

A little knowledge can be a profitable thing

"Once you've received an invitation for an interview, tap into your friendship network again to prepare for the interview," she says. While LinkedIn is a great way to connect to headhunters, it has much less value for making the kinds of connections that will help you get the job once the interview date is set. "If you want to win over the interviewer, see if you have any friends with friends who work there. If so, arrange a meeting between you, your friend, and your friend's friend a few days before the interview to discuss the prospective job," Dr. Dotan says.

Ask your new alliances about the person who will be interviewing you. A shared hobby, family information, or another commonality is all you need to help build the relationship and inspire that initial connection between you and the interviewer.

At any stage of the job application process, be careful about getting recommendations from your close friends. The resulting job — or rejection — can be dangerous for both your friendship and professional career. "I suggest you get recommendations from people who are two to three degrees of separation away from your close friend. If you are too close to someone in the company, it probably won't be an objective recommendation. Interviewers know that."

Finally, be very sensitive to the interviewer's cues. If they are initiating a social discussion, you want to be receptive to that and use the opportunity to share some of the knowledge you obtained. If they are being professional, and talking just about the business or the job, you have to follow their lead, Dr. Dotan recommends.

Leaving impressions on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn

Dr. Dotan also cautions about revealing too much on a public forum. The impression you make can be influenced greatly by your "online reputation" and you'll be carrying your online history into the interview. The chances are quite high that you'll be "Googled" before your meeting.

While social networking sites can help put your name out there, it can harm how you look from the outside, she says. "My advice would be to be very selective about the information you post, and who to accept and not accept into your network. People judge you as a person and a professional. You want to portray a positive face on both fronts," she says.

At Tel Aviv University Dr. Dotan examines, researches, and teaches how workplace networks form, why they begin, and eventually how these networks evolve to impact business success. She is one of 23 new faculty at Tel Aviv University — highly recruited by universities throughout the country — as part of an across-the-board effort to reverse "brain drain" in Israel.


Avoiding Social Potholes on Your Career Path
5/14/2009

In today's financial crisis, networking know-how is a necessity for finding jobs and business opportunities. But a series of new studies by Dr. Yuval Kalish of the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration at Tel Aviv University suggests that, in some cases, networking can do more harm than good.

"If you're at the intersection of two previously unconnected niches of a network, you're occupying what I call a 'structural hole,'" says Dr. Kalish. Filling that space can lead to prestige, opportunities and power — or it may have quite the opposite effect.

"While it's been reported that people who occupy these 'structural holes' become more successful, some structural holes may be 'social potholes' that can harm you and your business," he warns. Both the positive and negative lessons of his unique research, he says, can be applied to business, politics, the arts, and even the military.

Power and peace

In his latest study, reported in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology, Dr. Kalish analyzed the networks among groups of students at a teachers' college. Among group members, he found two quite different personality types: Ambitious "power-hungry" entrepreneurs who tried to keep the network closed and increase their own power, and "peace-builders" who tried to close the structural holes, bringing members of the group together to enhance the collective good.

Ultimately, he found that both ambitious entrepreneurs and socially-conscious peace-builders ran great risks in manipulating the networks and structural holes to their advantage. "Ongoing research shows that occupying a structural hole, even by the well-intentioned, is associated with short-term gains and long-term costs," says Dr. Kalish, the first to evaluate the negative impact of structural holes.

Burnouts and blackouts

People who fill these structural holes may be putting themselves in more jeopardy than they think, Dr. Kalish says. "For example, if I'm the only connector between Arabs and Jews in a classroom rife with intergroup conflict, I'll probably burn out," says Dr. Kalish. They may be the lucky ones. "History is full of leaders who faced the negative consequences of occupying a unique structural hole. Martin Luther King is one example, and so is the insurance giant AIG."

Occupying a structural hole, Dr. Kalish says, lets you control information. Information is power, which translates to prestige and monetary benefits. But once your manipulation of information is revealed to others, you may suffer negative consequences. In the recent financial meltdown, business people and stockbrokers who transferred information between parties when they shouldn't have were the among the victims of those consequences.

Take your networking advice from Madonna

Before occupying a structural hole or starting a new business venture that connects two or more niches, there are a few things to consider. The main question to ask yourself is why the structural hole exists. "One needs to stop and think first," Dr. Kalish warns. "Why is that network linkage not formed yet? Is there intergroup animosity or conflict involved? If not, and the hole is there simply because of an oversight, go and plug it," he says.

In that case, timing is the key for networking success for entrepreneurs looking for opportunities in business or the arts. "If you're playing the structural hole game, you need to occupy that hole right away and leave it quickly, as soon as others start joining. Madonna, the singer, is an excellent example of this. She connects niches, reinvents herself, gains power and prestige, then moves on as soon as others start doing similar things."

But peace-builders can make a longer-term commitment, says Dr. Kalish. "Social entrepreneurs who work on behalf of the larger community should remain authentic to themselves. They should stay in the structural hole for as long as they can and will succeed so long as they provide a clear, consistent message," he concludes.


Working Your Friendships at Work
4/30/2009

The hit television show The Office is a comedy about a dysfunctional workplace and a perfect example of how not to make friends at work. But it does ask some important questions, especially in this age of massive layoffs and unemployment. Is it good to have friends at work? Who should I become friends with? Are workplace friendships good for the organization?

Dr. Hilla Dotan of Tel Aviv University's Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration studies the power of friendship networks in the workplace and recently developed the "Relational Tendency Tool." It's a practical tool that can be used to identify the types and effects of workplace friendships. Results from Dr. Dotan's method demonstrate that workplace relationships can be managed strategically to benefit both employer and employee.

"Choosing the right friends, especially today, will not only affect your productivity, it can have direct consequences for keeping your job as companies scale down," Dr. Dotan says. "My research is especially relevant during this uncertain fiscal reality because people are resorting to creative tactics for keeping their job, or maintaining a company's output."

The Friendship map

Dr. Dotan mapped the professional networks of 20,000 people working at both small and Fortune 500 companies in the United States. By having employees answer an online questionnaire, she was able to identify the types and significances of workplace relationships. Using this data, Dr. Dotan developed a tool which can predict the types of friendships an individual is likely to form and how the friendship improves or detracts from productivity, commitment, loyalty and turnover intentions.

This patented tool, used today by headhunter organizations, focuses mainly on healthy network building within the organization. It can determine what kind of friendships a person is likely to have and how wide one should cast a friendship net for job success. Moreover, the tool can be used to examine how an existing employee's relationships affect his own performance as well as identify the "weakest link" in the functioning of a team.

Dr. Dotan points out that the role of friendships at work shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to efficiency and productivity. "A good friend at work can increase my willingness to get up in the morning and commit to the company," she says. "How does each friendship and the entire friendship network affect me? Is it good for the organization? Everyone should become aware of the importance of friendships at work and start asking these questions."

The boss' best friend

From the employer's point-of-view, who's the best kind of friend at work? "Generally, individuals who are happier with the organization and will do extra things that are not specified in their job descriptions are good," Dr. Dotan says. "They are intrinsically motivated without expectation for any monetary rewards. They work for themselves and their professional identity. Essentially the organization becomes a part of them. These are the kinds of people who make attractive friends and employees."

While identification with the organization is important, there are other important traits to consider as well. A well-liked individual could be the key to holding team dynamics together. If a friend at the office leaves — or is fired — other employees could "abandon ship," creating a high employee turnover rate. "These individuals are not always obvious and managers have a responsibility to understand ways to inhibit, manage and grow workplace friendships to their advantage," she adds.

Why can't we be friends?

Dr. Dotan also distinguishes between "horizontal" and "vertical" friendships. Horizontal friendships are friendships between individuals on the same hierarchical rung, and vertical friendships are between people of higher and lower ranks. "People are well advised to keep friendships on the same level," she stresses. "You can be 'friendly' with your subordinate, but it's not advisable to be his or her 'friend,'" she says.

Another tip is to stay away from emotionally-charged friendships. If a friendship ends for some reason, it could lead to critical problems at work, with your job on the line. "You should also be careful about forging strong friendships that will make you leave the organization should the other person leave or is let go," she says.

Dr. Dotan is new to Tel Aviv University.  She was recruited from UCLA Anderson School of Management and is one of 23 handpicked faculty recruited from top research institutions around the world this year.


Will Business Education Lead to Mideast Peace?
3/2/2009

Today's volatile marketplace requires executives and entrepreneurs to be knowledgeable, adept, and creative — across borders and across cultures.

A new English-language international MBA offered by Tel Aviv University's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, beginning in October 2009, will prepare gifted students from around the world for the modern challenges of a global business environment. The curriculum will use Israel's unique entrepreneurial culture and geographical location to attract students from multiple cultures, especially from Asia, India, and the Arab nations. Generous scholarships are being offered.

Endowed by the Sofaer family, the one-year Sofaer International Masters in Business Administration (SIMBA) degree aspires far beyond academia. It seeks to play a significant role in neutralizing Middle East conflict through a shared philosophy of commerce, and to create meaningful ties between young executives that will last a lifetime.

"Academically, there could not be a better home for this important program than TAU's Faculty of Management," says Roni Krinsky, president of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "The Sofaer family's vision is based on a very sophisticated worldview. We're proud that they chose Tel Aviv University for its emphasis on excellence, an advanced understanding of global economics, and its superb links to the Israeli financial and technology sectors."

At present, Krinsky adds, the CEOs of 30 of Israel's top 100 companies are graduates of Tel Aviv University.

Field school for Israeli entrepreneurialism

Israel, international business leaders acknowledge, is a leader in a number of lucrative industries, especially high-tech and medicine. Participating in SIMBA's courses, special lectures, and targeted internships will give young executives the means to hit the ground running in a league where Israeli innovation is prized.

"You do an MBA only once, and the experience stays with you forever," says Prof. Simon Benninga, Academic Director of the SIMBA. "Foreign business leaders have shown they want to be close to Israel because Israelis are proven entrepreneurs. In creating and funding this program, the Sofaer family is providing an avenue for promising young business people to be forever connected to Israel, and to its unique entrepreneurial opportunities."

Prof. Benninga stresses that learning in English from both Israeli academics and leaders in the field — rather than seeing the country as casual tourists — will provide a clear insider's edge for future deals and R&D opportunities with Israeli firms. Students will also meet the school's outstanding alumnae, a club of 17,000 professionals who have gone on to lead multi-million and billion dollar banks, pharmaceutical companies and high-tech firms.

Detente through business

The initial class of the SIMBA program will enroll 50 students, three-quarters of them foreign nationals. To advance international understanding at a level no diplomacy can provide, there is a special emphasis on attracting top candidates from the Asian and Indian continents, as well from Arab countries.

A number of scholarships for outstanding scholars and those with financial need have been built into the program. Prof. Asher Tishler, Dean of TAU's Faculty of Management, hopes that young Arab executives, particularly women from the Palestinian Authority and the Middle East region, will take advantage of this opportunity.

"Everyone would like to see peace in the Middle East," says Prof. Tishler, "but the Sofaer family is taking an innovative step toward that end. Their SIMBA program will not only promote Israel as a powerhouse in business, it will be a nexus to nurture sustainable business relationships, a bridge across the East/West divide."

For more information, visit:
http://recanati.tau.ac.il/Eng/Index.asp?CategoryID=563&ArticleID=1132.


To Queue or Not to Queue?
9/22/2008

If there’s one thing that separates humankind from the animals, it’s that human beings wait in lines. To make a deposit at the bank, to pay for groceries, even to vote -- we’ve all learned to queue, one behind the other. And we’ve learned, if not to like it, then at least to grin and bear it.

But time is money, and both individuals and businesses may suffer as lines get longer and longer, says Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Refael Hassin, a mathematician. He has been utilizing game theory to study wait times in line and understand their economic consequences. His findings -- many of which turn common sense upside-down -- could also turn the service industry on its head, help businesses increase profits, and make society become a more pleasant place for everyone.

Results of his research were published recently in the journal Management Science.

An espresso while you wait

Businesses can implement systems to cut down on waiting time and decrease the number of frustrated customers who leave without making a purchase. Prof. Hassin notes that there are many solutions that companies could apply with an eye to improving customer service. An entry fee to enter a faster line is one option.

“I don’t suggest that companies hire more cashiers at the sight of a growing queue,” he says. “With some basic analysis, however, peak times of wait lines can be determined, and businesses can ensure that customers stay happy while waiting, by offering them entertainment like TV or maybe cappuccinos.”

But sometimes the lines themselves are the problem, Prof. Hassin believes. His study suggests that waiting times are affected by a number of random variables, and that people who gather in a crowd might be serviced more efficiently than people standing in line. Sometimes, disorder creates its own order.

In an ice-cream shop, for example, an arriving customer who crowds to the display case will experience shorter waiting times for service than when the same number of customers wait patiently in line. This means that more ice cream will be served and consequently more money will end up in the till. “If there are 10 people in an ice-cream shop, on average you will be served after the fifth person if you do not wait in an organized line,” says Prof. Hassin.

Prof. Hassin went on to explain, “Of course I might get served 1st, 2nd, or even last. But on average the statistics are based on human decision-making strategies: If one is deciding whether or not to enter a shop and sees many people there already, most would prefer an unordered queue -- because in this circumstance there is a good chance of being served sooner than if one was waiting patiently in line.”

Does democracy need to wait its turn?

Customers as well as businesses can learn from Prof. Hassin’s research. While it seems intuitive that fairness is served when people wait patiently in line until their turn comes up, Prof. Hassin says that, when it comes to queuing up, democracy is more honored in the breach than in the observance.

“People in lines tend to think only about themselves and ignore their impact on others,” says Prof. Hassin. “If I join the line and you come later, you will wait longer because of me.  Customers are often selfish and ignore the effect their behavior has on others.”  This is why in some cases it's better to manage a queue in an unorganized non-democratic way, serve in reverse order of arrival, or conceal queue length information from potential customers, he explains.

Prof. Hassin’s research was inspired by the lack of an organized queue system in Israeli society. His findings are available in To Queue or Not to Queue by Prof. Hassin and Prof. Moshe Haviv, available through Prof. Hassin’s website at http://www.math.tau.ac.il/~hassin/.


Negotiating Through the Glass Ceiling
6/25/2008

There are fewer women than men involved in high-profile international business deals. But that may change with the results of a new Tel Aviv University study on the role of gender in management, which found that women may be more skilled at business negotiations than their masculine counterparts.

Dr. Yael Itzhaki of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration carried out simulations of business negotiations among 554 Israeli and American management students at Ohio State University, in New York City, and in Israel.

Her findings? "Women are more generous negotiators, better co-operators and are motivated to create win-win situations," says Itzhaki. The results of her Ph.D. thesis project indicated that in certain groupings, women offered better terms than men to reach an agreement. And women were good at facilitating interaction between the parties, she says.

Men are emulating women

The simulations involved negotiating the terms of a joint venture, including the division of shares. The point of the simulations was to examine how women behave in business situations requiring cooperation and competition.

Itzhaki also discovered that men have begun to incorporate feminine strategies into their negotiating styles. "Women in mid-management positions are criticized for being too 'cooperative' and 'compassionate,' so they don't get promoted. Then men come in and use the same tactics women are criticized for."

The female handshake

Although both men and women can be good negotiators, Itzhaki emphasizes that there should be more women in top management jobs. Women have unique skills to offer, Itzhaki says: They’re great listeners, they care about the concerns of the other side, and they’re generally more interested in finding a win-win situation to the benefit of both parties than male negotiators.

These are especially desirable traits in today’s business world, which is calling for service improvements for customers and clients.  Women today are earning more top positions in banking because of this trend, says Itzhaki.

In part, women don’t reach CEO positions because they lack the right professional experience for the job and never enter the pool from which top positions are drawn.  Managers commonly choose successors and colleagues who are most similar to themselves, explains Itzhaki ― men are more likely to promote men.

Women in management bring new competitive edge

Itzhaki is currently advising Israeli companies on how to take action. Enforcing equal opportunities law is one concern, but her advice responds to concerns beyond the law. Are women being heard in corporate boardrooms? Does the company have policies that measure the amount of work accomplished, and not merely hours on the job?

A lot of women don’t care to “fight” to be recognized, she says, preferring cooperation over competition. But more women in management can translate to a healthier bottom line, Itzhaki says. “Businesses need to develop an organizational culture where everyone is heard, because women’s opinions and skills can give businesses a competitive edge.”

Itzhaki is an adjunct lecturer at Tel Aviv University and the founder of Netta, a non-profit organization, which promotes the advancement of women in the workplace through enrichment programs, networking opportunities, and research.


TAU Researchers Examine "Great Expectations" in the Workplace
4/29/2008

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that employee performance in the workplace, like students' grades at school, is greatly influenced by managers' expectations of that performance.

An analysis of results from twenty-five years' worth of experimental research conducted at banks, schools, the Israel Defense Forces -- and even summer camp -- shows unequivocal results: when a leader expects subordinates to perform well, they do.

"A self-fulfilling prophecy goes into effect," says Prof. Dov Eden from Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management, who conducts and directs the experiments. "Managers and leaders would be well-advised to expect a lot, and let people know they expect a lot. The message should be genuine and consistent."

Expectations feed performance

In one of Prof. Eden's experiments, he divided bank branch managers into two groups. One group of managers was told that their employees were exceptional; the other group was told nothing about their employees' performance potential.

When Prof. Eden analyzed performance results, he found a significant difference between the branches. There had been no pre-existing differences between employees, but the branch managers who were led to expect more, got more -- their branches scored higher in terms of profitability and overall economic success.

This effect has been found in dozens of organizations: high expectations have a positive effect in business and in many other social arenas, Prof. Eden says.

A "Pygmalion" effect

His findings confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that the "Pygmalion Effect" can be created among leaders and subordinates. Subordinates get a 3-to-1 boost in their performance success rate if a leader expects more from them, says Prof. Eden. "Success" is determined by any number of relevant factors, such as completing a course, a performance rating on the job, or grades in a training program.

But "if a leader has high expectations, it doesn't mean that a subordinate will perform three times as well," Prof. Eden says. "It means that he or she will have a three times greater chance of being above-average."

A boost of confidence

Study results indicate that when a manager expects a lot from an employee, the manager's leadership style changes and subsequently boosts the employee's self-confidence. "If your boss believes you can excel, you are more likely to believe in your own capacity to succeed," says Prof. Eden.

The result holds true for any supervisory position, adds Prof. Eden, who has studied this phenomenon at banks, in schools among principals and teachers, at summer camps among counsellors and campers, in university-based tutorial programs and in the military among commanders and their subordinates.

The Pygmalion research expands on studies of the "experimenter effect" in the 1960s, the notion that an investigator can unintentionally influence the outcome of an experiment in significant ways.

The recipe for success, says Prof. Eden, is to "expect a lot from people. You'll get more. Have high expectations and reinforce them with positive messages to the employee, even if it requires being a good actor."


Fifty Tel Aviv University M.B.A. Students Head to Northwestern University for Summer Business Credit
8/24/2007

When it comes to doing business in any international market, it is ultimately the relationships between potential partners that will make or break a deal. In August, fifty Israeli students had the chance to hone their relationship skills far from home.

As part of Tel Aviv University’s Kellogg-Recanati (KR) Executive M.B.A. degree program, administered jointly by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Tel Aviv University’s Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, the Israeli students spent two weeks in Chicago this summer to complete an important stage of their studies. The students mingled with M.B.A. students from the program’s sister schools based in Hong Kong, Germany and the U.S. For 24 hours a day, more than 150 business students practiced their teamwork and negotiation skills under the guidance of Northwestern professors, who taught courses on negotiation strategy, crisis management, marketing and strategic alliances.

Tel Aviv University’s Kellogg-Recanati (KR) Executive M.B.A. coordinator Orit Mendelson has helped hundreds of Israeli business students from powerful companies such as Bank Leumi and Amdocs forge international alliances with M.B.A. students from Europe, the Far East and America. “We are always working on teaching our students about the cultural differences between countries and how to bridge the gaps,” said Mendelson. “Our program helps our Israeli students not only to negotiate in the American sense of the word, but it also lets them interact with people from the Far East. It’s one thing when people tell you about the Chinese approach to business. It’s another when you are studying in the same class with them and live it.”

She continues, “In effect, our students get to network across the globe within companies and between industries. Studying with other business executives in the same degree program, with the same curriculum, gives these people a common bond and one which they will likely use in business for the rest of their lives.”

“Like everything else in management, this program is mainly about people,” says Professor Israel Zang, academic director of the program in Israel, who joined the students in Chicago. “It’s about the wonderful students that we have, and it’s about the hundreds of students studying in our sister programs and with whom we constantly interact.”

The two-year-long part-time course, which includes the vital experience abroad, also helps Israelis and their Palestinian counterparts see eye-to-eye. “Only when we are away from home and other people analyze us, do our Palestinian and Israeli students realize how very similar they are,” says Mendelson. “In Israel, we don’t want to be seen as ‘the suckers’ in business. And both Israelis and Palestinians are always looking to figure out how to get the biggest slice of the pie when negotiating. Instead, through the degree, we teach them how to expand the size of the entire pie!”

As part of the framework of the program and to demonstrate Tel Aviv University’s commitment to education despite complicated geopolitical borders, every year the Tel Aviv University/Northwestern University program offers anywhere from two to four scholarships for Palestinian M.B.A. students. And this fall, in October, the Tel Aviv University campus will be hosting 18 business students from Hong Kong and 15 from the U.S. as they participate in a special module on business in the high-tech sector, an Israeli speciality.

The ambassador for the October course will be M.B.A. student Paul Knegten, the business development director for the Israeli Internet company Dapper.net. “When we get foreign visitors to our program from around the world, they come specifically for the entrepreneurial spirit, which is unique to Israel,” says Knegten.

Tel Aviv University Faculty of Management dean Simon Benninga adds, “This particular program is the crown jewel of our business school. We dreamed up this idea with Northwestern University’s dean and built the concept from scratch together. Our students say that there is nothing like it, because studying in different locations will help them build a global professional network that will help them grow all stages of their careers.”


Legal Credit
3/17/2006

Tel Aviv University (TAU) law students are giving free legal counsel to religious women on welfare, some of whom are feeding households with up to 13 children. The target is to turn a community's despair into dollars by helping underprivileged women set up cottage industries and small businesses.

The students are enrolled in the Microbusiness and Economic Justice Clinic run by TAU's Buchmann Faculty of Law. It was started two years ago to serve the distressed Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community of Bnei Brak, which is only a few miles from Tel Aviv University. Bnei Brak is one of Israel's poorest neighborhoods and families on welfare are finding it more and more difficult to make the shekel stretch.

Women find no alternative but to start underground businesses from home.

Some make clothes or bake and sell cakes, while others give manicures or run kindergartens. All of these industrious women are rolling up their sleeves to buy basics like diapers and bread and butter. "These women want to report earnings and work with the authorities," explains Galia Feit, a lawyer and supervisor at the Microbusiness and Economic Justice Clinic, "but they are intimidated by Israeli bureaucracy."

The law students provide one-on-one counsel to participating women who need help navigating through Israel's complex welfare system. In parallel, a team of about 50 TAU faculty members show students how to effect change at the government level.

"We are creating a win-win situation," says Feit. "Our students get credit toward a law degree, and haredi women get the tools to be free from welfare."

She describes the hard situations these women face when they need to leave their kids behind at home to check in with the authorities. Also, the conflicting protocol from one office to the next, and the confusing paperwork involved, makes it difficult not only for a religious woman to start her own business, but for practically anyone.

Before her post at the clinic last year, Feit worked as a legal assistant for the Supreme Court, learning the ins and outs of the Israeli legal system. This background gives her the power to meet welfare decision-makers head on, and change policies based on the real-world problems haredi and other Israeli women face.

Feit talks about the potential and the problems in Bnei Brak --"Many women in this community are educated and some are certified teachers, but there are simply not enough teaching jobs to go around. These women cannot go to Tel Aviv and collect a paycheck due to restrictions of the community. They have almost no options for working positions and have many children at home. For them, the most practical solution is to run businesses out of their apartments."

Each year the clinic matches participating women with one or two students, and has a far greater number of clients than volunteers, which keeps the students on their toes. In its second year of operation, Feit already boasts of success. Yaara Holtsman, copywriter for her own business, The Last Word, agreed to talk about her experience as an Ultra-Orthodox women seeking assistance through the TAU clinic.

Ten years ago, Holtsman was an art director in a large advertising company. When she decided to become more observant, Holtsman left the commercial world behind and became a full-time mom in Bnei Brak. Now divorced and with two children past the age of four, Holtsman wanted to get back into business, but didn't know where to start.

"I had no self-confidence, and no longer knew how the business world was working," says the thirty-something who avoids mainstream media such as television and newspapers. Yet, she knew there might be a way for putting her special talents in design and creative writing to work.

"I was afraid of the George Orwell 1984 story about bureaucracy, but the moment I opened and registered my business, I started to fly," she recounts. "The girls at the clinic helped me most with psychological and moral support for opening my business."

In turn, the volunteer experience gives a lot back to the students. Most of the female students who enroll in the class are given a rare and unique opportunity to peek into the private community of haredi people. Students learn about day-to-day life in Bnei Brak-- their hardships, their joys, their beliefs. "They recognize that we have much more in common than we tend to think," says Feit, who like Holtsman, is a professional working mother of two children. "It is an opportunity to see them as separate human beings-- as women and not just a part of a close-knit community that we hardly know about and hold stereotypes towards."

Much of the exchange at the Microbusiness Clinic is done through meetings, where students help participating women write contracts and business plans, and file social security papers. Depending on where they meet, sometimes TAU students are expected to meet the haredi dress-code of long-sleeved shirts and long skirts.

At the end of the day, the clinic boils down to being a much needed service, as state-funded legal aid in Israel is in short supply.

The clinic is funded by the Hadassah Foundation, the Koret Fund, and the Stein Family, Los Angeles. It is operated as one of seven legal clinics within the framework of the Cegla Clinical Legal Education Program at the Buchmann Law Faculty, in cooperation with Economic Empowerment for Women (EEW).

Over the past years, the legal clinics at TAU have been instrumental in shaping public policy and social awareness in Israel on various levels.

For example, TAU lawyers and students helped formulate new government policy which forbids disconnecting water from poor families who cannot afford to pay their water bills. Other examples include health insurance for migrant workers, rights for same-sex spouses, and the changing of environmental policy.

Each clinic runs as a full year accredited academic course. Faculty members, a staff attorney and students meet once a week to discuss theoretical, doctrinal and conceptual questions. In addition, the students work for 4-6 hours a week under the supervision of the clinic's lawyer, on community projects or public interest cases.

The legal clinics at Tel Aviv University are based on the notion that lawyers, individually and as a professional collective, carry a special responsibility to use professional knowledge to bring about positive social change. Lawyers are also expected to contribute to the community in which they live and work. For that reason, students who are accepted to the Tel Aviv University Buchmann Law Faculty are expected to participate in legal clinics. Such participation helps students develop their understanding about the potential and limitations of law to serve as a vehicle for attaining social justice.

For more information, please visit:  www.tau.ac.il/law/clinics/english


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