7 Questions with Laurie Weingart
Laurie Weingart, the Richard M. and Margaret S. Cyert Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, is a renowned expert in organizational behavior. Her key area of focus is negotiation and conflict management in interdisciplinary teams. Here, she shares insights from her research, thoughts on Generation Z, and why she said “yes” to joining Bentley’s board of trustees.
Your research examines negotiation, conflict and innovation in interdisciplinary teams. What are some noteworthy insights you have uncovered?
A commonly held belief is that if you put a group of people together from different disciplines or organizational functions, innovation is bound to happen. My research shows this is much easier said than done. To effectively capitalize on group members’ differences, the group must have the skills and support to both access the members’ knowledge and integrate it. Conflict and conflict management are both crucial to effective performance. We select people to join teams because of their differences and these lead to conflicts within the group, which are necessary for success. My research reveals, however, that it is very difficult for teams to leverage their disagreements. Effective conflict expression and conflict management are key to ensuring teams benefit from their naturally occurring conflicts.
How will the current generation of students affect the work of interdisciplinary teams?
Great question. This generation of students, often referred to as Generation Z, is the most ethnically diverse and tech-savvy thus far. Research suggests that today’s students embrace diversity and inclusion, and it follows that working in interdisciplinary teams should come more naturally to them. Their comfort with differences and respect for diversity of race, gender and culture should extend to openness and respect for teammates from other disciplines.
Organizations are transforming their ways of working together in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and collaboration and communication technology is more important than ever. The current generation’s comfort with and reliance on technology, to interact with one another and the world, means they will play a critical role in making this transition as seamless as possible.
What interests you about serving on Bentley’s board?
I have great respect for Alison Davis-Blake’s leadership as president and my values align closely with those of Bentley — in terms of the importance of blending business, technology and the arts and sciences in educating future business leaders, and regarding the central role of business in making a positive impact on the world.
My academic and administrative experience, both within the business school and as interim provost at Carnegie Mellon University, provides me with a unique perspective on higher education and the role of business schools within it. Bentley occupies a unique place in the higher education landscape: a university with a business school at its core. I was intrigued about Bentley’s niche and its possibilities.
Your experience as a student and since has been at schools quite different from Bentley. Is that an advantage in contributing to the board?
Interesting point! I have spent my career at what are referred to as “R1” universities — those with very high levels of research activity, in addition to their educational mission. While those institutions differ in size, scope and strategic niche from Bentley, they have a shared mission of achieving excellence in business education and advancing knowledge. My experience with the strategies of how research-intensive universities deliver on their mission allows me to bring diversity of perspective to the Bentley board. And as my research shows, diversity of perspective aids innovation and team performance, as long as the group knows how to capitalize on the diversity.
What keeps you passionate about your work?
Having the opportunity to make a difference — in the lives of my students, my coworkers, the university, the field and the practice of management. I strive to do work that matters and to leave the world a better place than I found it.
Do you have any interests outside of work that may surprise people?
I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy fan since back in high school. That’s really all I read. I was a huge Game of Thrones fan way before it was popular.
Would you like to tell us about your family?
Absolutely! I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my husband, Greg, and our two dogs, Zoe and Tyler. We have two children — Rachel, who is working toward a master’s in public health at Emory University; and Brett, who, in the fall, will be attending the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City. Both Greg and I are originally from the Chicago region.