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SIOP 2012 “Ah ha!” Moments

Satoris S. Culbertson
Kansas State University

In this past April issue of TIP, just prior to the 2012 SIOP conference, TIP Editor Lisa Steelman put out a call for members to share their “ah ha!” moments from the conference. As she noted, “One of the greatest things about SIOP conferences is the insights one gets. It is hard to go to one without having a couple of ‘ah ha!’ moments. Those moments can be very energizing as you acclimate back into ‘real life.’ Insights and lessons learned come from everywhere: symposia, posters, coffee breaks, receptions, the hotel bar at 2:00 a.m.” She asked that members share their moments with her in an effort to create a 2012 time capsule of insight, clarity, and wisdom gained from the conference. It is with great pleasure that I present some of the defining moments that were shared. (Note that my own “ah ha!” moment is recounted in my discussion of service commitments in the Academics’ Forum in this issue of TIP.)

One theme that emerged from the responses received was one that could easily be classified as “SIOP and its members rock!” As Mark Healy noted, “I realized that SIOP is my community, not just a so-called ‘intellectual’ or ‘professional’ community, but a community in the general sense, something I’m a part of, and emotionally tied to.” Similarly, Maura Mills shared, “I love the continual realization that our I-O community is such a small, interconnected world (I can hear the tune of “it’s a small world after all” playing in my head!). Meeting new people in the field, only to find out that you’re indirectly connected to them (mediated?!) through a close colleague or former advisor, is always a fun ‘aha’ moment for me.” It seems the notion of I-O being a small world is a common one, as James Tan commented, “It seems SIOP gets bigger every year in terms of attendance, yet I keep getting reminded that the I-O community is still a small world. Got to meet and hang out with cool new people and ‘old’ friends.”

This feeling of interconnectedness was also shared by members who realized the importance from a networking sense. For example, Joel Philo noted, “One of the presenters on succeeding in business said it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you that matters. As I reconnected with my professional colleagues at SIOP, who are all admirable and successful, I felt more successful too.” Similarly, Jamie Winder shared, “There is a lot of power in the networking that takes place at the conference. I came away from the session with several new and renewed connections that I plan on leveraging both for business and to propose some sessions for next year’s SIOP.”
I think the “lovefest” that many have about SIOP and its members is perhaps summarized best by Amy Sund, who noted, “I-O psychologists are passionate, creative, funny, and contagiously enthusiastic. My aha in a tweet: life is better when you are (or know) an I-O!” So true!

In addition to the warm, fuzzy feelings about SIOP and I-O psychologists in general, members also reported gaining insights regarding the overall conference experience, including the general theme and format of sessions. For example, Lisa Finkelstein shared how Adrienne Colella’s presidential theme of the impact of I-O psychology made an impression on her. Namely, Finkelstein noted, “One of my a-ha moments had to do with impact. I realized both that we all have impact on others with the work we do (both big and small), but also that we can all be doing just a little bit more to help assure that the work we do is taken that one step further to maximize potential impact. From the perspective of a researcher, we can do a better job of actively keeping the idea of impact in the forefront of our minds as we conceptualize a study, design a study, and communicate the results of a study. Rather than tacking on very general ‘practical implications’ to our studies, we could go further in specifically suggesting exactly how our ideas could be implemented, or better yet, partner up with our practitioner friends and actually see if we can test out our ideas and evaluate them.”

After taking a brief hiatus from attending the SIOP annual conferences, Jamie Winder had some pleasant revelations regarding format changes, noting, “A lot has changed in the 6 years since I had attended SIOP. I really liked the ‘new’ (not sure how new this is) format of some of the sessions. One in particular stood out for me. I attended a community of interest session led by Mike Campion and John Binning regarding interviewing. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the session to find the chairs arranged in a circle with Mike standing next to a flip chart. The group all introduced themselves and what they were interested in talking about. Mike flip charted the topics with assistance from John. When we had finished going around the room, we all agreed on some topics to run through that seemed to garner the most interest. Mike then facilitated the group as we discussed research and practical application issues. It was a great way to blend both academic and practitioner perspectives in a way that was tailored to the audience. I hope there will be more sessions like this (and alternative formats) in next year’s conference in Houston.”

Several members also shared that specific sessions created “ah ha!” moments for them, praising the session organizers and presenters. One such member, Alexander Alonso, said, “I am responsible for professional competencies research at SHRM. This year I had a real epiphany while attending Juan Sanchez’s workshop on competency modeling. He focused some of his talk on the organizational context and enablers of effective professional growth in competency domains. It was an angle I had never really heard discussed at SIOP or in the literature. Quickly it crystallized for me all the enablers of effective HR performance and the competencies needed to be successful as an HR professional. I literally sat there with thoughts percolating in my brain thanks to Juan and his brainstorming. It has changed my practice for the better and will affect the work we do for HR professionals worldwide.” Similarly, Joel DiGirolamo shared, “my most significant session was one on organization networks. After hearing the stories how people are using them I can see immediate uses in my work. Very fruitful!”

That said, there was also some insight around content that was not apparently present in the sessions. For example, although he was impressed by the “global feel in terms of attendees and sessions,” Jamie Winder reported being “surprised by the lack of sessions focused on the use/application of social media.” Similarly, Dale Rose said, “It amazed me that there was only one 360-degree feedback session. When Dave Bracken and I did a session 2 years ago on how to use 360s as an OD process (one of only two sessions on 360 feedback if I recall correctly), we were astounded at some of the questions from our rather large audience because they seemed so basic to us (things like “how should people pick raters?”…and “should the boss be involved in the process?”). Last year’s SIOP conference was equally sparse on the topic. This makes me think that I-O psychologists may be simply letting 360 feedback become a software tool run by programmer intensive companies with diminishing knowledge about how to design a 360 process to achieve specific results. This is good for me, because I know a thing or two about how to do 360s extremely well, but the next generation of I-O psychologists may not be learning about best practices with this invaluable process.”

One final “ah ha!” moment shared, but sounded more like an “aauugghh!” moment to me, was that of Deborah Rupp, who commented, “Albert Bandura told Lisa [Finkelstein], Adrienne [Colella], and me that he works from 9am to midnight 7 days a week, whenever he is not off on holiday somewhere. Wow!” Wow is right. On that note, I must end this piece and get back to work…