What is your current position and area of research?
I am Professor and Chair of the School of Psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. My research tries to understand the first-person experience of working, from the immediate episodic feeling of what it is like to be working to the broader autobiographical narratives that people create to provide coherence for their work lives. For most of the past decade my research has focused on emotional experiences at work but now we are looking at issues related to attentional focus and daydreaming, all under the umbrella agenda of understanding work experiences.
What led you to this field/area of research?
For the early part of my career I studied job satisfaction and related work attitudes. Over time I realized that job satisfaction was not useful as a first person, experiential construct. Satisfaction doesn’t capture the way people feel at their jobs. It isn’t the way they think about their work experiences. This led to an interest in emotional experiences more specifically and to a broader interest in the first-person experience of working. Over the years, the challenge has been to get organizational psychologists to reorient their mindset from thinking about humans as parts of organizational systems with the objective of enhancing organizational effectiveness to thinking about the experience of working from the worker’s point of view and the importance of working to the human condition.
What has been the biggest change in Human system integration during your career?
I think the biggest change I have seen has been the development of HSI as an autonomous field with more defined HSI training and professional identification. When I was first exposed to the field it was composed of people with clear identities in other fields (human factors, I-O psychology, systems engineering) but who had an appreciation for interdisciplinary thinking. Now people are more likely to have an HSI identity. More specific HSI training and education hasn’t quite caught up, but it will.
What do you enjoy most about being a member of BOHSI?
That’s the easiest question to answer. The two most enjoyable things about BoHSI membership have been interacting with enormously smart and interesting people and doing it while trying to solve important and interesting social problems.
What is the most important thing you would like to see human-systems integration achieve in the next 10 years?
Observing as a psychologist, I think the biggest challenge is to develop this interdisciplinary field without losing the depth of knowledge that exists within the component fields. I have been impressed when the HSI perspective recognizes the importance of the psychology of the humans in the system but I am sometimes troubled by how naive the knowledge brought to bear can be. My guess is that people from other core disciplines sometimes feel the same way. As HSI develops as an autonomous field it will incorporate knowledge from other core disciplines. It needs to figure out how to incorporate the best of that knowledge, in all its complexity, and not continuously reinvent the wheel.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Can I give three? The Iliad, Crime and Punishment, One Hundred Years of Solitude.