Why We Are So Attached to Our Things – A TED-Ed Lesson about Ownership by Christian Jarrett

Dear readers,

We would like to share a really neat video with you that sums up the phenomenon of ownership quite nicely in under 5 minutes. It was created by Christian Jarrett as part of a TED-Ed lesson on ownership and endowment.

 

The entire TED-Ed lesson content can be accessed here: [CLICK].

Yours,

The Science of Ownership team

Personal Data and (Psychological) Ownership: A Book Chapter by Bernadette Kamleitner & Vince Mitchell

We are writing the year 2017, an era with a higher population of mobile gadgets than people (GSMA Intelligence 2017), where we easily create a 10 million Blu-ray discs amount of data each day (Walker 2015). A substantial fraction of these data represents virtual copies of our very selves. From digitally tracking our personal health over religiously using our loyalty cards for better deals to simply surfing the Internet for information – where we go, what we do and consume, how we behave and feel is not a private matter anymore (Haddadi & Brown 2014). Despite heightened public concern about how personal data is collected and used (Pew Research Center 2014), we rarely think about oversharing when we download apps, sign up for mailing lists, or give away our personal details in exchange for a boost in convenience and temporary well-being. What is more, the question of who holds legitimate claim over these data – legally as well as psychologically – is still fuelling an undisputed yet to date unsatisfactory debate.

In a new book chapter to appear in a book on ownership that Joann Peck and Suzanne Shu are editing for Springer, Bernadette Kamleitner from WU Vienna and Vince Mitchell who is just about to move from London to The University of Sydney are exploring these and related questions in detail and come to surprising conclusions about the logic of ownership in the context of personal data. Read for yourself what they discovered in the abstract below. The matching first-draft of the chapter in its entirety can be downloaded [HERE]:

In the age of information everything becomes mined for the nuggets giving rise to it: data. Yet, who these new treasures do and should belong to is still being hotly debated. With individuals often acting as the source of the ore and businesses acting as the miners, both appear to hold a claim. This chapter contributes to this debate by analyzing whether and when personal data may evoke a sense of ownership in those they are about. Juxtaposing insights on the experience and functions of ownership with the essence of data and practices in data markets, we conclude that a very large fraction of personal data defies the logic and mechanisms of psychological possessions. In the canon of reasons for this defeat, issues of data characteristics, obscuring market practices, and data’s mere scope are center stage. In response, we propose to condense the boundless collection of data points into the singularized and graspable metaphor of a digital blueprint of the self. This metaphor is suggested to grasp the notion of personal data. To also enable consumers to effectively manage their data, we advocate adopting a practice commonly used with plentiful assets: the establishment of personal data agents and managers.

References

GSMA Intelligence. (2017), available at https://www.gsmaintelligence.com/

Haddadi & Brown (2014), Quantified Self and the Privacy Challenge, Technology Law Futures.

Kamleitner & Mitchell (2017). Can consumers experience ownership for all their personal data? From issues of scope and invisibility agents handling our digital footpring. In press

Pew Research Center (2014). Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era. November 12. http://www.pewresearch.org.

Walker (2015). Every Day Big Data Statistics – 2.5 Quintillion Bytes of Data Created Daily. Available at http://www.vcloudnews.com/every-day-big-data-statistics-2-5-quintillion-bytes-of-data-created-daily/

 

THE DEVELOPMENT OF JOB-BASED PSYCHOLOGICAL OWNERSHIP

A GUEST COMMENTARY BY BOBBY BULLOCK, CONSULTANT & RESEARCHER

The concept of psychological ownership (PO) as we know and understand today has originated from the field of organizational behavior and psychology. More precisely, Pierce, Kostova & Dirks (2001, 2003) were the first ones to coin the term and establish a theory of PO in organizations. Defined as “the state in which individuals feel as though the target of ownership (material or immaterial in nature) or a piece of it is “theirs”, they were able to show that PO develops through three distinct routes: control over, self-investment in, and intimate knowledge of the target of ownership (Pierce et al. 2003). In addition to these three routes, many scholars have argued that personality and disposition may also matter for the emergence of PO, yet this has never been properly tested.

In his PhD thesis, our current guest author Bobby Bullock, has explored this gap in the literature and has taken a closer look at the relationship between personality, job autonomy and psychological ownership. Moreover, he has looked at how the well-established routes through which PO is said to emerge come into play in the context of organizational employment.

But read for yourself what Bobby Bullock has to say:

Psychological ownership has come to light as an important state with strong implications on employee attitudes and behaviors.  However, relatively little attention has been paid towards the process by which employees come to develop feelings of psychological ownership towards their work, particularly regarding the role played by individual traits in this process.  Ownership theorists claim that personality and disposition should matter (Mayhew, Ashkanasy, Bramble, & Gardner, 2007; Pierce & Jussila, 2011), yet these claims remain largely untested.

The purpose of the current investigation is to address these gaps by exploring how employee disposition and job design contribute to the development of job-based psychological ownership.  Employing a cross-sectional approach, data were collected using an online survey where participants were asked to complete measures of trait positive affectivity (PA), job characteristics, work experiences, and job-based psychological ownership.  Because the study focused on job-related phenomena, participants were required to work full-time in a location other than their home to be considered for this study.  The final 426 participants (60.4% male, 39.6% female) had an average tenure of 5.04 years (SD = 5.03) and represented a wide range of industries and job levels (23.7% entry-level, 31.0% individual contributor, 17.8% supervisory, 10.8% mid-level manager, 2.8% senior manager, 13.8% technical or professional).  Hypotheses were tested using bootstrapped regression analyses and structural equation modeling.

Results indicated that job autonomy has a positive effect on job-based psychological ownership (B = 0.501, CI 0.415 to 0.594) through three mediated paths:  investment of ideas, effort, and self into one’s work (B = 0.252, CI 0.178 to 0.349), experienced control and influence over one’s work (B = 0.214, CI 0.137 to 0.293), and intimate knowledge and understanding of one’s job (B = 0.036, CI 0.003 to 0.082).  Employee PA significantly moderated the mediated path from autonomy to ownership through experienced control (Index of ModMed = 0.017, CI 0.000 to 0.045), such that control mattered more for high-PA employees.  Exploratory analyses suggest that PA may play a dual role – as a moderator of autonomy’s effects on control (B = 0.052, CI 0.009 to 0.100), and as an indirect effect on ownership itself.  For example, high-PA employees reported greater investment of self in their work, which in turn predicted job-based psychological ownership (B = 0.255, CI 0.177 to 0.361).

Ultimately, job autonomy stood out as having a particularly strong and consistent positive effect on job-based psychological ownership.  Results suggest that all employees, from the most enthusiastic to the most apathetic can experience this positive psychological state.  That is, as long as they are afforded a high level of autonomy in deciding how to plan and carry out their work.

If you are interested in reading the full paper including more detailed results, please click here.

About Bobby:

Dr. Robert Bullock is a management consultant with a background in industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology. Since 2010 he has been a staff consultant at Scontrino–Powell, Inc., a Seattle-based I-O consulting firm. As a consultant Robert specializes in qualitative and quantitative assessment (i.e., employee surveys, leadership evaluations, developmental needs assessments, organizational assessments, validation studies), learning and development (i.e., training workshops, on-the-job learning, leadership coaching, training evaluation), and continuous improvement (i.e., Lean workshops, continuous process improvement, culture change). He has provided those services to dozens of clients across a diverse range of sectors and industries, including Fortune 500 companies, state agencies, and the high-tech, education, health care, and non-profit sectors. As a scientist Robert has published and presented research on the psychology of ownership, organizational citizenship behaviors, and job design. He enjoys writing and has had articles published in several outlets including Forbes, Bloomberg, Profiles International, and more.

For more about Bobby, please click here.

Editor’s note: All references can be found in the whitepaper, which you can download here.

The Voice of Practice: How Technology is Challenging the Conventional Wisdom of Ownership

A GUEST COMMENTARY BY ERIK CHAN, TECH ENTREPRENEUR & CO-FOUNDER OF ROCKETCLUB.CO

So here it comes, the first The Voice of Practice contribution. What follows is a guest commentary by tech entrepreneur Erik Chan. Erik is the co-founder of RocketClub (www.rocketclub.co), an online platform that empowers people to earn shares of new business ideas by promoting and adopting them from the start. In his commentary he talks about how technology has changed the way ownership is viewed and what this means for the tech industry. Before we let Erik speak, however, let us from The Science of Ownership give you a small scientific bracket to the topic:

Sophisticated online social technologies have substantially altered the way consumers and companies interact and create value (Bernoff & Li 2008; Prahalad & Ramaswamy 2004). Traditionally, the former were simply listening to what the latter had to say and offer. Now, consumers are invited to actively participate in a variety of business-related decisions on social media and the likes (Berthon et al. 2008, Hautz et al. 2014). This power shift from the firm to the consumer has paved the way for novel concepts and business models like crowdfunding (Ordanini et al. 2011, Thürridl & Kamleitner 2016).

It has changed how new ideas, products and even firms are created. This, in turn, is challenging our conventional understanding of ownership – the line between what (is perceived to) belongs to the company and what to the consumers is becoming increasingly blurred. From literature we know that there are three major routes to ownership: control, intimate knowledge, and investment of the self (Pierce et al. 2001, 2003). When individuals co-create with companies or contribute their personal resources, all three routes may actually be activated. Consumers are able to a) control the outcome of the final product, service, or venture, b) acquire knowledge over time, and c) invest their own resources, ideas, values and identity into the process. In turn, they may start to feel that the respective product, idea, or venture is also “theirs”.

So much for the theory, let’s hear what Erik has to say about it:

In the technology startup industry, the idea of ownership holds much significance. We have seen controversies over who owned the idea behind successful companies of today; who owned the trademarks, who owned the code, and of course, who owned the equity. Each and every input in a company can have contributed to its success. While many controversies focus on the legal (and financial) components of successful companies, there is also a factor of pride. For cofounders, early employees, investors, it’s the opportunity to proclaim “I did this. I saw the potential in it. I made it happen. I was part of it.” Often, founders end up suing the company they founded for more than a share in the financial rewards, it’s also because they want to be recognized as an ‘owner’ or ‘contributor’.  

Recently, we have seen a lot of emphasis on a startup company’s initial users or customers. Ycombinator, the prominent startup accelerator who incubated successful companies including Reddit, Airbnb, and Dropbox, evangelizes the idea of acquiring 100 customers who love what your company offers than 10,000 who just care (see http://blogs.wsj.com/accelerators/2014/06/03/jessica-livingston-why-startups-need-to-focus-on-sales-not-marketing/). The idea is to acquire 100 customers who love your product so much they are willing to use it even when no one else is using it, bare through multiple product iterations, and deal with product bugs because they see and believe in the potential. These early customers believe that one day, just like the founder, they will be able to say “I was part of it.” Not surprisingly, the involvement of these customers also make them feel as if they ‘own’ the idea as well.

Although largely unscientific, tech startups do many things to try increase their users’ feeling of ownership’. Traditionally, these include awarding users with digital points and badges, offering physical articles like t-shirts and stickers, early access to new features, throwing events, and other exclusive priorities. Success examples include early Reddit users receiving t-shirts and handwritten christmas cards, the first AirBnb hosts welcoming the founders to sleep at their apartments, Facebook users staking their personal profile URLs and many more. 

Due to high startup company valuations today (cash rich startups offering an assortment of perks and freebies to their customers), many companies starting out face the challenge of whether a t-shirt is enough for its early users to feel a sense of ownership. Having struggled with rewarding early adopters for their involvement at my previous companies, I decided to build a platform called RocketClub to help companies distribute a real stake in the company to these early customers and supporters. The idea is that it is only a matter of time until early customers, critical to a company’s success, will transition from ‘psychological owners’ to also become real, legal owners. Consequently, we learned through numerous discussions with both company founders and our community of users that the feeling of ownership in a startup is not determined solely by equity ownership. And since, RocketClub has expanded to offering other means of facilitating this ownership through examples such as access to the founders, a say in the development of the product and features, as well as access to ongoing developments at the company, and many others.

Given the dizzying array of products new and old in the market today, entrepreneurs and managers are turning to incentivizing early users and customers to become part of the process/experience. The majority of startup companies fail today because they lack adoption from early stakeholder customers. Imparting ownership onto your early customers is one of few ways to help companies build a bridge between them. No company succeeds without a following behind it and early adoption goes hand in hand with imparting the psychological feeling of ownership.

What is your take? Do you agree with Erik or do you have contrary beliefs? Please use the comment section to share your thoughts with us and our readers.

About Erik:

A serial entrepreneur and technologist, Erik Chan is founder CEO of RocketClub. Previously, he cofounded MicroPay Technology, a game payments company, and social and online game companies 28wins and Bottomless Pit Games. Prior to Erik becoming an entrepreneur, he spent time at Activision Blizzard and Midway Games first as a system engineer and then as a producer. 

Erik holds a MSc in Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a MBA from Tsinghua University, and a BSc in Biomedical engineering with computer science from Johns Hopkins University. Erik Chan also spent time doing research at the Center of Bits and Atoms and the Software Agents group at the MIT Media lab.

Editor’s note:

  • For references to the articles mentioned in this post, please visit our Links & Resources Section

Introducing Our New Category: The Voice of Practice

voiceofpractice

Dear community,

Science – including The Science of Ownership – would not matter as much, if it had no implications for and would not be inspired by the real world out there. Though The Science of Ownership is primarily about research on the notion of ownership, we decided to extend our current lens and introduce a brand new category to this blog: The Voice of Practice.

As the name already suggests, we are trying to get practitioners and non-researchers views to find out how, why, when, and most importantly where the experience of ownership strikes and impacts our daily lives. We will co-operate with industry experts and potentially also interested lay people. We will give them the chance to reflect on the topic of ownership based on their practical know-how and everyday experiences. Sometimes, we will invite people. At other times, we will introduce individuals who have approached us.

Either way, we are excited to see how this new category will contribute to our vision: to create a much-needed and unified understanding of the diverse and fascinating concept of ownership.

If you have comments or questions on The Voice of Practice or would like to see a particular voice featured, please feel free to contact us anytime. For now, we wish you a lovely week.

All the best,

The Science of Ownership Team