May we introduce: Graham Brown

“[What surprises me about psychological ownership is] that these feelings can overpower rationality. People overvalue their possessions despite objective information. People will confront others who they feel have infringed on their “territory” even if those people were trying to help.”

After quite a long break, we are back with a new interview for our Featured section. In this feature we would like to introduce Graham Brown from the Peter B. Gustavson School of Busines at the University of Victoria. In his interview, he talks about how he got into psychological ownership research and what as well as who influenced him the most in his own pursuit of the topic.

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Generally, Graham’s research focuses on territoriality and psychological ownership. He applies these two threads to a variety of research topics including negotiation, creativity, and workplace conflict. His recent research focuses on the impact that feelings of ownership have on innovation and new venture success with the thesis that feelings of ownership are both positive in that they propel efforts but simultaneously negative in that they create resistance to help and feedback from others. He hopes to achieve a better understanding of the factors that lead to entrepreneurial success. His work has been published in the Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and featured in Harvard Business Review online. His teaching focus is in the areas of human resource management, leadership and negotiation and he applies these concepts to help others discover and use their passion to lead and create.

As an active entrepreneur Graham has been involved in several ventures in the travel and education industry including one company that he started while a student at the University of Victoria. His most recent project involves developing a training program to help high school students become social entrepreneurs. Graham also lives on and operates an active berry farm in Metchosin with his wife and four children.

For the full interview simply follow us this way.

 

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 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.

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