Dissertation: Organisations cope with change through everyday courage


In his doctoral dissertation, Markku Karma studied the forms and characteristics of emotional skills in Finnish working communities.

Markku Karma, Master of Arts in Psychology, has researched the forms and characteristics of communal emotional skills in twelve Finnish work communities. According to Karma, an organisation that has everyday courage and takes social risks can optimise its collective well-being amidst constant change.

- Such an organisation is not ossified behind certain structures or facades. It forces the community to remain alert and think actively. A community that takes social risks is able to think jointly, between people, whereas in a community with weaker emotional skills, thinking only occurs within individuals' heads, Karma explains.
In his dissertation in Management and Organisation, Karma numerically measured individual optimism, communal functionality, the dynamics of thinking, and trust between individuals. Based on the results, he modeled four types of organisations and observed their development processes for 12 months. These four organisational types were the Orphans, the Warriors, the We-collective and the Comets.
- The Comets combine the best elements of emotional skills, and the We-collective is also able to co-operate. While the Warriors are individual performers, the Orphans' emotional skills are scarce almost throughout, says Karma.

Flexibly taken to extreme limits

In his study, Karma attempted to highlight emotional skill elements that withstand the pressure of constant change. Based on his research data, he accentuates the ability to flexibly construct and deconstruct meanings, bold collective thinking and leadership that encourages risk-taking, as factors that build trust between individuals and activate thinking.
- In the most emotionally skilled organisations, leadership inhabited the fine line between genius and insanity, in a positive sense. This encouraged individuals to push their skills to their extreme limits. Losing one's fear of failure releases a great deal of energy, enabling employees to overcome inhibitions that prevent them from taking action.

Bolder conceptualisation of processes

Karma's research supports the idea that an organisation's emotional skills are not to be found merely at individual level.
- Optimistic individuals may form a weak collective, and vice versa, Karma points out.
He continues that we need to show the daring and boldness required to conceptualise the often invisible processes between individuals and the collective. This would also provide the field of organisational research with state-of-the-art, precision tools for managing the changing working life of today.
- Trust between individuals, combined with convictions that enable dynamic thinking, act as imperative intermediaries in the emergence of emotional skills in both individuals and organisations.

Identify the emotional trap of your work community

 In his doctoral dissertation, Markku Karma proposes that there are four different types of organisations, based on their emotional skills.
The Comets have found their 'flow'. The community is socially daring, its individuals having the courage to face new situations and roles. Instead of expecting one brain to solve problems, they produce information together through collective thinking. The Comets' emotional trap is a pleasure trap.
- Everything should always be fun, Karma describes.
The Orphans unite in the belief that they are unheard and unable to change their situation.
- They withdraw into their shells where, as a consequence, nothing happens. 
The Warriors are capable of achieving excellent individual results. However, as collectives they are suspicious and fall into competitive situations.
- For them, the world is a jungle.
The We-collective is characterised by a strong team spirit, its members even clinging to each other. Normally, they do not dare be different or disagree; instead, they may blow up at each other.
- The We-collective sometimes has days in which tempers flare.

Markku Karma defended his doctoral dissertation in Management and Organisation on 14th September, 2012.

Custodian: Professor Satu Lähteenmäki
Opponent: Professor Vesa Puhakka from University of Oulu

>> Read the thesis (English summary from page 257)

Contact information: mob. + 358 400 904 908, email mkarma909(a)gmail.com

Created 12.12.2012 | Updated 12.12.2012