PhD Defence Qi Zhang
Sensory processing sensitivity influences how people innately perceive and process contextual cues (e.g., task, visual, and social). While existing research often considers sensitivity a risk factor, little is known about how it can benefit the workplace. In her dissertation, Making Sense of Sensitivity in the Workplace: Coping With Contextual Information in Innovation and Social Networks, ERIM’s Qi Zhang took an information-processing approach to this neurobiological trait to examine its role in one's decision-making process. Specifically, Qi's research delved into how individuals forecast the potential of creative ideas and develop and utilise their social networks under the constraint of their innate sensitivity. One of the findings suggested that high-sensitive individuals are more easily lured to brokerage positions in a social network when they hold a communal schema, befriending people who are not friends with each other despite the detrimental effect on their performance. Altogether, this dissertation sheds light on the impact of sensory processing sensitivity on critical work outputs and informs organisations on how to improve organisational decision-making in innovation management and create a more inclusive social environment where everyone can flourish.
Qi defended her dissertation in the Senate Hall at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) on Thursday, 7 December at 10:30. Her supervisors were Prof. dr. Daan Stam (EUR) and Dr. Stefano Tasselli (EUR). Other members of the Doctoral Committee were Prof. dr. Gianluca Carnabuci (ESMT Berlin), Prof. dr. Steffen Giessner (EUR), Dr. Inga Hoever (EUR), Dr. Dirk Deichmann (EUR), Prof. dr. Paola Criscuolo (Imperial College London), and Dr. Laura Noval (Imperial College London).
Qi Zhang was born in Gaomi, mainland China, in 1989. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology from the Southwest University in Chongqing, China. She then obtained her Master’s degree in Applied Social Psychology (Mention très bien, Accompagement de l’Innovation et du Changement Organisationnel) from the Université Paris Nanterre and Université Lumière Lyon 2, France. She then acquired the legally protected and recognized title of “psychologue” in France and worked there as a consultant in innovation management. She started her trajectory as a PhD candidate at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, the Netherlands in 2017. She also made research visits to ESMT Berlin in 2022.
Qi’s research investigates how individuals cope with complex information at the workplace. She examines the impact of individual factors on information processing and related key work outcomes (e.g., creative forecasting, social networks, and tacit knowledge acquisition). She takes an interdisciplinary approach to addressing important issues in the fields of organizational theory and behaviour. She specializes in experimental and survey methods but also draws on new techniques, including implicit measures and neuroscientific tools. Her work has been published in the Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings 2021 and invited for revision & resubmission at the Academy of Management Journal. She is also a finalist for the award of best paper of practical implications for organizations in the Managerial and Organizational Cognition Division at the Academy of Management 2023. Currently, Qi holds a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Organization at Rennes School of Business, France.
Sensory processing sensitivity influences how people innately perceive and process contextual cues (e.g., task, visual, social cues). In this dissertation, Qi takes an information-processing approach to this neurobiological trait and explores its role in how a person makes decisions about creative ideas and handles social networks. She has examined in two empirical papers how individuals forecast the potential of creative ideas and how individuals develop and utilize their social networks under the constraint of their innate sensitivity. The findings demonstrate that people at a higher level of sensitivity are better suited to use intuitive methods in forecasting how a target audience may accept a creative idea whereas analytical methods might be more effective for low-sensitive ones. Highly sensitive individuals are also more easily lured to brokerage positions in a social network when they hold a communal schema, befriending people who are not friends with each other, despite the detrimental effect on their individual performance.
Altogether, this dissertation offers some initial yet meaningful insights into the impact of sensory processing sensitivity on critical work outputs via its influence on task- or social-focused processes. These findings bear importance for both researchers and practitioners, informing organizations on how to improve organizational decision-making in innovation management and create a more inclusive social environment where everyone can flourish.
Photos: Rick Keus / Rick Keus Fotografie