Hollenbeck’s research focuses on how disasters often occur as a result of people making the “right” decisions within the system and how to avoid these errors. He is a principal investigator for a grant investigating how gender affects small group decision-making in the military. His courses include a five-week class on teamwork and leadership for MBA students and an executive education collaboration with MSU Athletics called Building Winning Teams.
Professor John Hollenbeck became interested in teams playing sports as a youth, and today that interest extends beyond sports to business, the military and even juries.
“Some teams far over-perform, despite what you would expect based on who the individuals are on the team, while some far under-perform,” Hollenbeck says. “How people can leverage skills to get work done, that always interested me. That’s how I got started.”
Hollenbeck began his career with an interest in human resources management issues and team-based work. At the time he was earning his Ph.D., organizations were become more flexible and team-oriented. When he arrived at MSU as a professor in the mid-80s, the school was home to three of the top people in Hollenbeck’s discipline.
“I was 26 when I got my Ph.D.; I definitely felt like I could use more learning,” he says. “I wanted to go to the place where I could learn the most, and that was MSU.
Early on, he became interested in the military, which often depends on teamwork. His research focused on how disasters often occurred as a result of people making the right decisions within the system, and on how to avoid such errors. He now has a grant looking at how gender affects decision-making in small groups, as part of the military’s process of integrating women into infantry roles.
“A lot of research is clear on women’s disadvantage in body strength, but all-male groups tend to make decisions that are impulsive,” Hollenbeck says. “The presence of one or two women can be mitigating. Better decision-making can trump sheer physical strength.”
Today Hollenbeck’s courses include a five-week class on teamwork and leadership for MBA students. He also is a former AAU basketball coach, and participates in an MSU program called Building Winning Teams, a collaboration between five management professors and five coaches.
“We instill teamwork skills right away in MBA students because our program is very team-focused,” he says. “I think the great thing about this program is it’s a really close community of people. The professors all live here – they’re not scattered about. People get to know each other, and we really bring a better team and a better network. I think you can build a better network with 100 people who really support each other.”
Hollenbeck says students’ success after leaving Broad is gratifying to see.
“Our Ph.D. students place incredibly well,” he says. “The Academy of Management Journal – a student, Jason Colquitt, was the previous editor. A current student is the editor of the Journal of Management. It’s very exciting for me to see the major journals publishing state-of-the-art research run by former students.”