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Refereed Articles

Berg, J. M. & Yu, A. (2021). Getting the picture too late: Handoffs and the effectiveness of idea implementation in creative work. Academy of Management Journal 64(4), 1191-1212. Online Appendix

**Selected as an exemplar for the thematic issue “Improving the transparency of empirical research published in AMJ.”


Past research on idea implementation has focused on employees trying to win social support for their own ideas, yet employees are often handed ideas to implement that were developed by others. We propose and test hypotheses on such handoffs, focusing on how handing employees relatively mature ideas to implement may lead them to build less creative final products. We tested our hypotheses using two studies: an archival study of 5,676 movies in the U.S. film industry and a complementary experiment. Results suggest that late handoffs yielded less creative final products than no or early handoffs, meaning it was costly to creativity when employees implemented relatively mature ideas without driving at least some of their prior development. However, “serialized late handoffs”—wherein implementers were handed relatively mature ideas after an earlier handoff between two other individuals—were less costly to creativity than late handoffs from one other individual. Mediation results suggest that late handoffs reduced implementers’ creativity by restricting their sense of psychological ownership and the coherence of their final products. This research advances theory on idea implementation, handoffs, and psychological ownership in creative work.

Yu, A., Berg, J. M., Zlatev, J. J. (2021). Emotional acknowledgment: How verbalizing others’ emotions fosters interpersonal trust. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 164, 116-135.


People often respond to others’ emotions using verbal acknowledgment (e.g., “You seem upset”). Yet, little is known about the relational benefits and risks of acknowledging others’ emotions in the workplace. We draw upon Costly Signaling Theory to posit how emotional acknowledgment influences interpersonal trust. We hypothesize that emotional acknowledgment acts as a costly signal of the perceiver’s willingness to expend personal resources to meet the needs of the expresser. Across six studies, we found convergent evidence that emotional acknowledgment led to greater perceptions of costliness, and in turn, to higher evaluations of trust. These effects were stronger for negative than positive emotions because acknowledging negative emotions involved a greater perceived cost. Moreover, inaccurate acknowledgment fostered greater trust than not acknowledging when positive emotions were mislabeled as negative, but not when negative emotions were mislabeled as positive. These findings advance theory on key dynamics between emotion and language in work-related relationships.

Berg, J. M. (2019). When silver is gold: Forecasting the potential creativity of initial ideas. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 154, 96-117.


Past research on idea evaluation has focused on how individuals evaluate the creativity of finalized ideas. But idea evaluation is also important early in the creative process, when individuals must forecast the potential creativity of rough initial ideas as they decide which to develop. Using five experiments, this paper examines individuals’ accuracy in forecasting the potential creativity of their initial ideas. Participants ranked the potential creativity of their initial ideas before developing them into final ideas. Results suggest that participants tended to under-rank their highest-potential idea. The initial idea that participants thought was their second best tended to actually be their best idea in the end. Broadly, the results suggest that creators exhibit myopia when forecasting the potential creativity of their initial ideas, leading them to overlook their most promising initial ideas. However, forecasting at a higher (more abstract) construal level helped participants identify their best initial idea.

Berg, J. M. (2016). Balancing on the creative highwire: Forecasting the success of novel ideas in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 61(3), 433-468.  Online Appendix

**Best Published Paper Award, Academy of Management OMT Division (2017).


Betting on the most promising new ideas is key to creativity and innovation in organizations, but predicting the success of novel ideas can be difficult. To select the best ideas, creators and managers must excel at creative forecasting, the skill of predicting the outcomes of new ideas. Using both a field study of 339 professionals in the circus arts industry and a lab experiment, I examine the conditions for accurate creative forecasting, focusing on the effect of creators’ and managers’ roles. In the field study, creators and managers forecasted the success of new circus acts with audiences, and the accuracy of these forecasts was assessed using data from 13,248 audience members. Results suggest that creators were more accurate than managers when forecasting about others’ novel ideas, but not their own. This advantage over managers was undermined when creators previously had poor ideas that were successful in the marketplace anyway. Results from the lab experiment show that creators’ advantage over managers in predicting success may be tied to the emphasis on both divergent thinking (idea generation) and convergent thinking (idea evaluation) in the creator role, while the manager role emphasizes only convergent thinking. These studies highlight that creative forecasting is a critical bridge linking creativity and innovation, shed light on the importance of roles in creative forecasting, and advance theory on why creative success is difficult to sustain over time.

Berg, J. M. (2014). The primal mark: How the beginning shapes the end in the development of creative ideas. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 125(1), 1-17.


While creative ideas are defined as both novel and useful, novelty and usefulness often diverge, making it difficult to develop ideas that are high in both. To explain this tradeoff between novelty and usefulness and how it can be overcome, this paper introduces the concept of the “primal mark”—i.e., the first bit of content employees start with as they generate ideas, which anchors the trajectory of novelty and usefulness. In four experiments, participants started with primal marks that contained varying degrees of novelty. Results suggest that familiar primal marks foster usefulness at the expense of novelty, while new primal marks foster novelty at the expense of usefulness. However, the results also suggest a solution to this tradeoff: integrative primal marks that combine new and familiar content, fostering an optimal balance of novelty and usefulness. Implications for theory and research on creativity in organizations are discussed.

Grant, A. M., Berg, J. M., & Cable, D. M. (2014). Job titles as identity badges: How self-reflective titles can reduce emotional exhaustion. Academy of Management Journal, 57(4), 1201-1225.


Job titles help organizations manage their human capital and have far-reaching implications for employees’ identities. Because titles do not always reflect the unique value that employees bring to their jobs, some organizations have recently experimented with encouraging employees to create their own job titles. To explore the psychological implications of self-reflective job titles, we conducted field research combining inductive qualitative and deductive experimental methods. In Study 1, a qualitative study at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we were surprised to learn that employees experienced self-reflective job titles as reducing their emotional exhaustion. We triangulated interviews, observations, and archival documents to identify three explanatory mechanisms through which self-reflective job titles may operate: self-verification, psychological safety, and external rapport. In Study 2, a field quasi-experiment within a health care system, we found that employees who created self-reflective job titles experienced less emotional exhaustion five weeks later, whereas employees in two control groups did not. These effects were mediated by increases in self-verification and psychological safety, but not external rapport. Our research suggests that self-reflective job titles can be important vehicles for identity expression and stress reduction, offering meaningful implications for research on job titles, identity, and emotional exhaustion.

Ollier-Malaterre, A., Rothbard, N. P., & Berg, J. M. (2013). When worlds collide in cyberspace: How boundary work in online social networks impacts professional relationships. Academy of Management Review, 38(4), 645-669.


As employees increasingly interact with their professional contacts in online social networks that are personal in nature, such as Facebook or Twitter, they are likely to experience a collision of their professional and personal identities unique to this new and expanding social space. In particular, online social networks present employees with boundary management and identity negotiation opportunities and challenges because they invite nontailored self-disclosure to broad audiences while offering few of the physical and social cues that normally guide social interactions. How and why do employees manage the boundaries between their professional and personal identities in online social networks, and how do these behaviors impact the way they are regarded by professional contacts? We build a framework to theorize about how work-nonwork boundary preferences and self-evaluation motives drive the adoption of four archetypical sets of online boundary management behaviors (open, audience, content, and hybrid) and the consequences of these behaviors for respect and liking in professional relationships. Content and hybrid behaviors are more likely to increase respect and liking than open and audience behaviors; audience and hybrid behaviors are less risky for respect and liking than open and content behaviors but more difficult to maintain over time.

Berg, J. M., Grant, A. M., & Johnson, V. (2010). When callings are calling: Crafting work and leisure in pursuit of unanswered occupational callings. Organization Science, 21(5), 973-994.

**Finalist, Best Paper in Positive Organizational Scholarship (2010).


Scholars have identified benefits of viewing work as a calling, but little research has explored the notion that people are frequently unable to work in occupations that answer their callings. To develop propositions on how individuals experience and pursue unanswered callings, we conducted a qualitative study based on interviews with 31 employees across a variety of occupations. We distinguish between two types of unanswered callings—missed callings and additional callings—and propose that individuals pursue these unanswered callings by employing five different techniques to craft their jobs (task emphasizing, job expanding, and role reframing) and their leisure time (vicarious experiencing and hobby participating). We also propose that individuals experience these techniques as facilitating the kinds of pleasant psychological states of enjoyment and meaning that they associate with pursuing their unanswered callings, but also as leading to unpleasant states of regret over forgone fulfillment of their unanswered callings and stress due to difficulties in pursuing their unanswered callings. These propositions have important implications for theory and future research on callings, job crafting, and self-regulation processes.

Berg, J. M., Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2010). Perceiving and responding to challenges in job crafting at different ranks: When proactivity requires adaptivity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(2-3), 158-186.

**Finalist, Best Paper in Journal of Organizational Behavior (2010).


We utilize a qualitative study of 33 employees in for-profit and non-profit organizations to elaborate theory on job crafting. We specifically focus on how employees at different ranks describe perceiving and adapting to challenges in the execution of job crafting. Elaborating the challenges employees perceive in job crafting and their responses to them details the adaptive action that may be necessary for job crafting to occur. Specifically, our findings suggest that higher-rank employees tend to see the challenges they face in job crafting as located in their own expectations of how they and others should spend their time, while lower-rank employees tend to see their challenges as located in their prescribed jobs and others’ expectations of them. The nature of each group’s perceived challenges is related to the adaptive moves that they make to overcome them, such that higher-rank employees adapt their own expectations and behaviors to make do with perceived opportunities to job craft at work, while lower-rank employees adapt others’ expectations and behaviors to create opportunities to job craft. Our elaborated theory presents a socially embedded account of job crafting as a proactive and adaptive process that is shaped by employees’ structural location in the organization.

Invited Articles & Book Chapters

Berg, J. M. (2020). Brilliant and benevolent: The optimism of Teresa Amabile’s legacy for creativity in organizations. In R. Reiter-Palmon, C. M. Fisher, & J. S. Mueller (Eds.), Creativity at work: A Festschrift in honor of Teresa Amabile. Palgrave Macmillan (pp. 1-8).

Berg, J. M., Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2013). Job crafting and meaningful work. In B. J. Dik, Z. S. Byrne, & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Purpose and meaning in the workplace (pp. 81-104). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Wrzesniewski, A., LoBuglio, N., Dutton, J. E., & Berg, J. M. (2013). Job crafting and cultivating positive meaning and identity in work. In A. B. Bakker (Ed.), Advances in positive organizational psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 281-302). London: Emerald.

**Selected as Outstanding Author Contribution by Emerald Publishing (2014).

Grant, A. M., & Berg, J. M. (2011). Prosocial motivation at work: When, why, and how making a difference makes a difference. In K. Cameron & G. Spreitzer (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 28-44). New York: Oxford University Press.

Wrzesniewski, A., Berg, J. M., & Dutton, J. E. (June 2010). Turn the job you have Into the job you want. Harvard Business Review, 88(6).

Practitioner & Teaching Materials