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Oliver Fischer is a Fellow in Strategy, Leadership and Change at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, where he is part of the Organisational Behaviour Group. He specialises in leadership, human resources (HR) strategy, talent management, employee engagement, innovation, consumer behaviour and decision-making.
Oliver’s main research interest is leadership, especially theories of charismatic leadership, social identity and the role of communication technology.
In addition, he studies consumer behaviour and how this can inform user-centric innovation – the direct involvement of consumers in the creation of new products and services.
His publications in academic and practitioner journals have dealt with strategic management development, leadership, employee engagement, employer branding and media psychology.
Before he joined Saïd Business School, Oliver was Director of International Executive Education at Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, where he developed and led programmes on strategy, leadership and innovation. He also advised senior executives from organisations including the RTL Group, the largest TV and radio broadcaster in Europe; Random House, the world’s biggest publisher of trade books; Gruner + Jahr, Europe’s leading magazine producer; Direct Group, which operates online book and music clubs; and arvato, which provides outsourcing services to the public and private sectors. Before this, Oliver advised Deutsche Welle, an international German public broadcaster, on strategic planning and evaluation.
Oliver holds BA degrees in economics and psychology from the University of Cologne and an MPhil and PhD in management from Cambridge, where he was a Gates Scholar. He has been awarded scholarships by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Cambridge European Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Cambridge Gates Trust and Peterhouse College.
His areas of expertise include:
Oliver is currently engaged in projects concerning the regulation of emotion at work, computer-mediated leadership and the future of executive education.
The regulation of emotion at work
The implications for research on job satisfaction and engagement are potentially far reaching. It is generally accepted that people work more effectively and are more engaged when job satisfaction is high and emotion is positive. In this project, Oliver is investigating the dynamic processes that underlie the regulation of emotions in the workplace and the relationship between emotions, job satisfaction and engagement with work.
Engagement and satisfaction should be viewed as a dynamic process involving the regulation of emotions and should not be reduced to single verbal measurements of how happy someone is with their job.
Verbal measures of job satisfaction tend to yield positive results. Respondents often report a surprisingly high degree of job satisfaction, given the conditions under which they work. This could be because people tend to adopt mildly positive emotions throughout the day: it easier to process information when one is contented. So negative emotions get shifted towards the positive end of the spectrum, and unexpectedly, extremely positive emotions are dampened.
Leadership research often tacitly assumes a situation in which leader and follower interact face-to-face. In reality, a significant part of communication – job-related as well as private – takes place over the phone or via email, Facebook and other communication media.
We argue that media-based communication may make it harder to achieve common ground because of the lack of non-verbal and other contextual cues. However, the use of such media can increase perceptions of leader charisma and boost social identity and group coherence. This is because the absence of information about the individual (especially non-verbal signals that communicate emotion and status) gives more weight to cues related to the group and therefore makes social identity more important.
The future of executive education
This project explores the characteristics that determine the long-term success of executive education activities. We argue that intense collaboration is needed with individual participants, teams and organisations before, during and after an intervention. This shows the importance of a long-term relationship, as opposed to the mere short-term provision of expert information. In addition, it is essential to understand the wider context that has led to the need for executive education. From an organisation’s perspective, executive education is likely to be more successful when it is seen as an integral element of strategy formulation, communication and implementation.
Oliver’s research interests also include theories of charismatic leadership - what makes a leader charismatic and to what extent followers’ perceptions of charisma determine whether the leader represents group norms.
As part of his work in employee engagement and talent management, Oliver is interested in the social identify of groups and how belonging to a group, such as a team, and being different from other groups, helps sustain a positive sense of identity, distinctiveness and self-esteem.
Oliver also has an interest in consumer behaviour and specifically how it can inform user-centric innovation in creating new products and services.
Consultancy is a major part of Oliver’s work. He undertakes regular consultancy work with a range of clients from different industries on issues related to leadership, change, talent management, and research methods.
Oliver enjoys interacting with senior executives as part of the School’s portfolio of executive education programmes. He has created and directed a variety of custom programmes for clients internationally including the African Leadership Institute, BMW, the Bank of China, BAE Systems, the China Construction Bank, the Rolls-Royce Chevening programme, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, and ThyssenKrupp AG.
In 2011 he designed and led the annual strategy conference for Bertelsmann AG, featuring speakers from Wired, Facebook, Google/ YouTube, Amazon and TNS Media Research.
Oliver teaches leadership and personality on the Oxford MBA as part of ‘Developing Effective Managers’. He also teaches on the Executive MBA (EMBA) and the Diploma in Organisational Leadership programmes. His courses include Personality and the NEO Five Factor Inventory, for the MBA and EMBA.
Oliver, an executive education specialist, teaches the following courses on custom executive programmes:
Oliver believes in a combination of practical relevance and academic rigour. “Content often comes alive only once learners start to teach each other, experiment and contextualise,” he says. “When these interactions are informed by research that challenges conventional wisdom, learning is most likely to change and transform behaviour and experience.”
Saïd Business School
Executive Education Centre
University of Oxford