Student Spotlight: Bonnie Richley, PhD Candidate in Organizational Behavior

Student Spotlight: Bonnie Richley, PhD Candidate in Organizational Behavior

Posted 8.7.06

Weatherheadlines recently sat down with Bonnie Richley, PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior to talk about her newly-released book, her time in Spain, and her research.

Q: Let’s start with the basics. In which program are you enrolled?
I’m enrolled in the Department of Organizational Behavior Doctoral Program. It’s under Graduate Studies but it’s out of Weatherhead. This is my seventh and final year. Let’s put that in writing so nothing can change!

Q: Where did you grow up?
Actually, I’m from Cleveland. No matter where I travel, Cleveland will always be my home and I’m going to end up being here no matter what. I always said I should be in a commercial for Cleveland, I love it that much.

Q: Do you still have family in the area?
Yes, my family is here. I have seven amazing nieces and nephews. When my fiancé and I were in Barcelona we brought back our own family member, a puppy. She’s a six month old Pomeranian named Chelsea. So we always say that she immigrated to the US!

Q: What brought you to Weatherhead?
I found Weatherhead when I was in law school. One day I was stranded in an airport and I met a guy who started talking to me. It seemed we were stranded there every Friday and once he started asking me about my background. After listening to me, he said it didn’t sound like I belonged in law school; rather, I belonged in the Organization Development program at Weatherhead. I came back home but something that he said really stuck in my mind. I thought that was pretty bold of him to tell me I was in the wrong program.

I looked up the OD program, which was the master’s program. One week later I withdrew from law school and then applied to the OD program for the next academic year. That conversation changed my life. I got my Master’s in Organization Development at Weatherhead and once I was done with that program I decided I wanted my doctoral degree. So I applied to the Organizational Behavior program and got in.

Q: I understand you recently co-authored a book entitled “Managing By Values”. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
The release date was July 28th. Our premise behind the book is that we believe for too long values have been on the fringe. There’s this discussion that values are these soft, fuzzy things that somehow don’t have anything to do with how a business is run. And our belief is that on the contrary, values are at the heart of every organization. And whether or not people are able to live these values is what makes a difference between an effective company and a really effective company or organization. So we need to bring values back into the heart of how an organization is run and how people live their lives in an organization.

The difference that we’re making is that management theorists have started out with Management by Instruction, Management by Objective, and now it’s time for Management by Values to really come into being. The world has changed so dramatically and people are looking for something more in their work. And I’m not talking about an elite few at the top. On the contrary, every organizational member wants a chance to participate, to create a life not only beyond the organization but also a meaningful life while they’re at work.

Q: You mentioned your book was tied to your doctoral research. Could you talk to us about your research?
My research is funded by the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit and my research site was actually in Spain, outside of Bilbao. I studied Mondragon, which is said to be the most successful cooperative in history. Mondragon is very much a value-based organization and they have been successful in weaving their values into their organization. There is nothing sexy about Mondragon, they’re not high tech, although technology is part of it. They make washing machines, auto parts, etc.

People are attracted to them because they are able to make money and contribute to society. Not in a way that is charity. Not in a way that is around helping people that need help. What they are able to do is create a successful community based on this business. So I’m looking at how is a value-based organization like Mondragon, where they have successfully merged society and business profit together, being diffused around the world? I think that model alone can help us create corporate reform throughout the States.

Q: What do you hope to personally gain through your research?
On a personal level, I would say that I have had a validation of things I’d always hoped for. Everyday people, people like me, working class people, can take control of their future and become owners of their own organizations. Everybody has a chance to make their dreams come true if they so desire.

Q: Do you have a mentor?
I sure do. David Cooperrider has been my mentor from the first time I had him in class and he talked about Appreciative Inquiry. I’ve always been an optimist. A lot of times I was criticized for that, but he made it okay to say “Why don’t we see more of the good in people? Why don’t we see more of the opportunities?” He continues to be the number one influence in my work and my personal life as well. He is someone who lives his values and by that, he shows other people how to do so too.

Q: Outside of work, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to play with my nieces and nephews. As for my favorite hobby, it’s scrapbooking. I’m an unashamed, unabashed scrapbookaholic. I enjoy working with photos and photography is also one of my hobbies. I love using different mediums to express and capture the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

Q: In a movie about your life, which actor or actress would you choose to play for your role?
Christopher Walken would be my first choice. He’s just this wild, strange person. Other than him, I’d have to say Diane Keaton.


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