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Conflict & Cooperation (CoCo)

Common sense suggests that cooperation is good and that conflict, by and large, is bad. To economists, however, the potential benefits of conflict are clear: not only at the macro level, in the fruitful effects of free-market competition, but also at the level of individuals, firms, regions and countries. At the same time, cooperation can have negative effects, as when collusion occurs in the marketplace. 

For individuals, businesses and policymakers, conflict and cooperation manifest themselves in countless ways: in the workplace, we cooperate in project teams but compete for promotion; firms compete, but aim to avoid competitive pressure through product differentiation and collusion; countries compete to attract business by lowering taxes but collaborate via trade agreements. Issues such as these are key to the work of scholars in the Conflict and Cooperation theme, whose research ranges across fields including emerging markets, political behaviour, leadership, information sharing, social choice theory, competition policy and oligopoly theory.

The Conflict and Cooperation team uses methods ranging from multilevel analysis and growth modelling to field experiments and game theory, and subjects are studied not only in static contexts but dynamic ones, for example analysing how people learn to cooperate in organisations and how conflicts evolve over time. Its members are drawn from across the faculty, including the departments of economics, quantitative economics, and organisation and strategy, along with UNU-Merit academics. The faculty’s strengths in both fundamental and applied game theory are also key to the team’s work, with significant potential for exploring game-theoretical applications in business research. In recent years, SBE has organised two world-leading conferences in this area, GAMES 2016 and EARIE 2017.

Theme leader: Iwan Bos


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Data-Driven Decision-Making (D3M)

From the 5G mobile phones in our hands and the holidays we book online to the smart IDs we use to access government services, and from the rise of “disruptive” firms such as Netflix, Uber and Spotify to the spread of new technologies including robotics and the Internet of Things, daily life in the digital 21st century is producing ever-greater amounts of data, much of it unstructured. These datasets are remarkable not only for their size but their variety, and the lightning-fast speed at which they are generated. For citizens, for businesses and other organisations, for academia and government, the opportunities to learn and profit from this “data deluge” are many, but the challenges are significant.

Responding to the demand for theory and analytical methods capable of tackling these challenges, Data-Driven Decision Making is a uniquely interdisciplinary research theme centred on the application of data science in its widest sense. Aiming to become a recognised cluster for scientific excellence, the cross-faculty team comprises nearly 60 researchers in fields such as marketing, econometrics and operations research, economics, finance, accounting, information management, organisation and strategy, who will collaborate with colleagues at Maastricht University’s new Institute for Data Science (IDS), the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering (DKE) and the Business Intelligence and Smart Services Institute (BISS).

D3M’s team will focus on key research areas including disruptive technologies and business models, consumer and workforce analytics, risk and uncertainty quantification, big data’s role in official statistics, pensions, financial markets and asset pricing, micro- and labour economics, digital platforms, and fields such as large-scale optimisation (both applied and theoretical) and related mathematical systems. As opportunities to understand consumer behaviour grow exponentially and firms’ business models are redefined; as regional and national governments use new data sources for everything from pothole repair to economic forecasting; as international organisations such as the European Union look to set effective policies on food security and clean energy; and as academics in all disciplines learn to work with ever-more-powerful research tools, the Data-Driven Decision Making team’s goal is to produce work that improves decision-making across all levels of society.

Theme leader: Martin Wetzels


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Human Decisions and Policy Design

What role do emotions play in the decisions we make every day? Can “choice architecture” nudge consumers into selecting the best-value, healthiest or most suitable options? As society ages, can we expect our pensions to remain secure? How do incentives affect management behaviour in private companies, regulatory authorities and banks? What is the most effective way to provide public services? Should the world’s wealth be redistributed more equitably – and if so, how and to what extent? Answering challenging questions such as these requires us to look beyond the limitations of the hyper-rational Homo economicus on which classical economics was predicated, and toward the more realistic, but much more complex, Homo behavioralis we see in the mirror.

Taking a highly interdisciplinary approach, this broad and experienced team of some 30 core and affiliated researchers draws on the methods and insights provided by the fields of cognitive and social neuroscience, economics, finance, accounting and marketing. Their work, which builds on the long-standing strengths of the cross-faculty Maastricht University CEnter for Neuroeconomics (MU-CEN), includes both fundamental and applied research, and will centre around three key areas: human behaviour and motivation, incentives and governance, and financial well-being.

With the aim of producing outputs that can help address problems such as obesity and poverty, support the realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and improve the laws, financial practices and government policies of the future, researchers in the Human Decisions and Policy Design team will focus not only on broadening our understanding of the decisions made by individuals and societies, but on helping to provide the evidence base for building more effective and equitable institutions.

Theme leader: Lisa Brüggen

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Learning and Work

Society is undergoing transformation on an unprecedented scale. Globalisation and technological developments ranging from automation and machine learning to robotics and artificial intelligence are radically changing skills demanded in the labour market, and, along with it, how and what we learn at school, at home and in the workplace. Employees are grappling with increasingly complex non-routine tasks, more teamwork and more frequent performance measurement and a greater focus on leadership, problem-solving and creativity. As a result, lifelong learning has become of critical importance not only to individuals as students, employees, citizens and consumers, but also to businesses, and to society’s capacity for resilience and social inclusion. Moreover, as the population ages and retirement occurs later than in recent years, we must remain employable throughout the course of much longer working careers.

Learning and Work focuses on research that can help us understand what these technological and demographic changes mean for education and employment. It centres on four issues: school, study and career choices; skills and tasks; lifelong learning, employability and performance; and incentives, control and performance. This research is multidisciplinary in approach, drawing on dialogue and co-creation with business, schools, policymakers and regional and national government, and deploying new research methodologies and strategies for data collection and analysis.

Taking part in this theme are more than 50 senior researchers and nearly 40 PhD candidates drawn from economics, educational research and development, accounting and information management, finance, quantitative economics, marketing and supply chain management, organisation and strategy, as well as the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA). Cross-faculty collaborations will enlist the insights of disciplines including psychology, neuroscience, epidemiology, medicine and data science.

From changes in HR and recruitment practices to the way our career choices are shifting, and from the role played by our personalities in how we carry out our jobs to the effect of the physical environments we work in, Learning and Work aims to shed light on key issues and unfolding patterns that have an impact on us all.

Theme leader: Andries de Grip and Trudie Schils.

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From energy transition to increasing calls for intergenerational equity, and from the rise of social entrepreneurship to the growing number of people who opt to put their money into “impact investing”, the issues that inspire research into sustainable development have the potential to affect the lives of every citizen on Earth.

Inspired by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustainability research theme aims to draw on an interdisciplinary wealth of expertise at SBE and in the broader Maastricht University community (including UNU-Merit, ECCE, MC4E, the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and ICIS) to create high-quality, high-impact, socially relevant research into entrepreneurship and innovation. From financial regulation and corporate governance to the circular economy, the team’s goal is an understanding of the strategies by which value can be created in a way that resolves the traditional trade-off between company profitability and broader social value.

Initial research projects include Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Sustainable Development, which examines the impact of the funding sources for startups and SMEs (from founding families to venture capitalists) on sustainable practices, and Towards Sustainable Energy Transition in the Wake of Climate Change, which focuses on how both fossil-fuel-producing and consuming economies can benefit from these shifts. Development of a Global Gender Index (GGI) looks beyond the indices that focus on publicly available measures to get an inside view on whether firms’ internal processes live up to their official gender policies, and Measuring the Effectiveness of Shareholder Engagement considers the effectiveness of institutional “long-horizon” investors in achieving sustainable development goals.

Building on the team’s significant existing networks with other universities, thinktanks, policy and regulatory institutions, NGOs, financial institutions, corporations and corporate managers and entrepreneurs, the Sustainability theme is already involved in a broad range of external initiatives, from creating a business case for divestment for the not-for-profit group Tobacco Free Portfolios to playing a key role in Maastricht University’s founding partnership (with Harvard Kennedy School, the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and others) in the United Nations SDG Impact Finance Research Council.

Theme leaders: Rob Bauer and Jaap Bos

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Culture, Ethics and Leadership

What do we mean when we talk about the “culture” of an organisation? Simply put, it’s “the way things work around here”: strongly influenced by the “tone at the top” of a firm’s leadership, it is the values, beliefs and reward systems that influence employees’ day-to-day behaviour, ethical or otherwise.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crash where banks were frontline culprits, high-profile failures at corporations such as Enron and Volkswagen, and the criticism levelled at sectors such as the audit profession for “contagious” errors, and as companies strive to balance social responsibility with meeting financial targets, the interrelated topics of culture, ethics and leadership are high on the agendas not only of business leaders, regulators and standard-setters, but also of a new generation keen to work for firms whose commitment to social value goes beyond high-minded mission statements and codes of conduct. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for research that analyses organisational culture and its relationship to work behaviour that takes ethics into account.

Working in a multidisciplinary setting, the Culture, Ethics and Leadership research theme will bring together academics from fields including accounting, educational research and development, finance, and organisation and strategy, as well as collaborating with other research themes and building bridges to other faculties. Via a core membership of some 15 senior scholars whose research interests range from financial reporting and corporate governance to learning culture and conflict management, the team aims to explore subjects such as the measurement and management of ethical culture in different organisations; the influence of leadership on organisational culture and its outcomes; the impact of ethical culture and leadership style on employees’ motivation, knowledge sharing and innovation and the way teams function; and the part played by ethical culture and leadership in attracting and retaining top talent and fostering professional commitment. 

As ethical organisational business culture becomes more important than ever, the Culture, Ethics and Leadership team intends to play a key role in analysing the emerging paradoxes in modern business and helping to build a mindset change among leaders and employees alike.

Theme leader: Ann Vanstraelen and Wim Gijselaers


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Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

In our age of unprecedented technological development, businesses and other organisations, like the people working in them and the societies around them, face challenges as the pace of change increases. Creativity in the workplace is widely seen as one of the most in-demand skills for the future – but how can it best be fostered? We know that innovation is one of the key sources of firms’ competitive advantages – but what is the surest route from a brilliant idea to bringing a new product to market? And as entrepreneurial activity booms in the digital economy, how can sustainable new enterprises and activities, from spin-offs to start-ups, be built?

These three interlinked subjects are the focus of the newly established and highly networked team that makes up the Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship research theme. Its mission is to contribute, via a cross-disciplinary and holistic research agenda, to the adaptive and renewal capacity of individuals and organisations, to support education for today’s and tomorrow’s employees and businesspeople, to inform policymakers and practitioners, and not only to disseminate findings to stakeholders but also to allow them to enrich the research agenda from the outside in.

The Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship team is built around a core group of academics from across SBE’s departments (accounting, economics, educational research, finance, marketing, organisation and strategy), and institutes (MC4E, ROA, UNU-Merit). In addition, participation in the transnational Virtual Entrepreneurship Centre (VEC), and in the Campus Entrepreneurship agreement between Maastricht University and the universities of Cambridge and Bergamo, will feed into long-term research collaborations, as will triple-helix links with the Brightlands ecosystem and the Province of Limburg.

Societally relevant research is the core of the theme. As recognised and supported by supranational initiatives such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the European Union’s Horizon 2020, and initiatives closer to home such as Brainport 2020, academic research can offer essential insights into our early 21st century, and it will play a key role in ensuring that the change we are living through will bring benefits to businesses and organisations – and to us all. 

Theme leader: Yannick Bammens


GSBE Research Themes

  • Conflict & Cooperation (CoCo)

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  • Data-Driven Decision-Making (D3M)

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  • Human Decisions and Policy Design

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  • Learning and Work

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  • Sustainability

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  • Culture, Ethics and Leadership

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  • Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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