Roy Y.J. Chua
Assistant Professor of Business Administration
Roy Chua is an Assistant Professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at the Harvard Business School. He teaches the first-year Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) course in the MBA program.
Professor Chua's research draws on human psychology in an effort to understand important social processes in business organizations. In his primary stream of research, he studies how multicultural interactions in a globalized workplace influence creativity and innovation. Does multiculturalism at the workplace facilitate or inhibit creative performance? What are the key determinants and how can managers better harness a multicultural workforce for greater creative breakthroughs? Professor Chua also has a keen interest in understanding Chinese organizational behavior and management processes and more specifically social networking dynamics in China. He has published or has articles forthcoming in leading periodicals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of International Business Studies, and Research in Organizational Behavior.
A native of Singapore, Professor Chua received a BSc with First Class Honors in Computer and Information Sciences from the National University of Singapore and a PhD in Management, focusing on Organizational Behavior, from Columbia Business School. Prior to his academic career, he was a Management Associate at PSA Corporation, working on strategic human resources issues such as talent development, recruitment, compensation, and training.
Globalization and innovation are two key forces that will shape individual and business success in the 21st century. To thrive, individuals and organizations must collaborate effectively across cultural lines to solve pressing business problems and develop new products and services that will appeal to the global marketplace. My research aims at understanding these organizational behavior processes, focusing on two interrelated questions (1) how managers can build effective trust relationships with co-workers and business associates who are of a different culture from them and (2) how a multicultural social environment influence creativity and innovation. Illuminating the first puzzle helps me tackle the second one. Existing research on intercultural relations and creativity have thus far developed separately. In a world where innovating in a multicultural context is crucial to success, my research contributes to both practice and theory by connecting these two areas of work.
Building Effective Relationships Across Cultures
Trust is the foundation of any successful collaborative relationship. In my first stream of research, I draw on the basic distinction between cognition-based versus affect-based trust– that is, trust from the head versus trust from the heart – to better understand the foundation of effective business ties in the global economy. In a publication in the Academy of Management Journal, I examined the extent to which trust from the heart and trust from the head are associated with the resources that are exchanged in workplace relationships. I then build on these findings to examine cultural differences in the social structure of trust between Chinese and American managers. In a publication in the Journal of International Business Studies, I found that, consistent with arguments about familial collectivism and observations of Chinese networking behaviors, affect- and cognition-based trust are more intertwined in Chinese executives’ network relationships than in those of their American counterparts. In another article in the same journal, I examined how Chinese CEOs trust their overseas business partners, this time directly illuminating the intercultural dynamics of trust. A key finding here is that non-Chinese executives doing business in China suffers an affect-based trust deficit–Chinese managers are less likely to trust foreign partners from different cultures, and any trust that develops between people of different cultures tends to be fragile and easily diminished by situational factors (e.g., firm size). One key objective of this research stream is to advance a new trust-based perspective on the elusive concept of “guanxi” networks in the Chinese business culture, and to help non-Chinese executives doing business in China understand why it can be so challenging to build effective business ties with their Chinese counterparts.
How a Multicultural Social Environment Influences Creativity and Innovation
My second stream of research draws on my first stream of work to examine how a multicultural social environment influences individuals’ creative thinking and performance at a global workplace. In an on-going project, I found that individuals high in cultural metacognition– mindfulness in anticipating, planning, and monitoring intercultural exchange– are better able to build affect-based trust in different culture partners, resulting in more effective intercultural creative collaborations. A key contribution of this paper is the identification of a capability that allows individuals to bridge the affect-based trust gap when working across cultures so as to enhance intercultural creative work. In another project, I examine how cultivating a multicultural social network can increase individuals’ creative performance. I found that the positive effect of a culturally diverse network on creativity is domain-specific. The creativity benefits are realized only when the task at hand require drawing on knowledge sources from multiple cultures. These two studies contribute to research that examines how cultural diversity enhances creativity. Managers who wish to harness the power of cultural diversity for greater creativity need to understand key levers, boundary conditions, and underlying mechanisms. Even more, managers need to understand that cultural diversity at the workplace, if not carefully, manage can backfire. In a third project, I introduce the concept of ambient cultural disharmony—intercultural conflicts in individuals’ social environment in which they themselves are not involved—and demonstrates how it undermines creative thinking. This investigation departs from conventional approaches of studying how people deal with intercultural conflicts by investigating how people are impacted by intercultural conflicts in which they themselves are not involved. This form of ambient cultural disharmony has been understudied in our field but has important consequences. The emphasis on the ambient aspect of intercultural disharmony opens up new lines of inquiries in research on intercultural relations and creativity.