One of my student instructors (Thank you, Dicte!) came up with the idea to offer our students the possibility for an organisational treasure hunt. She suggested contacting local businesses and asking whether one representative would be available for an interview with a group of two or three students from our course. Initially I was unsure whether we would be able to establish contacts. But in the end we had a list of twelve businesses that were ready for an interview. I have to admit that we did not succeed to get access to well-known firms. Rather we ended up with a list of contacts to local shops, hairdressers, restaurants, a butcher etc. Not very impressive you might retort. However, given the short time that was available for contacting the firms and the small-town environment of our campus, we were fairly satisfied.
After matching the students to the businesses, i.e. asking students to form small groups and selecting one of the businesses from the list, we offered them a short interview guide. This guide consisted of the following list of questions, addressing the topics that we talked about so far in the course:
- What do you think is good leadership in your business?
- Do you believe that leaders in your business have to have a specific personality? If yes, could you please describe this personality?
- How would you describe a good worker in your business?
- What do you (or your company) do in order to find and select a new employee?
- How do you motivate your workers? Why do you motivate them the way you do?
- How do you deal with emotions in your business? Think about the relationship towards customers or the relationship between employees.
You will easily discover that in our treasure hunt-exercise, we addressed fairly traditional OB topics. This is due to the fact that currently I cannot teach OB from a critical perspective but have to subordinate to a more traditional curriculum, emphasising organisational effectiveness, hierarchy, and the teaching of instrumental knowledge. However, without much effort I could imagine asking students to conduct interviews with firm representatives addressing topics such as race, gender, sexuality, equality, identity, emotional labour, yet, also managerial control, alienation, and exploitation.
Furthermore, we decided for contacts to private businesses. However, depending on the local conditions of your campus, students could also visit other organisations such as voluntary organisations, cooperatives, NGOs, or social businesses in order to learn about their ways of organising work and how the people, who work in these organisations, perceive their world of work.
Working with the results of the interviews, we invited the students to create a poster. We asked them to use their creative potential and produce a poster that aptly summarises the information that they gathered in the interview. In one of the classes we let students present their poster and we offered a prize to the group, who provided the best one.
Asking students for their feedback, I learned that some of the businesses that we had chosen were considered to be too small, i.e. only one or two employees, in some cases only the owner and her or his partner. This made it difficult for the students to receive satisfying answers to questions about leadership or employee motivation. Therefore students suggested that next time we should attempt to find bigger businesses, even though most of them were aware of the fact that in a small town this would constitute a challenge.