IPPA 5th World Congress

by Giselle Timmerman, IPPA WOD President

The Work and Organizations Division of IPPA hosted an invited conversation at the 2017 World Congress to bring together leaders of academic and professional communities to discuss broad-level developments and cutting-edge issues in the field of positive work and organizations. I moderated the session along with six Division supporters who each brought distinct perspectives to the conversation: Kim Cameron, Stewart Donaldson, Greg Hennessy, Michelle McQuaid, Marisa Salanova, and Robert Vallerand.

Engaged Conversation Hour Audience

I believe it’s critical for our members to be proactive and actively shape the future of positive psychology. The questions posed in this engaging Conversation Hour sparked dialogue around what is influencing our field and gathered proposed ideas to shape the future of research and practice. The following is a summary of the discussion, which will help to guide our divisions’ future work. We welcome your comments.


What do you consider to be some of the most significant trends and/or concerns shaping the future of our work? What can be done to address these?

1) Scholarship and research:

  • Share research more broadly and deepen awareness of what works. Researchers have the perennial challenge of having their good work seen to expand knowledge and have practical impact. Not only should positive interventions be published in good review journals, but work that isn’t published (due to issues such as sample size) should be shared as well. Greater use of social networks is one opportunity, as is the division’s bi-annual publication: Positive Work and Organizations, Research and Practice. Academics are also concerned about providing more meta-analyses and data on intervention effectiveness for deeper awareness of what is working amongst researchers and practitioners.
  • Expand good measurement. Trends such as physiological measures for wellbeing and the reality of cultural differences for psychological constructs call for the development of reliable and valid measures. The increasing demand from organizations to define ROI or money saved for intervention practices must be met by conservative and well-replicated findings. Another point of discussion was the opportunity for more longitudinal studies.
  • Leadership issues and problem-driven research. To better serve society and organizations we need to address specific problems (e.g., health behaviors, business ethics).


2) Practice:

  • Integrate technology into practice in a way that isn’t dehumanizing. The future of automation and virtual work makes technology a potent shaper of our work. Organizations have a challenge to build cohesive teams while remote, which sometimes hinders face-to-face interactions that are essential for building trust, connection, and positivity.
  • Expand multicultural competence and understanding of cultural differences. While positive psychology provides useful frameworks and terminology that serve as a common denominator between cultures, oftentimes core constructs can be interpreted differently between cultures (e.g., “positivity”). Practitioners must be adept at framing theories to serve diverse populations and researchers can help out by publishing their work in several languages.
  • Synthesize positive psychology information in ways that are practical and meaningful. Practitioners seek a catalogue or community resource of evidence-based studies and practical application examples that resonate with the layperson. This resource could also provide a member forum to discuss trends, share successes and failures, and encourage honest dialogue on what positive psychology is delivering in the workplace. One such trend to discuss is the engagement challenge in organizations to make work great for all – at all career levels, genders, and ethnographies. Another challenging issue is when practitioners are asked to “tick the box” for a certain organizational initiative (e.g., wellness or resilience workshop) and they seek to help while also avoiding unintentionally doing any harm.
  • Learning is a lifelong endeavor for people in organizations. We know from neuroscience that integrating positive psychology into the workplace shouldn’t be a one-off journey, so how are practitioners supporting organizations for long-term success? As practitioners support organizations, we must innovate with engagement design and create systems change beyond traditional coaching and development methods.


What will make stronger cooperation possible for our positive work and organizations community? What steps can the Division take now that would encourage stronger community?


3) Community:

  • The WOD plays an important role in bridging “positive islands.” It is easy to feel as though you’re on a “positive island” and unaware of what’s going on in other places. The solution of a community resource was mentioned again to provide resources such as: member directory, wiki of research, case studies, stimulating discussions on topics, and general sharing of best practices and strategies. This would provide a public good and community to raise the bar for our field. Additionally, the WOD has a multi-disciplinary role to play in engaging with other fields. We need to be reaching out to colleagues in other divisions and professions to learn from and work more effectively in our research and practice.
  • Expand use of research and assessment methodologies. We should explore different methodologies for research. The issue of measuring ROI was discussed again, particularly the need to measure what’s most relevant to organizations and to foster opportunities for properly communicating the evidence that exists.
  • Absolve language as a barrier to engaging organizational leaders. Oftentimes our language can be too scholarly for the workplace or be misinterpreted, so we must use a common vocabulary for “business speak.” This is one step forward to creating the opportunity for more experiences to gather organizational leaders around the table to discuss common issues together.


We have the opportunity and the imperative for shaping our own future as academics, researchers, and practitioners. It is my promise to continue this conversation within our Division and push forward on folding implications into our strategy and programming. However, this will not be possible without your involvement!

  1. Start by sharing your reactions and feedback to this piece below.
  2. Contribute to our bi-annual publication and join in our Digests & Dialogues.
  3. Make sure you’re catching our regular emails and blogs to be alerted to our member-driven programming.