Santa Clara University

Management professor studies innovation in vitural environments

Terri Griffith

Management Professor

Terri Griffith, professor of management in the Leavey School of Business since 2001, virtually immerses herself in research to learn how companies can best function with modifications to the traditional work environment.

Santa Clara’s location in the center of the technological world benefits her, since her research “is focused on the implications and effective use of technologies in organizations.” Griffith, who has served on advisory boards and has won numerous grants, has been looking at virtual work environments since 1984. Today’s business climate and technological advances allow and typically encourage formerly nontraditional communication methods.

“Most organizations are hybrids,” Griffith says. “They do some of their work face-to-face; use teleconferencing; instant messaging, e-mail. My colleagues and I study how that kind of work environment affects the rate of innovation.”

She has learned that “while communication is always easier face-to-face, the actual work outcome can be better in a virtual setting. A project team can pick the best people around the world and perform better.”

Griffith has been a visiting professor at various universities, and has served as senior editor of Organization Science, a research journal.

Through a National Science Foundation grant, Griffith is collaborating with John Sawyer of the University of Delaware to research  “knowledge, innovation, and virtual work” in science and engineering organizations.

“We’ve finished collecting data with a Fortune 100 science and technology company,” Griffith says. “We’ll be able to track how and which teams are more innovative” because of their virtual work environments.

Students in Griffith’s organizational design course at SCU average three to five years of professional experience and most plan to move into management positions at their companies.

“Each individual comes in with their own intuition and experience,” says Griffith, who won the Leavey School of Business Research Award in 2004. “If they are able to hear how others have handled situations, they can understand how to apply their knowledge. They can go back to their organization and apply what you just talked about. Since they have a fair amount of experience, we find a way to organize the knowledge they have.”