Industrial Organizational Behavior Management Graduate Trip

The ten W M U students visiting Jerusalem pose with three others in the city of Jerusalem. The students and others all stand in a large semi circle and smile on a bright sunny day as the city stretches out behind them. The view in the background is very different than what one might encounter here in Michigan. A stone tower stands in the background in the left and next to it is the large golden Dome of the Rock, stone building tops fill the horizon. There is little vegetation, the land is mainly arid dry dirt and stone with a few trees including the distinctive tall thin evergreen cypress trees.

During July 2017, one faculty member and 10 graduate students of the Industrial Organizational Behavior Management graduate program travelled to Israel to present at a conference and network with the local academics and practitioners. The Industrial Organizational Behavior Management graduate program is part of WMU’s Department of Psychology and is recognized as a world leader for the discipline of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM)—the application of behavior analysis principles to workplace settings.

The origins of the trip can be partially traced back to 2014. In February 2014, arrangements were made for three faculty members (Stephanie Peterson, Jessica Frieder, Douglas Johnson) and seven graduate students from the Department of Psychology to travel to Israel for the purpose of research collaborations, conference presentations, and visiting academic institutions (Kibbutzim College, Haifa University). One of the graduate students, Elian Aljadeff-Abergel, was an Israeli citizen who initiated and coordinated the visit. While enrolled at WMU, Elian took several OBM courses and completed her doctorate in Behavior Analysis in April 2014. In coordination with the Israeli Association for Behavior Analysis, the conference took place in Tel Aviv on June 13, 2014. Douglas Johnson gave a talk entitled “The Application of Organizational Behavior Management and Behavior-Based Instructional Design to Workplace and Educational Settings,” which was the first OBM presentation ever delivered in Israel. These activities led to the successful recruitment of new Israeli students into the WMU Behavior Analysis doctoral program and an ongoing relationship exploring the development of more Ph.D. training in Israel. These events also helped plant the seeds of an interest in OBM in Israel.

Unfortunately, OBM is not formally studied in Israel and there are no behavior analysts doing OBM in the country. As such, Dr. Elian Aljadeff-Abergel contacted Dr. Douglas Johnson in July 2016 for the purpose of developing a full conference to introduce OBM, present the basics of the discipline, and discuss examples of its implementation. Furthermore, she inquired if graduate students from the Industrial Organizational Behavior Management program would be interested in traveling to and presenting at such a conference. This conference would be the first OBM conference in Israel and would be coordinated with Menta: The Israeli Association for Certified Behavior Analysts. One of the driving goals of this trip was to share the potential of OBM with Israeli behavior analysts and to disseminate the unique educational experience of Western Michigan University.

Nine graduate students (Merrilyn Akpapuna, Megan Ireland, Brian Molina, McKaela O’Brien, Alejandro Ramos, Brandon Ring, Andrew Smith, Josh Turske, and Garrett Warrilow) expressed an interest in presenting at this conference and a tenth graduate student (Jeremy Goldman) was already doing volunteer work in Israel during that time period. Dr. Johnson supervised the development of conference talks related to topics such as the history of OBM, workplace motivation, incentives, punctuality and turnover, training and instructional design, managerial coaching, behavior-based safety, systems analysis and community-wide interventions, and employee creativity. Meanwhile, Dr. Aljadeff-Abergel made local arrangements for the WMU group to be hosted by local behavior analysts interested in learning more about OBM.

The group arrived in Tel Aviv on July 18, 2017 and despite a long flight, immediately drove to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, the group met with four local behavior analysts, with whom they visited the Machane Yehuda marketplace, the Israel Museum, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

On July 19th, the group continued to visit Jerusalem, including Jaffa Gate and the Old City, while further discussing the applications of OBM as it related to the work being done by the local behavior analysts. Later that day, the group drove north to two separate locations—Zichron Yaakov and Kinneret—and visited with three more local behavior analysts.

On July 20th at Kinneret Academic College, the WMU group presented 12 talks and one panel discussion as part of the first Israeli OBM conference. Nine of the graduate students and the faculty member independently presented their talks to a jam packed audience. The talks and WMU presenters are listed below:

  • Organizational Behavior Management: An introduction to the science of behavior in the workplace – Douglas Johnson
  • The history of OBM: Behavior analysis at work – McKaela O’Brien
  • Of carrots and sticks: A behavioral approach to motivation – Merrilyn Akpapuna and Douglas Johnson
  • You get what you pay for – Brandon Ring
  • How does modern technology influence feedback effects – Garrett Warrilow
  • “I knocked myself out in the shower”: Addressing punctuality and turnover in the workplace – Andrew Smith
  • Telling is teaching and other myths – Josh Turske
  • Coaching the leaders of tomorrow – Megan Ireland, Merrilyn Akpapuna, and Douglas Johnson
  • Safety is everyone’s business – Alejandro Ramos
  • Engineering a better culture – Brian Molina
  • The robots are coming! An analysis of creativity in the workplace – Douglas Johnson
  • Now that I know about OBM, what can I do? – Brandon Ring
  • Panel discussion and Q&A


Ten W M U students pose with two other people next to the Jordan river. Three of the students are squatting down in the front while the others stand to each side of a historical marker. The marker is a little larger than an average size person and appears to be made out of stones that have been stacked and fastened together with mortar. A sign is attached to the front of the marker, but it’s slightly out of focus and not in English, so we can’t translate it at this time in this alt tag, but there is a horse depicted on the sign with a harness that looks like it was used for hauling a loaded wagon or perhaps river barge.

On July 21st, the WMU group visited Kibbutz Degania (the first of several experimental communities established in Israel) and the Jordan River. Later, the group travelled to their final destination of the trip, Tel Aviv.

On July 22nd, the group explored Tel Aviv and old Jaffa, accompanied by four new behavior analyst hosts and several of the hosts from the previous days. The group departed back to the United States the next morning.

As a result of this trip, several Israeli students expressed an intention to now apply to WMU for graduate school. A new research collaboration has recently been initiated between WMU and Kinneret College. Furthermore, there is already discussion of potentially being invited back in two to three years for another OBM conference. Many of the WMU graduate students are still interacting with the Israeli students via social media, sharing tips on OBM and even helping to practice English. Furthermore, the graduate students of the WMU Industrial Organizational Behavior Management graduate program were able to explore and contribute to a region of the world unfamiliar with their discipline.