CSUN Explores Two Unlikely Topics at Fourth Annual “Breakthrough Breakfast”

  • Seminar speakers Andrew Chizever, vice president of the marketing research firm Lieberman Research Worldwide (left), and CSUN psychology professor Abe Rutchick (center) talk about the psychological elements of business. Photo by Luis Garcia

  • CSUN Klotz Health Center Director Linda Chassiakos and CSUN Academic Technology staff member Hannah Luna participate in an activity led by the speakers. Photo by Hansook Oh.

  • CSUN psychology professor Abe Rutchick speaks to attendees at the Breakthrough Breakfast.

    CSUN psychology professor Abe Rutchick speaks to attendees at the Breakthrough Breakfast. Photo by Luis Garcia.

  • Attendees sitting at a table participate in a writing exercise led by the speakers.

    Attendees participate in an exercise led by the speakers. Photo by Luis Garcia.

California State University, Northridge faculty, staff and alumni started their day exploring two topics not often paired in the context of entrepreneurship — psychology and business — Dec. 6 at the fourth “Breakthrough Breakfast.”

The entrepreneurship speaker series took place at the Orange Grove Bistro on campus and was organized by the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator at CSUN (LACI@CSUN), the Tseng College and the CSUN Office of Alumni Relations.

Andrew Chizever, vice president of the marketing research firm Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW), and CSUN psychology professor and LRW consultant Abe Rutchick engaged participants with a lively presentation called “Leveraging Psychology for Business: The Five Things You Need to Know.” The speakers explained the psychological motives behind consumers’ choice of one product or service over another — to help business owners and entrepreneurs leverage those consumer tendencies.

Understanding how human beings develop expectations and conceive of the future can be beneficial to people in business, said Rutchick, a social psychologist who studies how context affects individual behavior.

“Human beings are the only animals who think about the future, and it’s a crucial motivator for how we act every day,” Rutchick said. “You would think we are good at knowing what to expect after certain events in our lives, but we are not. And what that means for business is that we don’t know what is going to work, so we should be the leaders and not the followers [when it comes to] new trends in the marketplace.”

Chizever talked about how businesses can appeal to people’s self-perception when selling a product or service.

“We can leverage people’s high opinion of themselves, especially when what we are selling has extrinsic value,” Chizever said. “Like an Equinox gym membership — when you have a product you are selling and people are willing to tell you they are going to be more likely to do something, because they think they are better and perceive themselves in a certain way, it’s important that you get on-the-spot commitment.”

The breakthrough breakfasts were launched by Alumni Relations, LACI@CSUN and the Tseng College in December 2015 to help spur a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship between faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“We hoped to provide information and resources for entrepreneurs in our region and to drive interest in connecting with CSUN as supporters, advisors, mentors or possibly even start-up companies for our campus incubator,” said Julia Potter, director for strategic partnerships and special initiatives. “The breakfasts have, indeed, delivered on those aspirations.”

Debby Schlesinger, a registered nurse who attended the breakfast with her husband, who is an alumnus, said the seminar was informative and relevant to her field.

“At the hospital they rely on patient outcome surveys,” Schlesinger said. “[Patients’] initial experience matters, and their last experience matters, so [the presenters] said to make a bigger thing of it — [to take into account patients’] impressions and biases.”

Deborah Heisley, professor of marketing and director of graduate programs in business, said it was beneficial to see faculty involvement in the breakfast seminar.

“It was really fun to see our psychology faculty link up with somebody in business and present that to entrepreneurs as a way to bring theory to practice,” Heisley said. “It’s inspirational [to other faculty]. They might be sitting there thinking, ‘I could do this.’ We all have theoretical knowledge, but how useful [that knowledge] is to entrepreneurs is something maybe other faculty have not realized before.”

Rutchick said giving the seminar as a faculty member to a mixed group of faculty, staff, alumni and community members was a valuable experience.

“I increasingly [feel a part of the innovation culture on campus], and I would love to go to a future breakthrough breakfast as an audience member,” Rutchick said. “Getting to be in the same place at the same time and sharing an experience in a physical way is important. Doing that in this context for entrepreneurship and innovation and getting a community around it is great.”