On the Link between Research and Practice in Organizational Behavior Management

Guest Author: David A. Wilder, Ph.D., BCBA-D

David Wilder is a Professor and Head of the School of Behavior Analysis at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. Dr. Wilder has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and has served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA), and is the current editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM). He is also on the editorial boards of Behavioral Interventions, Education and Treatment of Children, and Behavior Modification. He has served as President of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis (FABA) and the Organizational Behavior Management Network. He is a recipient of the Outstanding Scientific Contributions to Behavior Analysis award from FABA and is a fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis, International. Dr. Wilder has consulted at the individual and organizational level to schools, private homes, hospitals, group homes, and day treatment centers and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D).

This blog by Dr. David Wilder suggests that those who wish to practice OBM, identified as applied behavior analysts, engage in an examination of our field’s concepts and principles as found in basic and applied research, adding to their skills as those who have come before. He notes that our past was partly built by those who came from the world of EAB. Dr. Wilder raises valuable points worth attending to as to where research is leading us. While not required by the field, David believes that establishing an easily accessed basic and applied research review will indicate our commitment to continuous improvement.

On the Link between Research and Practice in Organizational Behavior Management

David A. Wilder, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Florida Institute of Technology

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is the application of behavioral principles to improve the performance of individuals and systems in organizations (Daniels & Bailey, 2014; Wilder et al., 2009). OBM includes a number of specialty areas or sub-disciplines, such as performance management, behavioral systems analysis, and behavioral safety. The basic principles upon which practice and research in OBM are based are largely, but not entirely, derived from the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB).

Given that OBM is an applied science and based on a basic science discipline (EAB), many may assume that as the discipline advances (i.e., new findings are made, or new procedures are validated), practice in OBM will become more effective. This is how other applied sciences (e.g., medicine) progress. Of course, this improvement depends on the extent to which practitioners of the discipline maintain contact with and incorporate procedural advances into practice. Many applied sciences have developed rather elaborate systems (e.g., required continuing education) to increase the likelihood that practitioners are exposed to the latest findings and developments in the field.

Unfortunately, the extent to which OBM practitioners incorporate the latest advances in OBM and EAB into their work is unclear. Although some practitioners no doubt strive to maintain contact with relevant research, the discipline as a whole has not made this easy. For example, contact between OBM practitioners and those doing OBM and EAB research is infrequent. These two groups are out of touch with each other – members of each group know little about topics important to the other group. Also, no formal system requiring OBM practitioners to remain up to date with basic and applied research findings that could increase their effectiveness exists. Such a system could be arranged as part of an OBM certification or licensure requirement, but many in OBM are against this (Hyten, 2022).

For the future growth and integrity of the field, OBM needs a more formal way of ensuring its practitioners maintain contact with relevant research and ensuring that researchers study topics relevant to practitioners. This may not have to include a certification or licensure requirement, but it will likely need to include something in addition to what already exists. The bi-annual OBM Network conference is a great venue for linking practitioners and researchers in the field. However, the discipline needs a way to do this on a more regular basis. To accomplish this, perhaps one organization (e.g., the OBM Network) could develop a continuing education program (e.g., monthly webinars or brief video recordings) highlighting research most relevant for OBM practitioners. Of course, this program would be voluntary because, without a certification or licensure program, not all practitioners would take advantage of it, but it would at least be a step towards making the most relevant research more widely available to OBM practitioners.

The link between research in OBM and EAB and practice in OBM needs to remain strong for the discipline to thrive. We need to reduce the effort required for practitioners to access the most relevant research and increase communication between practitioners and researchers. The future of OBM depends on it.

Address correspondence to: David A. Wilder, School of Behavior Analysis, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne, FL 32901. Email:dawilder@fit.edu


Daniels, A. C., & Bailey, J. S. (2014). Performance management: Changing behavior that drives organizational effectiveness (5th ed.). Atlanta, GA: Aubrey Daniels International, Inc.

Hyten, C. (2022). On ethics codes, licensure, and OBM. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. DOI: 10.1080/01608061.2022.2027320

Wilder, D., Austin, J., Casella, S. (2009). Applying Behavior Analysis in Organizations:   Organizational Behavior Management. Psychological Services, 6(3), 202-211.