Interview with Davide Ravasi
Professor of Management
Cass Business School
City University London
It is one thing to interview acquaintances and strangers, it is quite another to interview your friends. This particular interview was a bit weird because Davide and I have been friends for quite a number of years now. When we did the interview my impression was that our conversation sounded stilted and contrived. Here are things that we have discussed at length on multiple occasions. Davide is part of that inner circle of academic friends to whom I’ll send my drafts for friendly reviews and who will not waste time with niceties or hesitate even one second before tearing apart every sentence. I remember him telling me once, “You mustn’t give anything to your reviewers that they might grip onto to criticize you. Nothing. Keep it totally smooth and to the point.” And this on the revision of a paper I rewrote I don’t know how many times and in which he still found something to fault. As frustrating as these interactions were (and I admit there have been times when I questioned whether he was truly a friend or not!) I learned a tremendous amount, and I can’t deny that my writing in general has improved as a result. We all need a circle of friends who are willing to be brutally honest with us. We gain resilience from it (something we need a lot of in this field) and our writing gets better. I decided to interview Davide so that others can benefit from the very good advice he’s given me over the years. As a lot of this advice has come to me via his harsh readings of my papers, at least you get to benefit without the criticism that usually goes along with it!!
Detail of a painting by Nina Sten-Knudsen (2001), at the CBS library – seen when I visited it in January 2014.
Interview with Paula Jarzabkowski
Professor Strategic Management
Cass Business School
City University London
I’ve known Paula for quite some years now and she never ceases to impress me. I recall a visit to Aston some years ago where she and Jane Lê, with whom she’s collaborated over the years and who is now at the University of Sydney, showed me how they organized the data they had collected for a big study they were doing at the time. They had these endless, cross-referenced Excel files in which they had rigorously documented every meeting, every note, and every interview by date, by theme, by research site and by God knows what else. I was a PhD student at the time and I came back from that meeting thinking that I really needed to up my game if I was to come anywhere close to that level of rigour in my own research. Paula is also very devoted to her graduate students, working very hard to ensure that they all do well throughout their studies and beyond. So in those and many other ways, Paula has been quite an inspiration. And last, but far from least, Paula is easily one of the most productive people I know. How she does it is completely beyond me. I thought that through our interview I might be able to figure out where her magic comes from, but really, there doesn’t seem to be any. As you will see for yourself, it’s the same for Paula as for the rest of us. You just have to keep at it!
Interview with Bob Hinings
Professor, University of Alberta
Here is a delightful interview with someone who is not only supremely charming, he also happens to have quite a few years of very successful writing tucked under his belt. Bob has visited HEC Montreal on a couple of occasions (he was even awarded an honorary doctorate from us!), and on one of those, agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Unfortunately, I was not in town at the time, so my colleague, friend and fellow blogger Viviane, agreed to do the interview. It was then my job to edit through the twenty odd pages of verbatim transcript to give you this little gem of insights. Enjoy.
Advice that can easily inspire how I approach my own writing practice! Maybe I should print it and tape it to my wall…
via swissmiss & Brain Pickings
Helen Sword is the author of a book on academic writing, Stylish Academic Writing (Harvard Press, 2012), and she recently gave a talk on this topic. She starts from an observation that many of us share: academic writing is rarely stylish – and by stylish, she not only means elegant, but also engaging and effective. In fact, she describes writing – especially research journal writing – as “wooden and dry” (at best) or “spongy and soggy”. In her talk, based on research she has conducted, she describes what stylish writers do.
If her conclusions may come as no surprise to anyone who has read on writing, it’s always good to be reminded of them. For example, stylish academic writers are deeply concerned with communicating complex ideas in a clear way, they find pleasure in crafting their text, and they display creativity in their work. It’s also interesting to hear her on the reasons why so much of academic writing is bad (let’s not be afraid of the word!). Helen Sword suggests that many academics feel that they need to impress other academics with their writing… and that they are ruled by conventions and fear. Instead, she invites us to strive for elegant and personal writing that serves to illuminate our topics of inquiry and to push the boundaries of knowledge. So here’s her talk:
Information on her book can be found here: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674064485
Here’s an enlightening and hugely practical source of tips on academic writing. The “reverse outline” idea is brilliant (thank you to Jennifer Howard-Grenville for pointing it out). I also enjoyed Rachael Cayley’s blog entry on the “imposter syndrome”, in particular her suggestion that we should be cautious about “the idea that there is something wrong with us if we find academic writing deeply challenging.” Amen.
Check it out here: http://explorationsofstyle.com/
Interview with Tammar Zilber, Senior Lecturer, School of Business Administration, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tammar and I first met in 2007, when she graciously accepted to participate in a Symposium I organized with Ann Langley at the Academy of Management that year, on the theme “Competing Rationalities in Organizations.” When she visited HEC last year, it seemed only natural that I should interview her for this blog. As many of the scholars I’ve approached in this way, Tammar was initially unsure whether she would have anything interesting to say about her writing: “I have no idea how I write.” But (thankfully!) she agreed to be interviewed anyway. Our conversation took place over breakfast, in the student cafeteria at HEC. It turns out that despite her initial misgivings, Tammar had a lot to say! We were so taken in by our conversation that we lost track of time, and the person who was scheduled to meet with Tammar after me had to come find us in the cafeteria to say “my turn!”
What I like about this interview is its transparency – it really shows what writing qualitative research is like – messy, iterative, back and forth between theory and data until a coherent story emerges. Yes, it’s like this, even for those who have been doing it for a long while. Read on to find out more…
The Canadian writer Alice Munro recently won the Nobel prize for literature. She gave an interview with the Paris Review in 1994 where she talked about her stories, her characters and how she writes. Despite the differences in the kind of texts we craft, it’s always interesting to learn about how other writers work!
You can read the full interview here: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1791/the-art-of-fiction-no-137-alice-munro
W.P. Carey School of Business
Arizona State University
Associate Editor, Academy of Management Journal
This interview was done in a crowded, and very noisy, coffee shop cum bookstore in Boston, during AOM in 2012. We had set up a time for the interview beforehand, and I had told Kevin that I would get back to him with a location once we were there. Following my own advice (see my interview with Denny Gioia here), I had gone scouting out the terrain and found this cute little shop off a side street not too far from the main venue. It was quiet, and they had big tables to sit at. Perfect! So perfect in fact (at least it appeared so) that Kevin even organized other meetings there that same morning. It was like he was running his own little office in situ. Unfortunately, it turned out that I wasn’t the only one who had scouted out this perfect spot, so much so that by the time I met up with Kevin there, the place had turned into a zoo. Moral of the story: during fieldwork NOTHING replaces a top-notch recording device.
What I like about this interview is Kevin’s point blank style. This is a real insider story: no fluff, no background music. Kevin tells it like it is, and it’s great.