Interview with Ann Langley
Emerita Professor of Management
It’s a daunting task to write the introduction to an interview with someone who needs no introduction. It’s even more challenging when you have had the privilege of not only knowing this person, but of working – and learning a great deal – with her over the years. Maybe this explains why several weeks have passed between the moment when this interview was ready to be published, and today, when I actually share it on the blog. In spite of a few attempts, I hadn’t found the way I was looking for to present this interview with Ann Langley. Acknowledging Ann’s multiple contributions to our field and expressing my gratitude for all she taught me, intellectually, professionally and personally, felt near-impossible in a few sentences. A first version of this introduction was scribbled down in the notebook I keep on my nightstand, late one evening – only to be discarded the next morning. A second one lingered on my mind as I went on walks in my neighborhood; I mentally played with a few sentences for a while, but again, something in this opening did not work. I put the writing of this introduction on my to-do list… week after week. Then, I reached the point when I just could not stand the thought of waiting any longer, and felt that this introduction had to materialize. It just had. This feeling did not make it any easier. I forced myself to sit and stay in front of my computer. Staring at the blinking line in the document I just created, my mind started to wander. I revisited moments when I worked with Ann. I remembered the joy she always seemed to feel when considering empirical material. I smiled thinking about the fun and intellectual stimulation I had in meetings with her and other collaborators. I recalled the times when I witnessed her compose, live, perfect sentences as we were working on a text – a real master class in writing with clarity and elegance. And then my interview with her came back into my mind, echoing something I had already heard her say: just how fundamental the introduction and a good title are for her practice of writing. Then I knew that my introduction had to be about introducing Ann’s interview, but also about introductions in themselves. How for some, it’s the last thing that they write, while for others, like Ann, it is where it all starts. How difficult it can be to find that beginning, but how liberating it can be when you feel that you have nailed it, at least for a while.
Of course, there is much more in Ann’s interview than musings on the importance of introductions. Among the many reflections that I hope will stay with you and inspire you after reading this interview, one advice has resonated deeply with me: just how our writing represents us. Ann reminds us that caring about the quality of our writing and working at crafting our style are well worth the effort, and that it goes beyond good communication of our ideas. Writing may be difficult, but it can be a source of joy and an expression of who we are.