David came to HEC as a guest in March 2011, which is when the interview featured here took place. These were still early days as far as our blog idea was concerned, and as with Sarah, we started by interviewing our friends first. David is a long-standing member of the strategy-as-practice community of which all three of us are a part. We knew he’d not only oblige, but would be happy to contribute to anything that might help people figure out how to write better papers (even if it meant revealing to the world that he has a ping-pong table in his office and that he reads his drafts out loud to himself such that anyone passing by his open office door can hear him!) This interview is also interesting because David tends to write theory papers, and the process for writing those is a bit different from that of writing empirical papers. Personally, I found David’s explanation about getting the “line of argument” right particularly insightful. Much of the work we do is about telling a compelling, believable story about how things work in this great, big world that we inhabit, or in other words, getting “the line of argument right.” So roll out that carpet everyone, and make sure there are no more ripples in it when you’re done. (Read on, and you’ll understand!)
Posts from the ‘Interviews’ Category
Nelson and I have known each for quite a long time. Prior to undertaking a career in academia, I worked in university administration. I was an administrator at McGill University when Nelson first started working there and we both sat on the faculty’s strategic planning committee. He was always very friendly (and still is!) and we sort of stayed in touch all through my graduate studies even though I was pretty much a nobody within academia and he was the much-admired rising star. When I moved to the UK to do my post doc at Oxford, Nelson introduced me to various people, which considerably facilitated my integration into the academic community there. So naturally, when my co-authors and I came up with the idea of interviewing academics on their writing habits, Nelson was one of the first people I thought of approaching. This interview took place over a noisy and crowded lunch at Imperial College. We were a bit pressed for time, so I could not ask Nelson all the questions I would have liked to. But I think our chat makes for a most interesting interview nevertheless (especially the writing collectively bit, which was quite the revelation for me! It would never have occurred to me to write with others in that way). Some months later I also interviewed Nelson’s good friend and frequent co-author Tom Lawrence – readers might enjoy reading that interview as well (I’ll be posting that one soon), as it provides an interesting “other side of the coin” take on some of the stories being told here.
Annabel Soutar, Playwright and Executive Director, Porte Parole
Porte Parole is a documentary theater company based in Montreal. For those unfamiliar with the genre, documentary theatre is a type of theatre that looks at current social issues and presents them in dramatic form. The script of a documentary play is the outcome of an investigative process aimed at shedding light on a given issue from a variety of perspectives. The script itself is usually written using verbatim excerpts from interview transcripts with respondents as well as other documents, such as newspaper clippings, government reports, court proceedings, etc. In some ways, one might say that documentary theater is at a crossroads between investigative journalism and art. For those of you interested in finding out more about this wonderful theatre company, you can have a look at their website: http://www.porteparole.org.
I came across Annabel’s work for the first time in 2003, when an acquaintance told me about a play her theater company, Porte Parole, had just produced. I had been working for a foundation at the time, whose mission was to build a centre of excellence in nursing in Montreal, and the play was about… nurses. It was in fact one of a seven-part series of plays on the Quebec health care system. I’d never heard of Porte Parole before, nor had I ever heard of documentary theater as a genre, but I was curious, and so I went. It was a mesmerizing experience. I had just spent the previous months trying to make sense of the field of nursing – what the issues were, where the challenges for development lay. I had spoken with existing and former politicians and civil servants in the Ministry of Health. I had met the Deans of Schools of Nursing, as well as the Directors of Nursing in most of Montreal’s major hospitals. I had spoken to the President of the Order of Nurses as well as members of her staff I had had conversations with nurses working in all kinds of roles, in all levels of our health care system (head nurses, hospital-based nurses, nurses in private practice, community health nurses, etc.). I had a pretty good understanding of what was going on, and I can honestly say that Annabel had pretty much nailed all the main issues in her hour-long play. I became an instant fan.
Associate Professor of Strategy, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Sarah was the very first person I interviewed for this blog project. Viviane, Chahrazad and I had decided about a month before that we’d go forward with the project, and Sarah came to give a talk at HEC shortly after. We’d crossed paths a few times at conferences, and Sarah seemed quite supportive of any initiative that would be helpful to newish researchers trying to trace their little path within the academic world. I figured that if she turned me down, it would be in a nice way – remember these were early days, and we weren’t quite sure how people would respond to our request, particularly to the fact that we would be posting the interviews online. Sarah was very supportive and we talked for well over an hour. I might even add that if it hadn’t been for Sarah’s warm reception at our idea, I may not have had the motivation to ask other academics to engage in the process. No kidding! Once I completed the interview though, I became quite convinced that a lot of people would find it both interesting and informative. It is this belief that has kept me going since.
Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Management and Organization in the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State
Denny came to visit HEC as a guest of GEPS (our local strategy-as-practice research group) and of course, I jumped at the opportunity to interview him for our blog. Denny told me that when he started his career in academia, he too had undertook a similar process of interviewing established academics so as to learn from their experience, so he was quite willing to oblige me in this case. He was in such demand during his visit at HEC – everybody wanted to talk to him! – the only time slot I was able to get that was longer than half an hour was over breakfast one morning. So I took him to this hip place I knew downtown. Mistake! Not only did they only serve fancy breakfast paninis when Denny much preferred pancakes, the place was so loud we could hardly hear ourselves talk. (Lesson to you researchers out there: if you have to do a planned interview in a public space, you may want to check out the noise level first!) Anyways, thank God for Denny’s pleasant disposition and my Olympus LS-10 digital recorder (that captures great sound even in the noisiest of places), else the whole thing might have turned into a fiasco. We talked all through breakfast, and even continued chatting in the taxi on the way back to HEC. Trailing beside Denny recorder in hand, I felt like some CNN reporter trying to catch a few words from a presidential candidate rushing to his next appointment. Very cool. Read more
Research Professor, HEC Montreal and Chair in Family Business and Strategy, University of Alberta
It so happens that Danny’s office at HEC is two doors down from mine. Imagine that! “the” Danny Miller is now my colleague and hallway buddy. I mean, Danny is up there in the academic management pantheon alongside Henry Mintzberg, Bill Starbuck, Karl Weick, Dick Scott, Kathy Eisenhardt, and so on. These are the guys (and gals!) whose stuff you read as “classics” in graduate seminars, whose talks you go out of your way to attend at conferences. And what a super nice guy he is! He more than graciously acquiesced to being interviewed for this blog, although he initially seemed unconvinced that he would have anything interesting or terribly insightful to say. It turns out that he was quite wrong on that – we talked for two hours, and easily could have gone on. And what a fascinating conversation it was! My only reserve is that he makes writing and publishing sound so easy… if only it were so for the rest of us! I hope you enjoy it.