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The good-enough mother concept: An interview with Tammar Zilber

Tammar Zilber

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…
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Interview with Alice Munro

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:

Writing as an iterative process: An interview with Kevin Corley

Kevin Corley


Kevin Corley
Associate Professor
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.

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More graffiti


A superb mural which I photographed in Soweto, South Africa in June 2013.

The creative process

I found this image some time ago, and unfortunately, I don’t remember where I came across it… and I don’t know to whom I should be giving credit. If you do know its author, please let us know in the comments section – he or she should be congratulated for having captured so perfectly how some days of writing really look like…

Two boxes and an arrow: An interview with Tom Lawrence

Tom Lawrence
Professor, W.J. VanDusen Professor of Management
Beedie Schools of Business, Simon Fraser University

Tom taught me as a Master’s student back in 2001 or 2002 and we’ve stayed in touch on and off over the years. I’ve always loved everything Tom writes, in part because it is so interesting and readable, but also because I can see its importance and relevance for the “real world”, which is not something we can say about a lot of the stuff academia spews out on a day-to-day basis. Somehow Tom manages, again and again, to bring together an intriguing and inherently interesting empirical setting with a compelling theoretical question or problem that has real implications for practicioners. How I wish I could do the same! And if all these qualities weren’t enough, anyone who knows him will tell you that Tom is also a really funny guy. Fits of laughter are the norm every time we meet up. This interview, which took place over lunch, sitting on a square of grass outside of the Hanken School of Economics during EGOS 2012, is no exception.

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#acwri: tweeting academic writing

I’ve recently discovered something in Twitter: people use the social media not only to share links to interesting stuff, to discuss with other people or to comment on anything and everything: they also use it to talk about academic writing. A growing number of people are adding the hashtag #acwri to  their tweets when they are talking about academic writing.


Based on my at home and non scientific inquiry into the use of this hashtag, I’ve discovered that mainly four kind of tweets use it: Read more

It’s about puzzles, not gaps: An interview with Karen Golden-Biddle

Karen Golden-Biddle

Karen Golden-Biddle; Senior Associate Dean and Everett W. Lord Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Boston University School of Management

Karen must be one of the most generous and kind people I’ve met in academia. Even though she doesn’t know you, she has this knack of talking to you and engaging with you as if you were an old friend. You are immediately at ease, and if you don’t watch yourself, you might just start spelling out your whole life story to her. Which, I’m sure you all will agree, is not really a good thing when you are interviewing someone.  This interview is a bit of a special case. Although it reads as a single interview, in truth it is a reconstruction of several conversations Karen and I had over several months, some recorded and transcribed and some not. Some of it even comes right out of the comments Karen made as one of the speakers in our Publishing Qualitative Research workshop (which you can see on video on this blog). There are many instances where Karen will talk about the writing process (she did a write a book on the topic, after all!), and I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the listening end of those moments on several occasions. So although our “formal” interview for this blog lasted well over an hour, I was not happy with it in the end. And nor was Karen. There was just so much to talk about, and the hour long interview we did ended up missing out on too much of the richness I felt I had gotten from these other instances of talking with and listening to her. So I did a bit of creative collating, and this is what you get. This is all Karen. Just not all Karen in one sitting. I hope you like it!

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The New New Journalism by Robert S. Boynton


Some books, they say, can change lives.

They inspire, they urge, they provoke, they push, they rescue, they save. Sometimes, they open a way. Other times, they help close a chapter. “The New New Journalism” by Robert Boynton did not change my life but it has transformed my views on what kind of research I should be doing, how I should be writing and most importantly, on why it was -and still is- so vital for me.

I have come across this book while browsing overflowing dusty shelves in the famous “Strand” bookshop in New York City. I was a few blocks away from New York University where Robert Boynton teaches journalism and is the Director for the Literary Reportage concentration. I had been interested in journalism for ages, since those snowy days spent reading John Reed’s autobiography in a Montreal café. I had started reading and collecting books on journalism from then on and as these books gradually piled up on my bookshelves, I developed a strong affection for them (the actual material objects that had travelled thousands of miles with me) and for their authors who made me realize how much I wanted to write and how hard I knew it to be. Read more

The relationship between theory and carpets: An interview with David Seidl

David Seidl

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!)

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