Research and Teaching Collaborations with Colleagues in Underrepresented Nations: a blogpost

So yesterday was a big day. After our PDW (will blog about later today) I attended a session organized by Dr. Charles Wankel and his colleagues. It was held in a ballroom because there were lots of us!
As the title of the blog post suggests, it was a workshop to get people who are attending the Academy from nations and countries that are not represented at the AOM to as great a degree as Americans and American universities. You can find a full list of participants here (I am not on the list, but I attended anyways).

First, I think we have to define what the Academy of Management means for the global management research community – well, in short the association defines the “global research community”, in that, if your research is published at the Academy or in one of the Academy’s journals there is a big stamp of approval on it. You might not be aware, but the peer review process, even in Management Sciences, is vital – and if active Academy members agree that your research is valid and robust and interesting (at least after a few rounds of corrections) – then the rest of the world can “trust” that it is valid, robust and interesting.

So, the Academy and the Annual Meeting are important – but, it has been dominated by North America… but that is changing to add diversity of topics, diversity of findings and diversity of attendees J
Enough background, the session started with over 200 participants – we all were directed to tables with people we might not know (OK, I might have gone to a table with some people I know and it ended up with 5 of us from the UAE and 4 from Abu Dhabi). Dr. Charles introduced the session and then gave us (the participants at each table) our assignments – talk with one another, see what are commonalities and how you can research together and what are your outcomes – then come back and tell us all in a three minute summary. Well, that was how I interpreted the assignment, I am sure as good academics we all interpreted it in different ways!

My table was diverse and interesting and we represented many “underrepresented nations”. Here are a list of first names and countries we represent:

Alvaro – Mexico
Xu – China – Finland and UAE
Payal – India
Nadia – Greece and England (Manchester for the Abu Dhabi remote link)
Kathy – China, UAE (Dubai)
Florian – Germany, UAE (Abu Dhabi)
Fuazia – India and UAE (Abu Dhabi)
Me – Canada/Quebec and UAE (Abu Dhabi)

We started our discussions with a general introduction around the table and then we said well – what do we talk about. One of our members suggested we “figure out how to change the world”. Remember, we are academics and this is not as outlandish a topic as all that – but we agreed it might be a bit presumptuous and we only had a limited time – so we decided on another subject to guide our discussions.

Someone suggested: “What role can the AOM playing in bridging the gap between underrepresented countries and regions and the global research community?” (yes, I might have had a hand in this suggestions J).

So we started thinking and telling our stories. The first suggestion was to encourage/support/reward West and East/South collaborations as PDW, paper or symposium submissions. This would mean that there could be extra room in the schedule for groups that “fit” this criteria.

Then we really started talking about the “accepted” subjects or the “hot topics” which always seem to guide accepted research – well, these topics which are “hot” in the US or Western Europe are not necessarily important to the local or regional contexts of our universities. Maybe there could be a “stretch” of topics to include more industry specific or local context specific work…

In our local universities, as many of us switch from a teaching focus to a research and teaching focus – local context matters – we, as educators and scholars, need to “matter” to local companies and organizations. Our research needs to be more applied – there is VERY little (if any) funding for fundamental or basic research with practical results in maybe 10 or 20 or 40 years. These underrepresented nations are not underrepresented at the global level because we were not working – we were teaching a heavy course load and many academics use consulting to make ends meet in developing countries – no time for fundamental research.

We then talked about our role as scholars and the debate on whether research follows industry practice or is research meant to guide industry practice – and the tricky balancing act we play to balance being relevant with research.

One example was given from Estonia – Estonian companies have basically adopted Western style HR practices – transferred from Nordic companies (through FDI) and learned from Western trained professors and American textbooks – and it seems to have “worked” – e.g. there are accepted rules that even small companies follow that provide a structure and norms.

We then talked about the importance of bringing our research back into our classrooms – using case studies and practical local research results to bring the book theory to life in a local context (you can read the rest of my blogposts to see what I do in this regard).

Then we ran out of time – and each table presented. I presented for my table and tried to keep it short – there were many commonalities amongst the groups and it was interesting to see how we each interpreted our assignment. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon – thank you Dr. Charles for organizing this – I hope to attend another of your sessions next year.

Then I was off to the entrepreneurship social – which was held on the 50th floor of the Prudential Centre – and that is another post J

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