Reflections on the #AOM2011

I just got back from my first Academy of Management Conference. The AOM Conference is the largest annual gathering of management scholars in the world. This year, it was attended by roughly 10,000 people from around the world and it took place in San Antonio, TX, USA. At the conference there are a number of panels, symposia, workshops and special programs for doctoral students. Doubtlessly, I was privileged to go.

I thought I’ll give a quick overview of what it was like, followed by blog posts on the doctoral workshop I attended, outstanding events & people as well as tips for getting research published. In order to find out more, check out the conversations around the meeting by having a look at the Twitter Hashtag #AOM2011.

Going through the program beforehand, I recognized a number of names that I had come across in my research. The AOM Conference surely is a great chance to put faces to the articles one is normally reading. As mentioned above, there were different session formats, each serving a particular purpose. The most powerful type of event, to my mind, are the professional development workshops. I attended such a PhD workshop by the AOM Division on Organizational Change and Development and another one for new doctoral students. Furthermore, I went to a Symposium on Dynamic Capabilities, for example, which constitutes a central topic of my doctoral program. This gave me a chance to hear the dicussions scholars are currently having. Their talks usually started by summarizing the literature in their particular fields and then they went right into the controversies. Roundtable discussions were useful to get a feel for the questions other scholars are likely to ask in response to particular papers or studies which are in the process of being published. One such Discussion Session was on Relationships, another component of my PhD program. Last but not least there are the socials, of course, which took place at numerous locations around the city. You can tell networking is an essential part of the event and much room is given for such activities. There is even an AOM Party Account on Twitter and a Google Calendar published for this purpose. My personal favorite was Monday night’s reception on the Tower of the Americas. All in all, the AOM Conference is great value for money.

I’ll close this post with a quote from Bill Pasmore, who’s the editor of the journal Research in Organizational Change and Development and who was also part of the above mentioned workshop: “You tell us where to go, because you are the future of change!” In this sense, it was inspiring to see the big shots in the management field while at the same time we were introduced to the academic profession and made aware of the fact that it is our research that will drive the discipline and will be published 5-10 years from now.

Speaker & Event Highlights

Here a few speakers and sessions I particularly liked:

1. It really doesn’t matter who you are or how you got here by Bruce Meglino

Bruce talked about his career and how it developed over time. He had to work very hard to make his way up. It sounded a bit like the American self-made millionaire story, with the exception that it was told for an academic audience. At one point Bruce posed a question to the audience: “Do you feel guilty when watching TV? If you do, chances are you work hard enough.” I couldn’t agree more.

2. The truth about academia by Angelo DeNisi

Angelo provided a personal account of his journey through academia and stressed the costs and sacrifices of being in the profession. Although this could be seen as discouraging, I felt he was sincere about the drawbacks of his chosen career path without deflating its value. Having served as a past president of both the Academy of Management and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, he admitted that his career had interfered more than once with his personal life, forcing him to give up many, if not all, of his hobbies and breaking the relationship with his first wife.

3. The 300 Dollar House by Vijay Govindarajan

I had recently read about an interesting project in the Economist about housing the poor. When Vijay stepped on the stage and opened his slide set, I was extremely thrilled to see what was coming up. He gave a presentation on the 300 dollar house, a research project that has a huge potential for society. I was deeply impressed with his efforts of turning this research into reality. A particularly noteworthy aspect of this job is the use of social media to generate ideas and build a community that wouldn’t be able to meet and fulfill its mission in ‘real life’.

How to Increase the Odds of Publishing Your Research?

The points below were collected in three sessions, namely Publishing Qualitative Research in Premier Academic Journals, How Can I Make An Impact? A Conversation with Management Researchers Seeking to Change the World and Publishing in the Top Tier.

What needs to be in it in terms of content?

  • Know your literature(s)
  • Follow events that are ongoing
  • Study longitudinal processes
  • Study field settings and diverse groups
  • Study how and why questions
  • Strategically choose your research question(s)
  • Focus on neglected problems
  • Have a bold vision
  • Focus on results/value creation
  • Use examplars (i.e. other articles in your journal of choice that have studied similar phenomena or used similar methodology)

How do you generate ideas and get access to data?

  • Use student projects
  • Come up with call for problems (much in the same way as we do call for papers or call for proposals)
  • Talk to big thinkers
  • Leverage partnerships/co-authorships

What are questions to ask yourself?

  • What are research questions you really care about?
  • What’s the career you would like to pursue and where can you make a difference?
  • What would you like to be your legacy?

Although I am aware that there is no recipe to publishing research, I do believe some of these suggestions will help me to focus my efforts. I hope the same holds for you.