This is the first in a series of interviews with members of the Business School discussing their views on research and why students and the business community should want to work with the school. In this first interview, Prof. John Diamond discuses his views on this subject.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN THE BUSINESS SCHOOL?
I have three roles – firstly, I have been asked to support colleagues across the Business School in their research and their work outside the University; secondly, I want to promote the work we do and to encourage people to see us as a resource or as a place where they can share their ideas and develop them; and thirdly, I work with students – teaching them and learning from them too.
WHAT IS YOUR OWN AREA OF STUDY?
I am really interested in how organisations (and the people within them) think and learn. In particular, I am interested in how organisations encourage learning and working across different organisational or professional boundaries. I think that trying to work co-operatively or collaboratively can be really exciting and challenging too. It opens up possibilities of working and learning differently and I am interested in how we do that as well as why organisations and individuals too are resistant to such approaches. Much of my work has been with voluntary and community sector organisations as well as with public agencies so I am aware that context is all – so that the present period of change (the Age of Austerity) may offer one explanation of why changes are taking place across these two sectors. I am interested in how we learn as much as what we learn from those experiences and processes.
WHY IS RESEARCH IMPORTANT?
For lots of reasons! One of the attractions of working in the Business School is that there is a deliberate focus for many colleagues of trying to share their learning – so the idea of knowledge transfer or exchange is not abstract. There are many ways in which the work of staff here can inform our understanding of why particular policies are taken or how we might make sense of financial institutions or decision making processes. Or we might be able to share ideas and insights with local businesses or social enterprises and so enable them to take decisions which benefit their work. I think that our commitment to applied research is central to what we are trying to do.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR RESEARCH IS WORTH PURSUING?
I think that is not always straightforward at the start. A friend of mine talks of “taking ideas for a walk” and I think much of we do starts off like that. You cannot be sure where it will take you. But there are ways in which we can see if our work is taken seriously : a key indicator is peer review – what do researchers in the field think of what we do , so through conferences , submitting papers for publication, applying for funding we get a good idea of how we are regarded; another indicator is after work is published – who follows it up, what are you asked to do as a result , what work you get asked to do within your field and internationally; and finally what impact does your work have and how do you know. On all these indicators the Business School has a number of very well respected and valued researchers.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE STUDENTS RESEARCHING?
We really value the idea of applied research across all our programmes of study from undergraduate to post graduate to doctoral research. And we encourage students at both undergraduate and post graduate level to think about how they might draw on their personal / professional practice or experience (especially at post graduate level) to design and to develop projects which do take them outside the University into work places or to look at how policies are designed and implemented. We do want to narrow the gap between our world and the world outside the University.
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE DO THEIR RESEARCH AT EDGE HILL?
There are many reasons why from the environment to the support they will get. But, I think there are two primary reasons why people from outside should think about coming here : firstly, we have an explicit professional and intellectual commitment to working with practitioners, policy makers ,social entrepreneurs, those working in professional practice settings – accountants, marketing, HR – who value their personal and professional development . We want the Business School to be a place where the outside world is as much as presence as the academics and researchers. Secondly, we are, also, committed to enquiry, analysis and critical reflection. We want to test our ideas and those with whom we are working so that we encourage and promote excellence in what we do. We really do value and welcome those that support these values.