Impact Matters: Leeds University Business School Sponsors Scholarly Impact Award and Reception

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Centre for Technology Innovation and Engagement

Professor Tyrone Pitsis is professor of Strategy and Organisation Studies at Leeds University Business School. His main research focus is on strategic thinking in projects of transformation (be it at an individual, organisational, or social level).

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The Academy of Management (AOM) is the largest and also often considered one of the most prestigious scholarly associations in business and management studies. With over 20,000 members, most of those academic but over 25% students and 25% practitioners, the AOM spans the globe.

As someone who has volunteered for various roles at AOM since joining as a young honors student back in 2000, I have had the opportunity to lead in some very important areas. As a PhD student in 2005 I was Chair of the New Doctoral Student Consortium, an important group that designed a supportive first year doctoral development workshop. One core theme of these workshops was how to ensure you make an impact through your career. The words to note here are ‘make an impact through your career’, as I will return to this shortly.

In 2011, I became Chair of the Practice Theme Committee (PTC) of the Academy of Management - a role I held for three years. The PTC sits directly below the Board of Governors and is one of the four strategic pillars of the Academy. The remit is to advance the professional development and impact of AOM members through a range of initiatives such as special Professional Development Workshops (PDW) and other initiatives that also facilitate the engagement of practitioners into the academy, and promote the work of our members into the broader community.

Inherent in the PTC’s remit is to consider how our research can make an impact and increasingly an impact beyond simple measures such as citations to our articles. For the AOM, impact is a major focus. So much so, that last year I was part of a team awarded an AOM Strategic Doing grant (a grant for “bringing the areas of strategic intent and strategic objectives to life through member-initiated projects and initiatives”) to conduct a study on how people make sense of and value impact.

The impact agenda over time certainly has moved on, and today one could argue that the words ‘make an impact through your career’ have morphed into ‘make a career through impact’. Today you often have to think about how your research will create an impact, even before you conduct your research. Indeed, many of the funding bodies will not fund your research if you don't spell this out.

There is a cacophony of voices and opinions about what impact means, and how it should be valued and measured. It is not difficult to find a Vice Chancellor in the UK arguing in different ways but with the same message: “It is not enough for your research to be good, we must ask what is it good for?”  More importantly, in the UK and Australia, two places I know well, government is pushing the impact agenda hard and fast – with impact now a major part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK and its equivalent in Australia.

Sensing the importance that the idea of impact will have on the future of a scholarly career the PTC, through Elena Antonacopoulou (former chair 2007-2010), launched a scholarly award. In 2011 we institutionalised the award into an annual Scholarly Impact Award which was designed to recognise and celebrate an outstanding scholar for their contribution to research and theory in practice and their impact on managerial and organisational practices.

I was delighted that Leeds University Business School agreed to be the major sponsor of the PTC awards and ceremony at the recent AOM held in Anaheim, California, earlier in August. Providing funding for the PTC award signals a number of things.

First, as an international business school, the faculty understands the importance of engaging with and supporting the AOM given its global footprint and reach. You cannot be international if you don't engage internationally beyond attracting foreign students.

Second by supporting the award our faculty signals to our junior and senior colleagues that making an impact over your career is important and valued.

Third, and for me most importantly, it signals to all our colleagues that supporting, belonging to and being part of internationally respected and prestigious scholarly associations and bodies, such as AOM, is valued and valuable.  

The AOM PTC award in 2016 was awarded to Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, CASS Business School, for her major contribution to scholarship, theory and practice. Winners of this award excel across a broad area of scholarly and practitioner related journals, books and engagement with industry, government and policymaking. It was great to see our own Professor Kerrie Unsworth introduce the award.

In accepting her award Professor Jarzabkowski expressed her appreciation and pride for the award and thanked the AOM for recognising the impact that academic research can make. She also expressed her gratitude to Leeds University Business School for sponsoring the award. 

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Leeds University business school or the University of Leeds.