Many of you may recall the DM course assignment called “Reflection Paper.” Continuing that theme, we will regularly feature a Q&A with members of the DM community. Our first conversation is with Richard Boyatzis, Ph.D., on the impact of Practitioner Scholarship in Management.
1) Application of Management principles to practice is more important than ever in today’s fast-paced work environments – Please tell us about how you help experienced managers change their thinking and approach through empirical research.
Having taught in the DM since the first cohort arrived (and only missed teaching the second and third cohorts), I seek to adapt my style and design of the learning experiences to their career, life stage and experiences. Each class has exercises that bring the DMs into the feeling of this concept, explore its meaning and then link them to the many theories and research evidence about it. For example, when I seek to help them understand how the brain’s neural networks can be activated to create openness to new ideas, I actually have them create their own personal vision for their ideal life 10-15 years in the future. Because they often enter the program in the age range of 40-60+ years old, I point out right away that they probably started full time meaningful work at 25 (allowing for graduation differences in various countries and military service). They will work in meaningful ways to contribute to society until 75-80. So they are barely half way through their professional lives! We then go on to examine the research on relevant neural networks, hormonal systems, psychological states and interpersonal interactions that can open them to possibilities or close them down – the latter is the most typical in today’s organizations.
2) What was it like to be part of the innovation team that created the first-in-market Doctor of Management Program?
We were in Enterprise Hall. Development and initiation of the DM program felt like we were on the namesake USS Enterprise “going where no one had gone before.” In the mid-1980’s, the faculty in the Department of Organizational Behavior began exploring ways to address the life-long learning needs of those of us in our 40’s and beyond. The concept of an Executive College (to be renamed the DM later) and the Professional Fellows Program was created. As the concept that became the DM gathered steam and inspired various faculty and Deans, a school-wide committee was formed. It was adventurous. It felt bold. It was exciting to create something to help reawaken the talent and passion of people past their second mid-life crisis (i.e., 40 +). We broke tradition by assuming the pedagogy would be different than our Master’s and Undergraduate programs. We also assumed that people in power positions with significant experience wanted content that was different. They would expect content that was truly multi-disciplinary and based in challenges and opportunities faced in life across the world. As the Associate Dean in charge of the program in the early years, I was in awe of the energy and dedication of the faculty. The succession of leaders of the program, John Aram, Bo Carlsson and Kalle Lyytinen along with the faculty teaching in it continued to examine relevance and impact on our students. We asked what they were learning and what they were doing with it all the time. This resulted in a regular cycle of major program improvements every few years and minor adjustments each year.
3) How as the program evolved over the years as management trends continue to evolve?
From my perspective, there have been the following major adaptations of the program:
MAJOR CHANGE A: From a focus on practice, we shifted to a choice students could make to become a scholarly practitioner or a practical scholar. We felt the world needed more sophisticated solutions and experiments to move ahead—not just fads and current mythology. Specifically, we ramped up the methods courses and program requirements. Each student had to demonstrate rigorous qualitative research and quantitative research ability by delivering two studies that passed our standards and were either accepted for presented at major academic conferences like AOM or ARNOVA or get them published.
a) Publishing both during and following the program was encouraged in both scholarly and practitioner outlets.
b) We developed a dual track for the third year and possible fourth year, a PhD in Management track for those intending to go into research Universities for full-time faculty positions. The DM was well suited for those seeking full-time positions in teaching Universities or Colleges or blended roles including administrative duties like being a Director of a Center or Program, Dean or President.
c) We also maintained rigorous standards and deadlines. If a student was going to miss a major benchmark, he/she was encouraged to suspend the program for a semester or year.
MAJOR CHANGE B: We focused on the interpersonal relationship among students and with faculty as a key vehicle for helping them through emotionally and intellectually difficult challenges of doing doctoral work while continuing to run businesses or non-profits or be an executive in government agencies and having families.
a) We instituted dual advisors during the first three years. Each student had a content specialist as an advisor and a methods specialist as an advisor. The advisors worked in tandem and coordinated closely with the faculty teaching the various methods.
b) We encouraged development of study groups where students form different cohorts could meet and discuss their ideas, research and help each other.
c) Faculty were chosen to teach who had styles that engaged the students and built positive relationships—not from a distance, but up close and personal.
MAJOR CHANGE C: Topics for content courses were revised regularly. There was always the emphasis on any “content” course using multiple fields so they were transdisciplinary.
a) Complexity theory and complex adaptive systems was added as a focus in several courses.
b) Sustainability at personal, organizational and environment levels was developed as a major theme.
c) Design and systems became an emerging focus.
4) From your perspective, what is the importance or practical application of DM training?
Rigorous research is the intellectual integrity of scholars, academics and practitioners. Too many well intended professionals seek to offer remedies that are simplistic, faddish, dramatic, and often as effective as the proverbial “snake oil.” The world needs more than that. We need openness to new ideas, constant experiments in how to improve society and our families and organizations. These must be conceived and tested in multiple cultures.
People want to continue learning and trying new ideas throughout their lives. People want to help make the world a better place. We offer a way to do that through reinvention. We offer a healthy resolution to a later mid-life crisis – advanced professional training and education.
We challenge our students to be insulted at injustice and ignorance. We want them to see opportunities for new insights and new experiments that might help to address problems we watch on the news every day. The practical and the scholarly are the yin-yang of our professional lives.
5) If resources were unlimited, what would you recommend to help DM students through their transformative journey moreover?
I would recommend a loving spouse or partner to be with you through the transformation. Identifying and refining your sense of purpose, your noble purpose, is your guide to the future. Uninspired talent is a terrible thing to waste. Winning the lottery could help or at least having been a savvy investor!
Richard E. Boyatzis, Ph.D.
Distinguished University Professor
Professor, Departments of Organizational Behavior, Psychology, and Cognitive Science
H.R. Horvitz Chair of Family Business
Case Western Reserve University
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Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University cultivates creativity, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership to design a better world.