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Collegiality in the time of Corona

Professor Laura Empson delivers keynote and Professor Feng Li scoops prestigious award at British Academy of Management Conference

by Hamish Armstrong (Senior Communications Officer)

“It is up to each one of us as professionals to decide whether we want to hold each other up, or to drag each other down.” That was the message from Professor Laura Empson, Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms at the Business School (formerly Cass) as she delivered the keynote at the 34th annual British Academy of Management Conference.

The Coronavirus pandemic instantly forced changes to the way institutions and academics delivered their teaching, with some more equipped than others for the challenges ahead.

Drawing on her research on collegiality, Professor Empson underlined the importance of mutual support, equality among peers and cultural cohesion towards ensuring the survival and wellbeing of worldwide academia – as well as the lessons university leaders and academics could learn from professional service firms in adapting to the current crisis.

“When confronted with the crisis of Covid, our instinctive response was to support our academic colleagues all around the world and institutional rivalries were swept aside in a collective affirmation of our professional identity,” Professor Empson said.

“We simply ignored our institutional boundaries in a way that’s totally inconsistent with the commercial logic of business schools. We reached out to each other as individuals, as strangers, but above all as fellow academics.”

Reflecting on her study of professionals service firms, she went on to warn of what can go wrong when the power of collegiality is allowed to diminish, emphasising what academics and business school leaders should do to avoid making the same mistakes.

Professor Laura Empson

The British Academy of Management is a worldwide professional association for management and organisational scholars. It currently has more than 18,500 members spanning 120 countries across the globe, and seeks to inspire management teaching and practices to enable a better world.

“It was a great personal honour to be invited to present insights from my research to influential academic peers,” Professor Empson continued.

“It was slightly surreal addressing such a large global audience through video link from my home office but, given the subject of discussion, it also was perhaps quite fitting.

“Professional bodies like the British Academy of Management will be more important than ever in helping us work together to tackle the effects and aftermath of the pandemic, so I am proud to have been able to deliver this very pertinent message.”

During the three-day conference held last week, there was further excellent news for the Business School as Professor Feng Li, Professor of Information Management’s research 'Sustainable Competitive Advantages via Temporary Advantages' was awarded the Best Full Paper in eBusiness and eGovernment prize.

Professor Li was pleased with the award and reaffirmed the importance of digital transformation, particularly in times of remote working.

“It is very satisfying to be recognised in this way by experts and peers,” he said.

“With uncertainty over returning to offices, technological capabilities have become even more significant. My research aims to provide best practice for digital innovations, so it’s wonderful to see the paper celebrated in this way.”

Watch Professor Empson’s full keynote at this year’s British Academy of Management Conference.

Find out more about the British Academy of Management.

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