Note: This post first featured on “The Art of…” blog, under my name: David Atkinson http://davidsartof.blogspot.com/
Last week I had the good fortune to enjoy a formal reception and dinner in the roof-top Justizcafé of the Justizpalast in Vienna. I dined in the company of some bright new minds in management and organisational research, drawn from many of the top universities of the European states, and including some others from around the world – from Australia, Brazil, USA, and Canada.
While – like me – there were a few older “newly qualified” academics, the majority demonstrated the real potential of a younger generation to contribute many, many years of dedication to developing the body of management and organisational knowledge. The diversity of talent at that dinner was impressive; like children, their futures stretched out before them. Talking to a number of them, both during the reception and dinner and before, during the earlier events of that day, you could see and hear the passion they held for their subject matter.
Following that dinner, and in a less formal grouping – enjoying a simple meal and beers in central Vienna – I reflected on the prequel to the 23rd Colloquium of the European Group of Organisational Studies, in which newly qualified PhD graduates, and those still in the process of study, had been given the opportunity to discuss their work with a faculty of established European academics. I recalled – not for the first nor, I doubt, the last time – Picasso’s notion that every child is an artist; the problem is how to retain the artist in them once he or she grows up. Here, to be metaphorical, in my presence were some of the talented child-artists of the academic world.
It is ironic that, given the state of funding of academic institutions – particularly in the business and management schools into which these new academics are beginning to find their way – the expectations placed on academics to publish in only “certain” recognised A grade publications, or to produce research output that meets the “requirements” of sponsors, can seemingly act to constrain the freedom of thought and interpretation that acts to reveal new knowledge. Is the space between the academic world and the business world being eroded to such an extent that it is no-longer a space for creative play? If we lose this space at the expense of making the academic world a potential profit centre – as with any other market place – are we seeing the death of yet another artform?