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On the alliance of executive education and research in information management

On the alliance of executive education and research in information management

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Published by Rik Maes
How executive education is not contrary, as is often believed, to academic life, but integral part of it. Published in the International Journal of Information Management, 2003.
How executive education is not contrary, as is often believed, to academic life, but integral part of it. Published in the International Journal of Information Management, 2003.

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Published by: Rik Maes on Feb 19, 2011
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International Journal of Information Management 23 (2003) 249–257
Research notes
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On the alliance of executive education and research ininformation management at the University of Amsterdam
Rik Maes
Department of Business Studies, Faculty of Economics and Econometrics, University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 11,NL 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1. Information management at the University of Amsterdam
Over the past 15 years, information management (IM) has emerged as a management sub-discipline, both in academic research as well as in practice. The creation of an IM Chair reflectsthis importance. What started as a chair in Information Systems at the periphery of the Facultiesof Economics and Computer Science, now incorporates a fully integrated discipline in theAmsterdam Graduate Business School. Its main activities are the running of Bachelors andMasters programmes in Business Studies and Information Studies (both with a major in IM), theExecutive Masters in Information Management (EMIM) programme and the PrimaVera (aplayful acronym for ‘‘PRogram in Information MAnagement at the uniVERsity of Amsterdam’’)research programme. This paper predominantly deals with the combination of the latter two.IM is a young discipline, still struggling with its theoretical identity and its role and place inorganizations. Our approach to IM is primarily aimed at keeping the significance of IM topractice (and hence overcoming the common belief that ‘academic’ stands for being ‘impractical’),yet conforming to and applying academic rigour to the discipline. This approach was shaped by15 years of experience in aligning executive education and research. The incessant interaction of education and research and of university and business simultaneously is noticeably helpful inhighlighting the very concept of IM and its constituent parts. Teaching at the frontline of anemerging discipline gives rise to innovative combinations of learning and research in which thespecific expertise of executive students as ‘‘reflective practitioners’’ (Sch
.
on, 1983) is exploited.These observations are in line with the often heard appeals to study and develop IM in innovative,
$
If Research Institutes, University Research Departments, laboratories and other university level organisations wishtheir research profiles to be considered for the Research Notes Section in the Journal, then please contact Prof. NimalJayaratna, School of Information Systems, Curtin University of Technology, Perth WA 6845, Australia, e-mail:nimal@cbs.curtin.edu.au.
E-mail address:
maestro@fee.uva.nl (R. Maes).0268-4012/03/$-see front matter
r
2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/S0268-4012(03)00024-0
 
generative and action-based ways. In this respect, traditional academic ‘‘ivory tower’’ approachesare too distant to be relevant to practice.This paper gives an account of the unique combination of executive education and research inIM as it is practiced at the University of Amsterdam. To this end, we first elaborate on the jointlearning model and the notion of IM, after which we discuss the EMIM programme in brief andthe PrimaVera research programme at length.
2. A common learning model
Our joint executive education/research exploration of IM started in the euphoria of the mid-80sbased on strategic (so-called ‘‘killer’’) applications of information technology. IM was positionedat the crossroad of strategy, organization and information technology. The approach wasclassical, but in retrospect featuring the seeds for the future joint learning model:
*
Theory-based:
unlike many traditional MBAs, the EMIM programme was not conceived as acollection of case studies resulting mainly in recipe-like solutions for temporary problems.From the very beginning, our belief was that innovative approaches to IM should be anchoredin firm, interdisciplinary research; the EMIM programme is the breeding ground as well as thetest lab for this research.
*
Action-oriented:
learning takes place through action in practice; care for organizations shouldbe integral part of any (information) managerial learning process, just as patient care is part of any medical training programme. This is equally applicable to teachers/researchers as tostudents/practitioners. In this respect, the active link between the EMIM and PrimaVeraprogrammes has turned out to be a tremendous advantage.
*
Common frame of reference:
our understanding of IM as a developing discipline was very muchguided by a common frame of reference that was
simultaneously
elaborated throughfundamental research and testing in practice.
*
Open staffing:
the nucleus of the EMIM faculty is from the University of Amsterdam, but it isgenerously complemented with external (mostly: academic) teachers. Non-academic membersare ‘‘reflective practitioners’’ ensuring practical relevance beyond the issues of the day.Gradually, a significant number of non-University of Amsterdam teachers is also involved inthe research activities of the discipline. Our underlying belief is that the contribution of aresearch group should not be evaluated by bookkeeping or by only counting the number of publications of internal staff, but via the contribution of its ‘‘community of practice’’ at large topractice as well as to theory (Wenger, McDermott,&Snyder, 2002). Step by step, these guiding principles were articulated and worked out, resulting in theimplementation of the comprehensive ‘‘
learning by sharing
’’ model (seeFig. 1). This model is anadaptation of an earlier learning model (Thijssen, Maes,&Vernooij, 2002). Key to this model is the redefinition of the partnership between academics, business people andtheir organizations. Every participant’s dual role (teacher/researcher correspondingly practi-tioner/student) is made explicit and addressed, as indicated inFig. 1, and they are
actively
R. Maes / International Journal of Information Management 23 (2003) 249–257 
250
 
involved in the mutual exchange of knowledge, experience, etc. In effect, each person in each roleis a co-learner!Looking at the ‘‘learning by sharing’’ model from the point of view of the researcher, makesclear that the teacher/student axis (the heart of any educational program) adds valuable extraoptions for interaction with practice, both in terms of observing and formulating hypotheses aswell as testing these hypotheses and the evolved theories. In addition, it may be an arena to furtherconsider for bringing together rigour (associated with the researcher) and relevance (associatedwith the practitioner).Fully explaining the ‘‘learning by sharing’’ model is beyond the scope of this paper. However,adhering to this model means that one is constantly triggered to consider the bilateral interactionsbetween theoretical developments and practical effectiveness, as is the case with the EMIM andPrimaVera programmes.
3. A common understanding of information management
IM can be considered as a discipline in its adolescence. This ‘teenager phase’ is furtheraccentuated by the extremely volatile environment in which IM is supposed to grow up. Hence,developing an understanding of IM is not only a question of time and patience (as is allegedly thebest stance vis-
"
a-vis adolescents), but it is above all a joint effort of all parties involved. Our earlyconception of IM, being the (ill-defined) management in the triangle linking strategy, organizationand information technology, was further advanced through research, teaching, application in real-life organizations and above all constantly (re)designing the EMIM programme itself: learning bysharing in optima forma! Finally, an elaborated model of IM, represented inFig. 2, was adopted;this model (Abcouwer, Maes,&Truijens, 1997;Maes, 1998;Maes, 1999) is concurrently serving as the reference framework for the PrimaVera research programme and for the EMIM executiveeducation programme.The model relates the (external and internal) processes of information and communication totheir supporting technology and to the business aspects (the horizontal dimension of the model);these relationships occur at strategy, structure and operations level (the vertical dimension). Theinformation/communication processes (the middle column) and structural elements (the middlerow) are made explicit, contrary to the well-known model of Henderson and Venkatraman (1993)
studentpractitionerresearcherteacher
 practicetheorybusiness university
Fig. 1. Learning by sharing.
R. Maes / International Journal of Information Management 23 (2003) 249–257 
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