Herding Cats: Reflections on Collaborative Research Projects

Karsten Jonsen, IMD Christina Butler, Kingston University Rian Drogendijk, Uppsala University Jakob Lauring, Aarhus University Jon E. Lervik, Norwegian School of Management Kristiina Makela, Hanken School of Economics Cecilia Pahlberg, Uppsala University Markus Vodosek, German Graduate School of Management and Law Lena Zander, Uppsala University

“When you put good people together with a good process, good things come out. You don't need to have objectives." Bjørn Z. Ekelund Managing Director, Certified Psychologist, MBA Human Factors AS This paper explores issues of collaboration and knowledge generation in a large academic author team through the reflexive lenses of three cases. There is amble evidence from a variety of scientific fields, that diverse perspectives and backgrounds have the potential to produce excellent results. Yet, potential gains from diversity may easily be neutralized by process losses (Stahl et al., 2010). The value-in-diversity (Cox, Lobel, & McLeod, 1991) / process loss duality applies to academic author teams as much as any other diverse setting. It can namely be argued that academics (scientists) are independent, autonomous thinkers (e.g. Busse & Mansfield, 1984) that cannot easily be managed (Mintzberg, 1998; Stephan & Levin, 1992) – or therefore, that large academic author teams resemble an exercise of herding cats (Hellawell and Hancock, 2001)1. This is, however, in stark contrast to the average number of authors of academic articles which has increased steadily over the past decade (Ellis & Zhan, 2011;
this metaphor is used when the complex situation for academic middle managers is discussed and it is noted that “More than one of our middle managers used the familiar metaphor of ‘herding cats’ for the management of academics. One Dean argued that at the end of the day he had to take some decisions where no consensus had been possible … that could only be done after a lengthy process of consultation and discussion had taken place” (p. 191).
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Straub & Anderson, 2010; Walsh, 2010), suggesting that an academic author team is not an oxymoron and worth studying in its own right. As academic writers we often study how others work instead of how we work ourselves. A group of scholars meeting in Uppsala (November, 2010) asked [ourselves] how we can bring our own process of research collaboration to paper so that other scholars can learn from our experiences. Since we are using our own work as the object for our inquiry and since we are "natives" in the processes under investigation, we can perhaps claim a better understanding than external observers would have been able to achieve. In order to understand our own process, we must be open-minded and accept our subjectivity. To compensate for our biases, we have to be transparent and account for them. The self-inspection methodology of "autoethnography" is defined as "the generation of theoretically relevant descriptions of a group to which one belongs based on a structured analysis of one's own experience and the experiences of others from one's group" (Karra and Phillips, 2011: 547). This methodology has been used in a variety of contexts where the subjective experience of the researcher has proved to successfully induce theory development, including studies of minority groups, education, and arts (Scherdin, 2007) and international research teams (Karra and Phillips, 2011). Tartas and Mirza (2007) study their own participation in a European R&D project and focus on how collaboration evolves and new knowledge is constructed. In particular, tensions and negotiations are discussed. Further, yet different, inspiration comes from Akkerman, Admiraal, Simons and Niessen (2006). In this article, the issue of international collaboration and diversity is discussed and it is concluded that “diversity should neither be seen as an obstacle for understanding, nor be presupposed as a resource for meaning generation. Rather, diversity should be actively worked on by group members in collaboration, starting by perceiving each other as real ‘others’ and receiving arguments initially as not understood”. Central to our concern for collaborative writing processes is Teagarden et al’s (1995) reflection on making sense of findings. These authors consider the core issue to be the alignment of different perspectives and starting points in terms of the right research approach and methods. They conclude that it is important to reach consensus on using “multiple methods – surveys and exemplary case studies – to produce the best study” (p. 1279). Methodologists generally agree that triangulation – the cross-examination between multiple investigators, forms of data, or theoretical perspectives – promotes a more informed understanding of the phenomenon and increases the validity and reliability of findings (Birkinshaw, 2004; Hurmerinta-Peltomäki & Nummela, 2004; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). However, we learn little how this objective can be achieved, and the question we strive to answer in this text is: how can we bring our own process of research collaboration to paper so that other scholars can learn from our experiences? A guiding principle for this paper is rooted in a position of philosophical pragmatism (e.g. Howe, 1988) which favors methodological appropriateness, as advocated by Patton (1990) and reflects the epistemological stance behind much mixed methods research (see Tashakkori A and Teddlie, 2003). Finally, the making of the present article here follows some of the same procedures and principles as we seek to describe. We aim to walk the talk in our attempt to suggest a coherent and pragmatic procedure for academic collaboration and writing. Furthermore, it enables us to reflect and transmit our own process. The paper is structured as follows. We first review previous research about conducting collaborative research projects. We then introduce our notion of reflexive collaborative research. In the subsequent section, lessons from the field will help us structure and exemplify typical steps in collaborative writing processes. We will also discuss in more detail what can be learned from these examples by contrasting them. The paper concludes with reflections on theoretical and practical implications. Patterns of Collaborative Writing We see increasing collaboration between several experts each bringing their personal expertise to the table (Gibbons, 1994). Collaborative writing requires that a group of researchers is able to draw upon, combine, and integrate the respective expertise of each of its members. Furthermore, collaborators need to be able to reconcile their different working styles and individual differences (Adams & Thornton, 1986; Blyler & Thralls, 1994; Ede & Lunsford, 1983).

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There is a clear trend towards co-authorship of articles and books as mentioned earlier (see also Beaver & Rosen, 1979a; DuFrene, & Nelson, 1990; Mendenhall, Oddou, & Franck, 1984; Newman, 2004; Petry & Kerr, 1982). This trend has at least eight interrelated reasons: (1) the pressure to publish more articles for tenure and promotion purposes (Adams & Thornton, 1986), (2) a decrease in time that an individual researcher can devote to writing because of teaching and administrative demands (Belanger & Brockman, 1994; Bloomfeld & Chandler, 1984), (3) increased visibility as part of an author team that includes elite researchers (Beaver & Rosen, 1979b), (4) a more fulfilling and intellectually stimulating research experience (Belanger & Brockman, 1994), (5) expectations of colleagues to receive co-authorship for their feedback on paper drafts, (6) requirements for higher-quality papers in an environment of increasing competition for journal space, and (7) the need to compensate for higher rejection rates of journals with a larger number of submissions (Barnett, Ault, & Kaserman, 1988). The eighth and, perhaps, primary reason for writing collaborations among researchers, is the cumulative growth of scientific knowledge. It is increasingly difficult for individuals to keep up with the frontier of knowledge across the various knowledge domains required for a given project, such as different subspecializations of a field and across a range of scientific methods. An International Context to Patterns of Collaborative Research Projects In the field of international management and international business, authors face the challenges of doing rigorous research across several cultural contexts where no individual researcher can be an insider in all cultures (Adler, 1984; Boyacigiller & Adler, 1991). In international management and international business research we see cross-cultural consortia of researchers as one mode of collaboration to facilitate high quality research across different contexts (Easterby-Smith & Malina, 1999; House et al., 2004; Von Glinow, Drost, & Teagarden, 2002). International collaborative writing thus requires even higher capabilities as complexity is added inherently. Teagarden et al (1995) and Easterby-Smith and Malina (1999) take stock of experiences with cross-national research consortia. They both agree that different phases of a research project raise different challenges. Based on their experience with an HRM best practice research consortium involving researchers from 18 countries, Teagarden et al. identified four successive phases in the life of a research consortium: (1) forming the research consortium, (2) generating questions and constructing a survey, (3) doing the research, and (4) making sense of findings. Although these authors do not explicitly go into the writing phase, many of their relational issues cover various aspects of creating a community of participants and managing the inclusion and involvement of a diverse group of people in terms of national backgrounds, research skills, and seniority. Measures taken included developing clear ground rules such as authorship and data ownership guidelines. Trust was developed most rapidly through “working sessions in which each member could see each others’ abilities and work together to resolve challenges” (p. 1271). Another relational issue which was important for constructive collaboration was a shared vision in terms of overall outcomes of the research. Easterby-Smith and Malina (1999) can offer additional insights when it comes to the latter stages of interpreting findings and writing up research. They provide reflections on a contrasting study of cross-cultural collaborative research, an idiographic interview based research collaboration between Chinese and British academics on firm level decision-making and HR practices in the two countries. During the design and initial execution of the study, they report how time pressure and a desire for consensus reduced focus on exploring potential differences in methodological orientations or ontological orientations, or more fundamentally if there were “different views about what constitutes valid research” (p. 83). In the several stages of the fieldwork UK and Chinese researchers experienced they were interested in collecting different pieces of data (perceptions versus factual information), and focused on differences and similarities respectively when comparing cases A shared vision was difficult to achieve with different views of knowledge and how to interpret it, but through working together respective research teams “started to understand and appreciate each other’s initial perspectives” (p. 81). Given that research is often grounded in axiomatic knowledge and assumptions, and at times entails incommensurable philosophical positions, it is no easy task to create alignment or shared vision. Overall, the challenge of creating a shared vision and appreciate differences in world views or views of what constitutes good, interesting, valid research may require considerable observation and dialogue to surface. 3

Easterby-Smith and Malina build on the insight that the potential for “convergence between previously distinct perspectives” makes the case for a more reflexive approach during an ongoing research collaboration (and not only afterwards, in an “after action review”). They contend that past experience of doing research in one culture does not make one equipped to make sense of events in a different culture as insiders would. Through working together and observing each other in action, the respective research teams not only built trust, but also came to understand and appreciate different approaches to doing research and, by extension, developed a more reflected view of one’s own research practice which may have been taken for granted. Although many of these insights only crystallized and were formulated in the aftermath of the actual project, the authors suggest that a conscious adoption of dialogue would have created “space in which to exchange expectations, assumptions and feelings as the project progressed” (p. 84). Reflexive Collaborative Research: The Individual, the Group, and the Field Collaborative research draws on the combination of individual group members’ varying academic skills and subjectivities in interpreting the field and acquired research results. A collaborative research process includes several different social processes including 1) division of labor, 2) psychological support, and 3) the construction of meaning through intra-group dialogue (cf. Antal & Richebé, 2009). If a collaborative research project aims simply at dividing work tasks among single individuals, the purpose may be purely to economize the resources of different researchers. Specific competences of specific researchers are employed to different parts of the research process such as research design, data collection, data analysis, and writing. Senior researchers may undertake tasks that require experience while junior researchers may engage in tasks that are more labor intensive. In such a project, the collaborative influence and interaction may only impact resource consumption and may not change the final product of the research. The main task of this type of research collaboration is the organizing of the division of labor. Ede and Lunsford (1990) surveyed 1,400 members of seven professional associations such as The American Consulting Engineers Counsel and The Modern Language Association and identified seven patterns of how collaborators divided up their work (see Table 1). Table 1: Patterns of Collaborative Writing Pattern of Collaborative Writing Percentage of Respondents Who Indicated That They Used the Pattern Often or Very Often 22%

1. Team or group plans and outlines. Each member drafts a part. Team or group compiles the parts and revises the whole. 2. Team or group plans and outlines. One member writes the entire draft. Team or group revises. 3. One member plans and writes draft. Group or team revises. 4. One person plans and writes draft. This draft is submitted to one or more persons who revise the draft without consulting the writer of the first draft. 5. Team or group plans and writes draft. This draft is submitted to one or more persons who revise the draft without consulting the writers of the first draft. 6. One member assigns writing tasks. Each member carries out individual

26%

31%

10%

3%

21% 4

tasks. One member compiles the parts and revises the whole. 7. One person dictates. Another person transcribes and revises. Source: Ede & Lunsford (1990: 49). The above table suggests that two factors determine collaboration patterns: how team members organize their participation in the project (sequentially or in parallel), whether team members work independently or interdependently and the stage of the project (planning, draft writing, and revising and submitting). It has been suggested that teams benefit from variety, for instance of cultural variety, in generating creativity (Stahl et al., 2010). In about half of the collaborations described, the planning or idea generation stage is done in interdependent teams, while in the other half single persons are responsible for the first idea and organization of the collaboration. In these patterns where one person is responsible for the planning of the project, other team members become active in later stages, namely when writing the draft or providing feedback and revising the paper. Further, in the drafting stage, there is either one team member who writes the entire draft, or several team members that produce parts of it (which are then compiled by an individual or a group), but no interdependent work. This suggests that the advantages of diversity are mainly achieved in the planning stage and the revising stage, and not in the writing in itself, which seems to be the most independent part of research collaborations. Such a division of labor, however, may not serve all needs of individual contributors. A group’s research collaboration also provides psychological work encouragement and feelings of minimizing/dividing risk by leaning on the experience of one or more senior colleagues as well as the possibility easing negative emotion should the research fail or a publication be rejected. Moreover, some researchers are academically talented and highly skilled but may have difficulties in organizing their work effort and thus enjoy the organizing assistance of peer group members for performing their work in a timely fashion. But the mere division of labor and basic psychological safety (Edmondson, 1999; 2003) are rarely the only results of research collaboration. Most often the dialogue between different researchers combined with the interaction with the research field or subject of inquiry includes a construction of meaning that enables the research group to reach a final product that is a result of creative interactions. At least this is the aspiration of funding authorities on a global scale (Lee & Bozeman, 2005). The anticipated creative interaction involves researcher-to-researcher contact and is not unlike the conceptual interaction experienced in field research. As Geertz (1979) terms it, a researcher…: ... engages in a continuous tacking between the most local of local detail and the most global of global structure in a way as to bring both into view simultaneously… Hopping back and forth between the whole conceived through the parts which actualise it and the parts conceived through the whole which motivates them, we seek to turn them, by a sort of intellectual perpetual motion, into explications of one another (p. 239). This hopping back and forth between one’s own position and the position of others in the designing and publishing of joined research is a process of collective meaning construction that could result in a product of higher conceptual quality than any of the single participants could have achieved (Lee & Bozeman, 2005). This process may be perceived as a hermeneutical movement where the creation of meaning in the whole (the research design or research paper) depends on interpretations of the different parts (authors, fields, literatures), but where the contribution of the single parts are also interpreted in the relation to the whole (cf. Gadamer, 1989). Put differently, the contribution of an individual author can only be understood and evaluated as being part of the ongoing collective effort. Accordingly, the single researcher understands the research object through the structures surrounding him or her. Therefore the working towards a collective product is shaped through a combination of different group 5 8%

members’ experiences, perceptions and expectations of the final outcome that may gradually be aligned during interaction and dialogue between participants, data and other sources of inspiration. Bourdieu (1990) suggests a duality in which structures in the surrounding world guide our actions on the one hand, while our actions maintain or modify those guiding structures on the other. This duality creates a dynamics between the individual and the collective, and between the internal and the external, thus leading to an internalization of the external. Applied to collective research, the individual participant in a collaborative research project gradually internalizes some perceptions and views from other participants while at the same time providing opportunities for other researchers to internalize parts of his or her perception of the final product. Accordingly, the process of collective meaning construction in joined research projects may be compared to the much debated agency/structure dialectics (e.g. Bernstein, 1985; Giddens, 1984; Tambiah, 1990). The role and impact of the single participant should be conceived and evaluated in close relation to and in interaction with the collectivity of coauthors and the research field, and be conceptualized as structural constraints and opportunities in the research process. Finally, collaborative projects are not just about the task and what we label “division of labour” (as in Ede and Lunsford, 1990). Functions in groups have traditionally been divided into two components: the functions that contribute to group relationship maintenance and those regarding task accomplishment (Ancona & Caldwell, 1988). Group behavior has both task components, which focus on getting the job done, and interpersonal components, which center on the personal relationships among group members (McGrath, 1984). For example, some group members may have objectives or “outcome effects” such as cohesion and friendships. Learning From the Field In the following section we provide three different examples that illuminate collaborate research processes. The cases were selected with the purpose to have variety, not in the outcome as such, but rather because they represent different types of projects: a conceptual paper development project; a tool development project; and a data collection project. The ultimate objective here is to obtain and transmit a better understanding of practical applications of the theoretical and epistemological foundations outlined earlier in the paper. Since we intended to represent the view of the involved people, without ‘‘contaminating’’ the data (Moustakas, 1994), we did not engage in editing or streamlining the three texts for comparison reasons.

Example 1: Steps in the process of writing “Scientific Mindfulness”.

One of our chosen work for this exercise resulted — despite its faults — in an award-winning article at the Academy of Management meetings in 2010 and was subsequently published in Advances in International Management (Jonsen et al, 2010).

Step 1 Prepared brainstorming w/appointment of coordinator/leader (1st author)

A loosely connected OB research group (called ION) gathered for their annual meeting in Istanbul May, 2009, with one purpose being a discussion of what future research in international business “should” look like. A few people had prepared by skimming the literature for essential pieces that would serve as inspiration. In particular we used publications in journals such as the Journal of International Business Studies (2008, Vol. 39) and Management International Review (Vol. 49, 2009/2). This included a paper that had recently aired in JIBS (Griffith et al., 2008), because we thought it was of very high technical quality (rigor) but with epistemological foundations that we questioned. With this in mind we brainstormed what should be the leading themes in international business studies and why? Brainstorming in groups often works best in the initial phase of a project (e.g. McGlynn et al. 2004) but is naturally linked to idea generation and creativity, which was applied in this case. 6

Step 2 Structure and assignment of sub-groups with timelines

The assigned project leader spent a considerable amount of time trying to structure all the input from the brainstorm (from the face-to-face meeting) into initial categories that would make sense for the future work. Not only would this help structure the subsequent group-work and literature reviews, it would also be a base for the structure of the writing of the paper – which could later be revised using an open mindset and somewhat “clean sheet” (following Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Glaser, 1998). In essence, and in hindsight, we applied a mix of brainstorming group and nominal group at different times in the process.

Step 3 Content creation & Literature review(s)

Each subgroup (category) consisted of 3-4 people with one leader/coordinator and each group was asked to do a literature review and recommendations within the specific area - for example, “Are we asking the right questions”. In this review section, the scholars that were considered influential were identified and their work was synthesized and extrapolated (e.g. Adler and Harzing; 2009; Bell 2010; and Van de Ven’s, 2007). In some cases a 1:1 dialogue was opened directly with these authors, in order to better understand their work and thinking.

Step 4 Patch work, revisions and internal review process

A number of contributors (six) were dedicated upfront as “reviewers”. That is, based on individual expertise and skills, experiences and interests, people reviewed sequentially the emerging paper by focusing on a) content (i.e. what was missing and what was inadequate) and b) the structure of the paper. Given the number of eminent brains involved it soon became clear that there was plenty of content and the biggest efforts had to be put into structure, presentation, flow and internal logics of the paper. This “patch work” resembled a drugless trip (Glaser, 1978). The drugless trip in grounded theory refers to the period in the coding process when the researcher turns and twists the maze of codes from a rather mechanical exercise into a creative, sensemaking endeavour, for which there is no magic formula. The revisions were plentiful over the time where the steps described above took place. At the end of this process this process the paper was edited and discussions were held with potential outlets, not only for the purpose of publishing but also to get the right steer on the formatting and style. e submission process and subsequent “negotiations” with editors and reviewers was not a group effort. This complex admin task was done entirely by the project leader, obtaining the authorization of all co-authors when needed, including style-coherent biographies and other info details.

Afterthoughts

The final paper happened especially due to three reasons. Firstly, the authors were dealing with a subject which time had come – and several pieces that “followed” in 2010 (refs) – including the Presidential address to the Academy of Management (Walsh, 2010) were discussing vividly how to make international business research more relevant and what this relevance might mean. The contribution (Jonsen et al., 2010) was 7

perhaps particularly strong in the area of defining “relevance”. This is important because relevance is too often left abstract and inherently diffuse vis-à-vis rigor (see also Kieser and Leiner, 2009). Ph.D. programs train thoroughly future reviewers for rigor and methods, and therefore it often leaves relevance in an unfavourable situation. Secondly, the authors were dealing with an amazing amount of diversity [including informational diversity] in this project. Diversity, as well pointed out in its literature (e.g. Stahl et al., 2010), has the ability to outperform homogeneous groups, but only if managed well (e.g. Maznevski, 1994). In this case the structure, processes and division of labor were suggested early on in the project. The aim was to make use of the diversity in content and review processes (continuous improvements) Instead of suppressing divergent opinions, we made an effort to keep a “fluid structure” that could entail different viewpoints and thus enrich the paper. Single participants had the opportunity to gradually internalize some perceptions and views from other participants as well as provide opportunities for other researchers to internalize parts of his or her perception of the final product. It was also discussed to which extent there was agreement on the fundamentals and which areas there were less agreement on. Yet, the objective of contributing to “science that matters” was never under threat and so called positivists could work together with so-called constructivists harmoniously. The group provided each other with psychological work encouragement throughout the process, either via dyads (conversations) or emails (one to one and one to many). Thirdly, the project leader took clear roles in some phases (e.g. structure, timing and submissions processes) and had laissez fair rule others (e.g. how the sub-groups were working). Important here was what Richard Hackman labels refereeing (Coutu and Beschloss, 2009) – which is evidently needed in a large group of diverse minds and personalities2. Finally, since the chosen “task” was inherently cross-disciplinary, high on modularity and relatively low/medium on complexity (speciality insights), we benefitted mostly from the diversity of the group by using it in a brainstorming group early in the process vis-à-vis nominal groups (working individually) later on in the process (see also McGlynn et al., 2004).

Example 2: The Eval’Ethic Project Example

Eval’Ethic is an online ‘action-research’ tool (see Appendix A) to explore ethical decision-making in organisations. The French language tool was initially conceived and developed by Jean-Jacques Nilles, a philosopher and founder of Socrates, a small French company based in Lille. The tool was tested and further developed in conjunction with sociologist Christian Mahieu, the Socrates team and a number of French companies. To reach a wider audience, the French developers needed an English-language version and access to English-speaking test samples. The opportunity to connect with English-speaking academics and possible English test samples came through a chance introduction to the Dean of Kingston Business School and French native at an EASBIS conference in 2009 who mentioned the existence of a Kingston psychologist colleague, Sunitha Narendran, with an interest in decision-making. With pressures from the UK government’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise already beginning, Sunitha asked me with my knowledge of the French language and my research interest in cross-cultural management to join her in applying for some UK government ‘Enterprise’ funding in conjunction with Socrates and, possibly, get ourselves another ‘quick’ publication. From our side, division of labour was the sole social process for entering into this collaboration with ‘persons unknown to us’ from Socrates. For Sunitha there was an additional need for division of labour particularly as well as psychological support for research given her heavy administrative role as Head of Department. For me, well, I am not really sure. Step 1 heading tbd We all lurched into this virtual collaboration very suddenly and with no real understanding of the skills, abilities, constraints, resources, motivations or expectations of one another as a team. In this collaboration the individual doing the autoethnographic study was jumping on a “riding train”, which means that the brainstorming stage was skipped.

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i.e. making decisions on content and structure of the paper

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The situation was further complicated by language, workload and intellectual property ownership issues. Set up as an instrumental transaction, there was no discussion of the social processes behind the collaboration. In these ways, this collaboration was different from others I had embarked on to date which had mainly developed slowly over a period of time with both face-to-face contact and virtual phases in the development of the relationships. The first few weeks of our collaboration passed in increasing frustration. As the original contact with the French side, Sunitha led email contact with Socrates. In return for the fee Socrates was to receive from the Enterprise funding we won, we expected swift receipt of the on-line questionnaire for translation. We had short funding deadlines to meet, other heavy work obligations to attend to, and a desire for a quick publication. Response from the French side was puzzling. Days might pass before an email response was received and then it wouldn’t address the content of our message. We were also increasingly concerned by the lack of receipt of a formal ‘signature’ from Socrates founder Jean-Jacques Nilles on the Enterprise contract. With our instrumental division of labour focus, worries about wasted time began to appear. Was this collaboration worth pursuing? Sunitha was ready to give up on the relationship. I suggested that we might be having communication problems, possibly stemming from language difficulties, and that maybe a face-to-face meeting would help to clarify things. Step 2 heading tbd We invited Christian to visit us in Kingston and discovered that he was a ‘real’ academic like us, associated with one of France’s prestigious research centres, who was looking to generate publications and research funding. He also proved to be an extremely likeable person. In short, we ‘hit it off’ and so the seeds of psychological support began to germinate. Although we spoke in English at that meeting because Sunitha is a non-French speaker, Christian’s English was not fluent and, I noticed, that he missed parts of what we were saying, and, at times, I translated difficult ideas into French. He suggested we apply for some joint research council funding with an early April deadline. This suggestion was a move away from the initial solely transactional-based division of labour relationship to a more transformational one. Although I was excited by the possibilities, given my already full workload, my heart sunk at the enormity of the task especially coupled with the language challenges. Sunitha was somewhat oblivious to the challenges. In addition to being my colleague and close friend, she had, as Head of Department, little time to focus on the project and hoped that I would carry things forward. Not only was I realising through the careful reading of the French documents being sent by Christian for the bid that Eval’Ethic was not a psychometric tool, rather an action-research one, but was also quickly discovering that division of labour between Sunitha and I meant that I was to do all the work. I was now in the position of letting down a good friend (not to mention my boss) and feeling rather short of the psychological support that might have made the collaboration worthwhile. How could I have let myself become involved in this mess? How could I now get myself out of it? Step 3 heading tbd It proved easier, but not easy, to convince Sunitha that the funding bid was too much too soon. We had not produced any joint work to date and we certainly hadn’t constructed much meaning together! Although disappointed, Christian accepted our decision not to speed up the collaboration, but stick to the original plan; and invited us to meeting # 2 in Lille. Although I discussed our misunderstanding of the nature of the Eval’Ethic tool with Sunitha on a number of occasions, she was so preoccupied that it was not until she could question Christian about it in Lille that she finally understood that for Socrates the focus of the project was on the construction of meaning (of ethical decision-making) itself. Our instrumental focus on division of labour for a quick publication had led to much lost and energy. At the same time, it opened a new phase in the team’s collaboration in which psychological support became significant. We agreed to the piloting of Kingston students using a subset of the scenarios translated into English in the autumn. A whole team construction of meaning was still not a focus though it seemed to me like it might need to be. With the intellectual property owned by Socrates, it seemed though impossible to assert our intellectual sides. 9

Step 4 heading tbd The pilot didn’t happen until January 2011, much to Christian’s disappointment. Sunitha and I realised that, owing to other commitments, we couldn’t realistically continue with the project and continue to let down our French partners. A shifting in the division of labour was necessary. It was at this time when we hit upon the idea of turning over much of the work to two of our doctoral–level students who had expressed some interest in the area. As discussed with Christian when we met during Spring of 2011 (meeting # 3), together with one of my pHD students, industry funding too would be necessary to keep us going. Psychological support for the team as a whole was significant now with open discussions of workload issues and institutional political realities. Moving toward some collaborative construction of meaning seems a possibility. The strict division of labour seems to be fading too. Language and workload issues, coupled with our initially virtual relationship, have certainly proved significant obstacles to collaboration. We have nevertheless persevered. It seems in this case that processes of psychological support, friendship and compatibility mixed together with a certain amount of desperation (for an English-language connection on the French side and a business connection on the British side) have proved instrumental to us hanging in. We understand each other much better and mutual support is developing in spite of everything. With a little luck and work to get our students settled, we might be able to say we have finally established a real partnership. Afterthoughts From what was a very shaky start, the Eval’Ethic team have a number of small successes to be proud of and to build on. In the first 12 months that passed since our first face-to-face meeting, we just met face-to-face four times. The last meeting, like the first one, was held at Kingston, the United Kingdom. We have also managed to translate eight scenarios into English, submit and have accepted an abstract to the EABIS conference in St. Petersburg, attend the EABIS conference and hold a simultaneous third meeting in St. Petersburg, and conduct a small pilot study with Kingston Exec Ed MBA students in January 2011. Although the pilot study was very small, results look promising in that there seems to be considerable variation in the reaction to the scenarios. Further work leading to a full academic paper now seems possible as does extending the collaboration to PhD/DBA students and other researchers and seeking industry funding.

Example 3

A multilevel data collection process

Our third example is a 3-year large-scale, multilevel data collection process that took place between August 2008 and June 2011. The data collection focused on HRM issues in multinational corporations and was a collaborative effort between two Finnish universities, involving the joint efforts of nine researchers from various backgrounds and nationalities. The research group collaborated with 12 Nordic multinational firms and the data collection process consisted of three different stages, the first consisting qualitative pilot interviews, and the latter two involving the design and administration of five different questionnaires. The process emerged as follows:

Step 1 Pilot stage Six senior members of the research group had done work on both HRM and various issues related to multinational corporations, and as an opportunity arose to get financing for a major research project, they started to put together a research plan for an ambitious, internationally cutting edge project. The project plan started as a relatively loose and – at least in afterthought – messy collection of ideas, with which it was sold to the participating companies. The first step was to collect pilot data from the Corporate HR managers/directors of the participating companies, using semi-structured interviews that benchmarked their various HR practices. After considerable reflection, it was subsequently decided that a multilevel data collection effort was the way forward, both because it was the best way to examine the relationship between HR practices, their implementation and various employee and unit-level outcomes, and also because there had been recent calls 10

for rigorous multilevel research in the IB and HR fields (e.g., Felin & Hesterly, 2007; Minbaeva, Foss & Snell, 2009). Furthermore, it was decided that the appropriate levels of analysis should include the corporate (focusing on the Corporate HR function), subsidiary and employee levels of analysis.

Step 2 First stage of quantitative data collection The group then set off to design a set of three questionnaires: one for Corporate HR covering firm-level and HQissues, one for the subsidiary HR Managers focusing on various HR-related independent variables, and one for the subsidiary General Managers to get unit-level outcome variables, and also to avoid the pitfalls of common method bias. An employee-level questionnaire was kept in mind for the next stage of the process. The target was to examine 10 subsidiaries in 15 firms, with the total of 150 subsidiaries, and with some serious selling the total number of 123 units in the 12 firms was reached. An equally painful process was the design of the questionnaires. The six senior team members all had their own (and rather varying) research interests they wanted to include in the design. A brainstorming process was started in which different sub-groups (which were fluidly assigned by research interests and expertise) first came up with concrete paper ideas, theoretical frameworks and appropriate measures; these were then debated and contrasted against each other during a 6month period, which at times felt rather frustrating by all team members as ideas competed, were dropped and re-surfaced in a what felt like a very messy process. After multiple iterations, a final plan emerged that everyone was happy with, and data collection could start. The data collection itself was smoother than expected, partly due to the extensive preparation and planning, as well as the hiring of three excellent research assistants, two of which subsequently joined the project as PhD students.

Step 3 Second stage of quantitative data collection Having successfully completed the first stage quantitative data collection, the group started the second stage of quantitative data collection which included the design and administration of web-based questionnaires to approximately 10 managers and professionals in the focal subsidiaries, targeting some 1200 employees. The design of this questionnaire was, if possible, an even more painful process in which different interests, concepts and measures were fiercely debated – the number of questions in this form had to be minimized so as to reach high enough response rate; a low response rate was seen as a crucial pitfall to be avoided both for validity and data analysis reasons. The debate could have gone on but when an acceptable solution was reached, the group moved on to the actual data collection, which again went reasonably well thanks to the through preparation and another excellent research assistant joining the team (he also continued in the project as a PhD student); in the end a total number of 920 responses in 105 units were reached. With successfully completing such an ambitious multi-level data collection effort, the group decided to leverage their by then considerable expertise and relationships the companies, and go back to the Corporate HR to administer an additional post hoc questionnaire which covered research ideas that came up during the process.

Afterthoughts Such a large-scale and labour-intensive data collection process was both a major challenge and a huge learning process. As the first example, also this one was an emergent and creative sensemaking endeavour, in the beginning of which no-one knew (or could have guessed) where it would end up. Looking back, the emerging nature was a blessing as had the group known what was to come they may not even have started. Nevertheless, the project happened due to three reasons: First, the group was extremely committed to making it work and despite different interests and working styles each member showed considerable ownership and willingness to overcome obstacles. Second, the at times frustrating and organised dialogue was necessary for the outcome to emerge: as in the first example, instead of suppressing different viewpoints, the team engaged in a fluid discussion that took advantage of diversity in ideas and opinions in a spirit that was fundamentally supportive and trustful. Third, although some parts (such as questionnaire design) took place in a very emergent and self-organizing way, the project as a whole was highly objectives-driven with clear milestones 11

(such as meetings and reports to the case companies) that provided non-negotiable deadlines and the necessary discipline. One person took leadership of process issues, making sure that we were on track with the process and deliverables. The creative part, on the other hand, took place in a very equalitarian and selforganising way. This combination was, I believe, key for the success of the project (not that it felt like it at the time, but in hindsight!)

Uppsala Reflections

Lessons from the three processes mentioned above and this current paper, leads to a number of questions. First, in the Jonsen et al. project, the initial brainstorming stages were an act of a group of people, meant to maximize the benefits of variety and creativity, but with an initially loose and unstated objective. This was also the case for the data collection process, where the term “a messy collection of ideas” was used. The narrative of the Evil’Ethic project starts with the entrance of Kingston University partners in a French initiative: there seems to be no cross-cultural or international teamwork underlying the first steps of this project. Given the difficulties experienced by the Kingston side of the Evil’Ethic project, their ‘jumping on a riding train’ with little information on the path to follow led to frustrations and almost to a withdrawal from the project. This suggests that the first stage-setting part of a project is very important not only for developing ideas, but also for structuring the project and building trust.

Proposition 1: International research (or writing) collaborations benefit from early interdependence/interaction between many members of the team in terms of a) clarifying division of labor; b) building psychological support and c) constructing meaning.

Second, the narrative about the Evil’Ethic project explicitly mentions the importance of face-to-face meetings. Where the project seemed to be doomed to fail and the Kingston partners almost withdrew, a personal meeting between the French side and the English partners developed trust and laid the careful foundations for developing psychological support. In fact, the personal meetings seem to be related to the steps of progress in the project, suggesting that personal meetings are helpful for structuring the project as well. Furthermore, the data collection project as well as the Jonsen et al. project started out with a meeting of the participants in which idea generation was central. This early face-to-face interaction was not followed up as often as in the Kingston project, yet the participants were able to fall back on trust developed in this first meeting, perhaps because they already knew each other from past professional and social engagements. This suggests that personal meetings are less important for the later stages of a project once the project started out with an interactive meeting.

Proposition 2: International research collaborations benefit from face-to-face meetings throughout the project’s stages when interdependence3 and trust is not established in an early stage.

Earlier work on international research collaborations (Ede and Lunsford, 1990) found that some teams use the input from multiple team members in early stages of the project, like in the Jonsen project, whereas other Interdependence is defined as a state of being in which a person is determined, influenced or controlled by some other person (DeSanctic, Staudenmayer & Wong, 1999) and thus it reflects the extent to which group members are dependent upon one another to perform and complete their individual jobs. Interdependence has been found to affect a team’s conflict pattern, decision quality, job satisfaction, and performance (Kelley, et al., 1983; Somech, Desivilya & Lidogoster, 2009; Staw & Barsade, 1993; Tjosvold et al., 2003 ). 12
3

teams benefit from the variety of teammembers’ expertise in the later stages of feedback, reflection and revision. In all but one patterns of collaborative writing reported by Ede and Lunsford (1990), however, some stage of the project was organized by one individual: be it the initial idea or the planning, the writing of a first draft or the putting together of the submission. This suggests that research collaborations and in particular writing projects can benefit from the knowledge generation in diverse teams in different stages, but also that a certain division of labour seems to be preferred in such teams. Our example projects seem to support this: both the Jonsen as well as the current Uppsala team used a pattern where one person was main responsible for organizing the writing of the paper. In the Evil’Ethic project, no such single responsible person has stood out, perhaps because this collaboration is essentially one between two separate teams. Within both the French as well as the UK team, however, one person is mentioned to have become the responsible contact for the collaboration. This suggests a new pattern of collaboration: one where two subteams in a larger team each are represented by a person who has a larger role in the planning, writing and revising stages.

Proposition 3: International research collaborations benefit from using a pattern of sequential stages, in one of which a single individual is responsible for the progress of the project. In collaborative projects consisting of separate subteams, such responsibility is shared by representatives of the respective parts.

Concluding Reflections One contribution of this investigation is that we studied [mainly] the writing stage of international research collaborations, a stage that was mainly ignored in prior studies on research teams. Of particular relevance is our focus on how these collaborations of researchers operate in practice, another issue on which the literature has been rather silent (Salmi, 2010). Further, our use of and auto-ethnographic method, in particular to study an ongoing project, namely the current paper, is novel. Such an approach may of course suffer from know challenges of auto-ethnographic research, such as a lack of distance, role conflict of the researchers and a limited pool of potential study objects (Karra and Phillips, 2011). Because we studied three research collaborations, of which not all participants in the current project took part (only in the third example does the research team show extensive overlap with the authors of this paper), the lack of distance and the role conflict problems were less important. Some of the authors of this paper were outsiders to two of the cases we investigated, which means they had a more objective relationship to the collaborations studied and did not experience a role conflict. Further, by extending our pool of potential collaborations to those in which any member of our research team participated, we increased the variety of projects that could be included in our study. References (To be completed) Adams, P. G., & Thornton, E. S. 1986. An inquiry into the process of collaboration. Language Arts of Michigan, 2: 25-28. Adler, Ashton-Jones, E., & Thomas, D.K. 1990. Composition, collaboration, and women’s way of knowing: A conversation with Mary Belenky. Journal of Advanced Composition, 10: 275-292. Adler, N. J. 1983. Cross-cultural memagement research; The ostrich and the trend. Academy of Management Review, 8: 226-232. Adler, N. J., & Harzing, A. W. 2009. When knowledge wins: Transcending the sense and nonsense of academic rankings. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 8: 72–95. Akkerman, S., Admiraal, W., Simons, R.J. & Niessen, T. 2006. Considering Diversity: Multivoicedness in International Academic Collaboration. Detail Culture & Psychology, Dec2006, 12 (4): 461-485.

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Table X. An example of we can compile the learning from the field (ION and other collaborative projects) – we may decide on more relevant categories and we can of course include more than one from each collaborative project if we like

Collaborative projects Jonsen et al.

Main challenges Short time frame & busy individuals

How handled Time schedule and progress monitored and followed up

Comparative advantages Different disciplinary backgrounds

How benefitted In-depth discussion and breadth in topics addressed

Butler et al. K.M. et al. .....

Table Y. An example of how we can structure the findings currently from the Jonsen et al paper but also drawing on the other projects when developing a ‘model’ Collaborative model Step 1 Step 2 ..... Articles Brainstorming Themes All Input Activity Output Who

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Appendix

Eval’Ethic Sample

Situation example: Management Training for an Older Employee A 52 year old subordinate has made numerous requests for management training, because he would like to a management position. You do not think he has the necessary competences. He reiterates his request. A. You convey his request to HR without comment. B. During an appraisal meeting, you aim to make him understand his lack of potential. C. You meet with him to explain your view of his managerial competences. You suggest he have a conversation with HR to arrange a competence assessment. D. You explain to him that the business does not invest heavily in training for employees who are nearing the end of their career.

Eval’Ethic Instructions • Eval’Ethic presents you with a simplified situation within which a decision making problem arises. It describes: 1) The situation itself: the context of the decision and 2) The different options available to you: scenarios. • Firstly, it is suggested that you qualify the situation. Next, Eval’Ethic presents you with a set of possible scenarios for the situation. The scenarios have been identified by Managers based on their experience. It is suggested that you assess each of these decisions firstly from the perspective of its ethical value, then from the perspective of its probability. These two assessments are not necessarily the same: for example, it is possible that a decision is the best one for you, but that, in a real context, it is unlikely for a manager. • Finally, Eval’Ethic suggests that you make a decision, which should be the one that you would make if you were a Manager. As has already been specified, so that your answers are meaningful, they must relate to your personal point of view and not the ideal point of view. At the end of the survey, you will have access to your individual results. The survey results will allow you to position your answers against the average of others participants and analyse your point of view.

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