One of the four specific activities of the Academy of Management Entrepreneurship Division determined by its Constitution is “promoting and conducting the interchange of information concepts, ideas and research results among those academicians and practitioners interested in entrepreneurship”. In the light of this statement, it is interesting to take a moment to think about how many practitioner members you know in person. And how many of them have you seen at Annual Meetings? Statistics suggest that we are the second least popular division among practitioners after Research Methods, and those executive members we have, are generally unwilling to join us for Annual Meetings.
All this is happening in spite of the fact that Division’s leadership is doing a great job to make ENT a fantastic community for everyone involved – as a member of six different divisions I can say with confidence that ENT is one of the most dynamic, creative, inclusive and forward-looking communities within the Academy. We even have a Nontraditional Academics Committee that addresses specific concerns of academics that have non-traditional career backgrounds — whether in the period prior to their academic career (i.e., extensive industry/entrepreneurship experience) or in their choices of their academic careers. So why are we still failing in fulfilling an important part of our constitution? The following story might shed some light on this mystery.
One of our executive members – Tom Walter – shared this story in hopes that it will help the Division enjoy greater success by unleashing the energy of meaningful connections between academics and practitioners. Tom has been an owner/operator in the food and beverage service industry for over 40 years. During this time period he has been a Partner, Principal, President and/or CEO of 29 start-up companies and acquired three. There are currently 9 companies in operation; five were started by his staff. His main company Testy Catering won local, state and national awards for “Best Place to Work” and “Best Caterer”, and became a basis for cases, books and a doctoral dissertation. The results of Tom’s collaboration with researchers and teachers are indeed a great example of synergies that practice and academia can create.
At the recent Annual Meeting in Boston Tom was in an elevator, returning to the ground floor after being a panelist with four reputable academics. The only other occupant in the elevator was a professor at a university in Chicago. Tom said “hi” and called her by name after looking at her badge and mentioned they were from the same city. She looked at his badge with the name of his company printed instead of academic affiliation, and said “oh, hi” and turned around to face the door. The slight was obvious, although maybe not intended.
One week later Tom was at a meeting of her university’s entrepreneurship advisory board, of which he was a member, and a professor of entrepreneurship said a certain professor was looking for a guest presenter who could speak on the subjects that Tom had deep passion for. She asked if he would speak with her. Tom suggested that they be connected by e-mail. Doctor X and Tom connected. After a very interesting discussion, she stated that his knowledge and experience was just what she needed for her class, and asked if he would consider presenting to two segments. Tom agreed. At the end of the discussion, during the small talk time, she said “I think I have heard of you other than from Drs. Y & Z”. Tom said “Yes, we shared an elevator car at the Boston Park Plaza on Monday August 6th at about 4:00 PM. Silence – then “oh yes, you were that guy”.
This story is typical. Most of the ENT members I talked to in Boston demonstrated very little understanding of what a practitioner might be doing among them. “The AoM has a caste system that is ridiculous.” – Tom says – “My name badge is not looked at to determine my name, but rather my affiliation. Do I belong to an elite major institution or a lowly college? When Tasty Catering is sighted on my name badge, the reaction is funny. I get a look like “what are you doing here?” The caste system should disappear in the ENT Division.”
It is crystal clear from the Tom’s story that this unfortunate disconnection between practice and academia within the ENT Division is primarily rooted in the mindsets of us – the members – rather than in any particular institution. Building on the successes of past and present leaders of the Division, the Communications Committee is determined to further advance ENT development by starting an open discussion on how to make academics (traditional and non-traditional) and practitioners want to belong to the ENT Division and feel valued as an ENT Division member.
Starting with the next issue, ENT NewsBlast will be edited by three co-editors representing three groups of members. We are a dynamic and open-minded team dedicated to giving voice to every group of members that has a message for the broader ENT community. We already have a bunch of ideas, but what we would really love to see is your ideas overwhelming ours and pushing the Division and its every member forward to greater success. Below are short messages from all members of our editorial team, and our contact details. We very much look forward to your e-mails with questions, comments and wonderful new ideas!
Original article is here.