AIMAC CONFERENCE 2015 day two 

Anne from Deakin presented first on coproduction in the museum sector, specifically focusing on professional bodies as co producers. It was an interesting perspective for me given my employment with NAVA in 2012/3. She described a process of institutional inertia with regard to change toward new working models. That sounds familiar. 
The model took change management theory and applied it to professional association’s response to coproduction in museums. It was a great example, to me, of application of theory in a practical context. A great role model. And a note that it is a quirk of this modern world that I travel to the south of France to hear someone who grew up in the same area as me and who studies the local area my father lives in. 
Paper three delivered by Wendy Reid from Montreal in the first session was on role transitions for artists, such as moving into an artistic director role. Given there’s been a bit of focus on artistic directorship in Australia, and our tendency to now import in people from non artistic roles, I thought this was very interesting.

The second plenary session improved on the first, in the sense my headphones were not quite as painful, but still ran as a series of presentation as opposed to real round table. It was on territorial anchoring of cultural activity and not uninteresting to me from a cultural policy and creative cities perspective, but the combination of the format, the heat and the distance created by the language made it hard to maintain concentration. The last speaker, however, was the head of Liverpool 2008- European Capital of Culture who presented a really engaging look at the impact of the festival and societal impact of cultural activity. It was worth listening to the other six just to hear him. 
In the afternoon, really struggling with the heat, I left HR for strategic management to hear Ravid’s presentation on the financial impact of stars in Broadway productions. While clearly a “flashy” topic and one clearly appealing to many of my Surry Hills neighbours, it is really about the measurement of organisational impact created by individuals, similar to the study of CEOs. He is an engaging speaker and the topic was an appealing one (in short: theatre stars impact show performance, but movie stars do not.)
It was different being in the strategic management track for a while because I found myself in the world of quantitative analysis, all statistics and variables. I do love a good statistic in terms of using them to tell a story, but it also reminded me why I failed first year statistics in my undergraduate degree. (After being a maths geek in secondary school.) 
The third session in this block was an investigation into competition and copyright policies and while I like to think I know a little bit about the latter (at least in the Australian context) I had absolutely no idea what was going on after the introduction bar a few terms. The formulas looked impressive. I’m blaming tiredness. 
After a break I returned to strategic management, as I’d met someone who I wanted to support. The first speaker in this block, Dottie, was talking on strategic communication to build arts audiences and fundraising, and was presenting in a classic corporate way, not academic. If corporate style is at one end and academic at the other, I was somewhere in the middle, maybe slightly on the corporate side. Dottie was hanging out as far left as I’d seen since I left American Express. I was really interested to see if she got called on it, not presenting a paper in the traditional sense, given I’d been raked over the coals for the same. (I noted too Dottie had just completed a Masters, so wasn’t engaged in doctoral research or an academic.) And for a 20minute presentation I think she used about 36 slides. She reminded me of the Anna Kendrick character in Up in the Air (at the beginning of the film.) 
Interestingly the third speaker was a management consultant, from Ontario Canada, looking at change in arts organisations. She didn’t use a presentation at all, preferring just to speak. I could see from watching both of these presenters where the critique I received came from. In the first case there was no research, just hypothesis, and in the latter there was extensive research (over three years) but no theoretical underpinnings. While I have both theoretical underpinning AND research I may actually have too much research (as much as I like interviews I think I’m going to have to stop at 50 maximum.) And my challenge is building a comprehensive theoretical framework that aligns to my data outcomes and helps position me where I want to go academically. I think I’ve probably said this in every post but it’s been hammered home.
At 6pm I was happy to retire for an aperitif. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have two years to sort this stuff out. But at the same time I’m thinking it might be good if I don’t teach in 2016 to really focus on this.

AIMAC doctoral symposium 2015 day two 

Welcome to the second day of the doctoral workshop.

Bernard Cova  from KEDGE Business School kicked off a discussion on publishing or perishing (that old chestnut) with a reinterpretation of the concept to Apollonian versus Dionysian research.  The first being less publications in A level journals, the second being more varied publications in those with lesser status.

So is it visibility or journal credibility? Is getting your ideas out there as important than publishing in the most prestigious journals. Citations versus journal status. In the end the answer maybe both. We need, as academics, to be visible but also to publish in the best journals we can. For us pressing our noses against the glass window of our first journal publication it’s all just theory isn’t it? We just want to be let in.
What was interesting is there is a push to move beyond academic journals to actual societal impact study. Thus getting papers into publications like Harvard Business Review which have a wider audience than just academics. And apparently Business schools are even thinking of changing their names to Societal Schools- as they impact society not just business. I might just leave that alone. But you can still see some eye rolling when it comes to practical application, and when you read my presentation feedback below you’ll see another example. But it’s academia, contribution to theory is the main goal.

No discussion about platforms like The Conversation that get academic ideas out to a wider audience, but I’m guessing it isn’t as well known in Europe as elsewhere.

Joyce Liddle  from IMGPT Aix-en-Provence University was more practical in advice, build your own network. Impact in your way. Yes academic but publish in places where your can contribute to the conversation. I could see Joyce at UTS as she has the same approach as many I encounter there. 

Gretchen, who I mention yesterday, also raised the idea of broader visibility, including media and social media. It’s all a platform for ideas.

Then we were off for the last doctoral presentations….including mine.

My presentation went well on one perspective and badly in another. The audience reacted well. Good questions and engagement. The feedback from the assessors was focused largely  on one point, which zeroed in on a big fear I have- I’m not academic enough. My presentation style is spare, I don’t use a lot of words on PowerPoint or data dump lots of references. So the assessor asked me what were the three key academic articles I’m responding to. And I don’t have that to the point I clearly need to. I’m working in a cross disciplinary way, not relating to an existing model or conceptual framework, so I can’t say I’m building on X author. Though of course in retrospect I could has said I’m building on the work of Jo Caust….but mind blanks at the time.  Consequently the feedback was I could be writing a consultant report not a PhD. OUCH. How to demoralise someone moving into academia late in life. 
I’m not arguing with the feedback, it’s likely spot on, but highlights what I think is my major weakness, articulated yesterday, that I may not be academically aligned to arts management as much as I need to long term (if I want an academic career, this whole process raises the question that maybe I AM a consultant long term, not an academic.) I did get a lot more feedback and discussion over lunch from both Gretchen and Ruth, the academic organising the doctoral program, which was incredibly valuable and extremely kind of them. In some cases my weakness was not my research, but my presentation which probably wasn’t “academic enough” in terms of demonstrating my theoretical understanding (which is there.)  It reiterates the fact  I think I need Melbourne based support within the arts management or business field as I enter the writing stage.  Ruth suggested a few names, including Amanda Sinclair, which anyone who has read this blog knows, I THINK IS AN ABSOLUTE LEGEND. I could only dream having advice from someone of that calibre.
So enough soul searching and whining. Now I’ve got 24 hours or so to decompress before the main conference starts on Sunday night. From here on this blog will feature the key themes in the HR track at the conference. (And my personal blog may get a post on life in Aix-en-Provence.)