In last month’s blog, I wrote about traveling this summer with the band I play in. But this summer wasn’t all just fun and games! I also traveled for academic purposes (okay, maybe those trips were little fun, albeit exhausting, too). In August, I first went to Boston for the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, the largest conference of management academics in the world. Then I flew home for a few hours before driving out to Lexington, Kentucky, with some of our exceptional Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence (MSMOE) graduate students. I love summer but, as I mentioned in a blog three years ago, fall is my favorite time of year. I think one reason why is that I can get back into a standardized routine with less traveling once the semester begins.
At the Academy of Management conference in Boston, I helped facilitate a discussion along with Dr. Therese Sprinkle of Quinnipiac University. This particular discussion was attended by dozens of management professors interested in using movies to teach management concepts. We explained how, through specific clips, instructors can use the movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” to teach leadership. Dr. Sprinkle and I go way back – we shared an office together when we were both at the University of Cincinnati and we’ve been both close friends and frequent collaborators since! One reason to attend conferences is to reconnect with friends, colleagues and likeminded researchers. In the past, Dr. Sprinkle and I collaborated on pedagogical research related to using popular culture (such as “Wonder Woman,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Hobbit”) to teach organizational behavior. We’ve also worked on publications related to leadership as well as building trust in nonprofit organizations. At this conference, we discussed two new pieces of research that we hope to work on and publish in the upcoming months.
In Lexington, Kentucky, the MSMOE program works with the Engineering School’s True Lean Center at the University of Kentucky. Each year, a handful of students and faculty are welcomed by Dr. Abbot Maginnis and his team to participate in an intensive week-long lab simulation illustrating the power of continuous improvement, waste reduction and problem-solving. This year was the sixth year that we participated, and I personally learn something new every year. We also toured several area businesses (including the nearby Toyota plant) to learn firsthand how businesses leverage various management styles. Having read their assignments, I know that our grad students learned a lot as well!
Now that these trips are complete, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned. In Kentucky, I always enjoy hearing the reactions of students on the day’s experiences during our van rides to and from our evening activities. Though the formal university sessions are focused on tools and processes, I am struck by how little the students talk about these things. Rather they talk about how they communicate with their teammates during the simulation, conflicts that emerge and different ways in which people work. Thus, my belief that social elements of workplaces are more important than process, technical and physical aspects of work is often supported in these conversations.
Beyond this, at the Academy of Management, I learned how to be a more effective presenter and discussion facilitator. As an introvert, I often get nervous presenting to people (even though I do it nearly 12 hours a week!) and this is especially the case when I present in front of a group of peer researchers and instructors. I have found that doing so, though, makes me a better presenter and ultimately teacher – practice doesn’t “make perfect,” but it does lead to improvement.
Furthermore, with both Drs. Sprinkle and Maginnis, as well as others that I interacted with in Boston and Lexington, I am reminded of the importance of making and keeping connections. Doing so has provided me with not only valuable colleagues at other institutions to collaborate with, but also close personal friends.
Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, through both trips I’ve learned about work-life balance. As a teacher, researcher/author, director of our MSMOE program, musician, consultant, husband, son and, most importantly, father, I wear a lot of hats for different non-work and work roles. Taking significant time away from some of these by emphasizing one role over another stresses me out and so, when I travel, I am constantly reminded to do better in balancing my roles and making sure that my day-to-day activities are in line with my priorities.
I’m not sharing this to suggest that I’m any different than anyone else with my experiences in learning from travel. Rather, I’m sharing to again stress a common theme among several of my blog posts and my approach to teaching – people can learn from anything! We learn from the areas of pop culture we’re exposed to. We learn from our daily interactions with friends and family. We learn from our successes and opportunities for growth at school and work. And we learn from the travels that we take that could lead us to unexpected adventures.
That said, I am looking forward to starting – and doing a lot of learning – this semester.
I am excited to hear your thoughts on your biggest learning experiences! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn. Please also feel free to leave a comment below!
Dr. Mike Urick