Ibrat Djabbarov, Doctoral Researcher, Cranfield School of Management
“For me, impact is about helping others. I’m just helping individuals and organizations to accomplish impact by doing things differently”
Ibrat Djabbarov’s research explores micro-foundations of strategy and change, particularly by looking at the work of social innovators. Prior to joining Cranfield School of Management, Ibrat worked in international development, focusing on leading strategic change and innovation to improve healthcare in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. At Cranfield, Ibrat studies how organizations navigate complex environments and accomplish systems change.
Different levels of impact – micro and/or macro?
As a medical professional who became a management scholar, Ibrat has a unique understanding of impact at the micro and macro levels. As a trained doctor, he was able to have a micro-level impact by helping individuals, and lead systemic changes at the macro level. Ibrat explains, “Doctors working in the hospitals often used to say it was the system and that they could not do anything about it. I thought, ‘Why not?’ People elsewhere are already doing something, and we can do things better here too.” As a medical student, Ibrat worked to introduce Evidence-Based Medicine training into the school’s curriculum.
Ibrat was determined to change the status quo at the system level, and found the topic of health policy and administration relevant. After medical studies, he studied public health management and worked in international development, where he was designing programs and policies to help improve access to healthcare in resource-poor countries. Whilst working at the macro-level change, he came to appreciate the necessity to understand and engage at the micro-level.
Ibrat now sees micro and macro impact as mutually beneficial and complementary. As he states, “To accomplish change at the macro level, I have to go back to the micro. Because it is about understanding how we think and how we use our imagination and human ingenuity to drive improvements and change.”
Impact in action
Ibrat loves to teach. He is planning a course that could help students to take a broader view of their lives, and view themselves and their managerial practice in the larger scheme of things while considering what makes a ‘good life’.
Another thing Ibrat enjoys doing is community service. He has been involved with the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) initiative. He organizes webinars with leading management scholars to share their experience and knowledge on topics such as researching grand challenges, conducting rigorous case study research, writing theory, and so forth. All the webinars are recorded and available on the New Scholars YouTube channel.
Ibrat also has other ways of communicating and disseminating impact, such as blogging, writing case studies, and advising managers and committees to help them accomplish better impact.
Advice for early-career scholars
Ibrat shares the following advice for junior scholars and Ph.D. students who want to have an impact through research and academic work:
Ask yourself the fundamental questions. Ibrat encourages junior scholars to ask some fundamental questions, for example, why do we seek knowledge? He finds this quote from Bernard of Clairvaux inspiring: “There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is love.” He believes that thinking about why you are doing the things you are doing is critical to plan the impact you intend to achieve and the person you want to be.
Be reflective and patient in generating impact. Often, when people talk about best practices, what they look for is some kind of silver bullet to immediately resolve their challenges. As scholars we can learn from Socrates to question our assumptions or reflect on intentions and actions. Ibrat believes that when thinking about impact, scholars (and practitioners) may need to revisit their intentions and actions and see if there is something they could do differently. Even if you are on the right path, you have to be patient for the flower to flourish.
Respect and understand the local context. When people from one country (typically western countries) enter into a different culture, such as in Africa and Asia, they typically have preconceived assumptions about the local communities and culture. They then offer support or deliver programs to improve the status quo based on their own values and frameworks, which are often at odds with the way local people think and act. In order to make a genuine impact, Ibrat’s advice is to first appreciate the phenomena and respect and understand the local context.
To conclude, Ibrat shares his favourite quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Show the fly the way out of the fly bottle.” Because he thinks it is a nice analogy for doing impactful research. What Ibrat means is that when a fly gets into a bottle, it tries to get out by moving around the bottle and it keeps banging into the walls, and then over time it gets frantic and exhausted and gives up. However, one thing that the fly fails to do is to look up because the way out of the bottle is up. “What I aim to do,” Ibrat summarises, “is through my research to help others to look up.”
Inspired by Ibrat’s story and want to share yours with the Impact Scholar Community? If you would like to be featured, write to Suwen (Suwen.firstname.lastname@example.org).