“Impact for me is not a one-way street, in which we only translate results for practitioners. Impact is a broad concept, and there are many ways to have impact. As an ethnographer, for instance, you influence the field by your ongoing daily interactions with the practitioners”.
Lorenzo Skade is a Research Associate at the Chair of Management and Organization at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. His research interests include time and temporality, strategic and organizational paradoxes, and strategy-as-practice. He approaches these topics with various qualitative methods.
Lorenzo Skade is in the early stages of his career and feels he has a lot yet to discover about impact as a researcher, but he already believes impact can be more diverse and multifaceted than we sometimes make it out to be. Impact is also not always optional; as an ethnographer, Lorenzo understands impact as something happening throughout research projects, as soon as you start to engage with people in the field, which makes impact much more than an afterthought. For him, the separation of research and practice and the idea of impact happening only as a translation from the academic to the practitioner are distant from his everyday experience.
While fieldwork is taking place, Lorenzo likes to have conversations with practitioners, which provide them with a reflective space for critical perspectives. “Most of the time, they [practitioners] mirror back to us that what was most helpful and impactful was having someone from the outside asking questions and having them reflect”, Lorenzo says. More important than providing research outputs to practitioners, in his opinion, is just being there, and having these conversations with them.
Finally, Lorenzo believes in the impact of teaching. To start, he understands that part of the impact lies in creating more access to learning opportunities to those who otherwise would not have them. In the classroom, Lorenzo believes that motivating and enabling students to question assumptions about “how things are” and facilitating critical discussions of alternative perspectives on “how things could be” is a major part of creating this impact, rather than giving ready-made answers. Doing so, he aims to provide students with a toolkit that helps them understand the world around them. A good example has been his course on leadership during times of crisis, in which he discussed with students the Covid-19 pandemic and its complex societal implications.
Advice for early-career scholars
Join a community. Lorenzo joined the Strategy-as-Practice community early on, which gave him access to scholars at different career stages, from different universities, united by common interests. He also highly recommends attending early career programs, where one can bond with others who are also starting out and probably going through similar experiences. Finally, if you are inclined or feel the need to, build your own community!
Join a team of experienced researchers. Early on, Lorenzo was lucky to be able to join a small team of researchers, who helped him with their expertise. Joining forces with experienced researchers was and still is incredibly important to him as a continuing opportunity to learn and receive mentoring “on the job”. This support goes beyond expertise in the academic literature—especially during longer phases of empirical fieldwork, this regular exchange helped him to deal with negative emotions, such as loneliness in the field, by sharing his experiences with them.
Reach out. Lorenzo has had great experiences reaching out to other people in academia he did not know. When he organizes something such as an academic workshop or create a Vlog (check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdcHs1n4YsU), he usually gets good engagement from senior academics. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others!
Have fun. It is easy for early-stage academics to feel stressed or overwhelmed as they learn to become researchers. Lorenzo advises “just have fun with it!”. He encourages early-career scholars to not be too judgmental with themselves in the process of doing research. For him, it involves having some free-writing moments, playing around with ideas. At that stage, he says “I try not to be too harsh to myself!”. Although being an academic can have stressful moments, Lorenzo tries to always find joy and meaning in the activities he is engaging with.