by Rod Brodie

When I was nominated by Jacquie Pels to write about my academic role models, I reflected on how I have navigated my way through my academic career and the influences of different people. I thought about what an academic role model is and how this differs from a mentorship or more generally influential colleagues.  I see a role model as a person whose conduct and values I would want to emulate. In contrast, an academic mentor provides guidance focusing on operational aspects rather than aspirational goals.  When I reflect on this, I identified a number of colleagues who have provided valuable influence and assistance, but none fit neatly as role models or mentors. Together these colleagues have had a major influence in developing a guiding logic to navigate through key decisions as my academic career unfolded.

The first major influencer was Kees de Kluyver who supervised my Ph.D.  He introduced me to the emerging discipline of Marketing Science in the 1970s and arranged for me to do my Post Doc at Purdue University in the early 1980s. At Purdue, I was able to sit in on Ph.D. courses and interact with the founders of Marketing Science including Frank Bass. I learned from Kees the importance of challenging conventional wisdom, and the confidence to aim at publishing in the best journals. I also learned from Kees that working with your Ph.D. supervisor is a “two-way street” and the value of working towards joint publications.

At one of the first Marketing Science conferences I attended at Wharton, I met Scott Armstrong who was very friendly. I discovered we both had an interest in empirical validation and forecasting. As a result, I developed a research relationship with Scott which led to publications of a challenging nature which have been highly cited. From Scott, I learned to the importance of having the courage to not to give up when your work doesn’t have likeability with reviewers. Scott became a close friend and colleague and generously introduced me to his international network of scholars. One key person was Arch Woodside who I arranged to visit New Zealand on a number of occasions.  He was very helpful when I was establishing a research culture at the University of Auckland. Arch is a great scholar who demonstrated to me the importance of scholarship.

While in the US in the early 1980s I also became aware of the innovative work by Roland Rust. I invited him to visit to New Zealand and this turned out to be one of many visits, and this led to a friendship that has endured over the years.  Roland is one of the most visionary academics I know. He introduced me to the emerging paradigm based on a service logic as opposed to the traditional manufacturing (goods) logic.  The focus on service and relationships led me to interact with the Nordic School and with Christian Gronroos and Evert Gummeson. I admired their work that focused on the experiences with practicing managers.  In Auckland our research was using a similar path and reaching similar conclusions about the importance of relationship marketing. This led to the establishment of the Contemporary Marketing Practices (CMP) research stream with Nicole Coviello.  The CMP research led to interactions with Bob Lusch and Steve Vargo who introduced me to Service-Dominant (S-D) logic.  In particular I focused on the empirical investigation S-D logic and how S-D logic provides a general theoretic perspective to guide the development of midrange theory. This approach was used to develop our current research streams on Customer Engagement and Market Shaping. As with CMP both of these research streams involve a broad network of international colleagues.

When I reflect on the influences Kees, Scott, Arch, Roland, Christian, Evert, Bob, Steve, and now extended to broad network of colleagues and friends I feel privileged. While the influences of the senior people are valuable as mentors and role models, I have learned just as much from interactions my less senior colleagues and Ph.D. students. Of fundamental importance is the collegiality which connects academics around the globe.

In summary, the most important thing I have learned is that navigating an academic career should not be governed by a predictive logic.  Rather it is better guided by an entrepreneurial mindset valuing colleagues who you work with. This is what Saras Sarasvathy refers to as an effectuation logic (see  Her five principles align with my career experience.

  1. Bird in Hand Principle (understand your capabilities). Start with what you have. Look at what you know and who you value. You should not start with a given goal, but with your abilities and capabilities to build on.
  2. Affordable Loss Principle (also focus on the downside). Don’t just focus the top-tier journals, but rather on a portfolio of journals that can absorb the possible losses from rejection from the top-tier journals. Often top-tier journal opportunity emerges from a sequence of other journal publications.
  3. The Crazy Quilt Principle (realize the benefits from co-creation within partnerships). Cooperate and collaborate with colleagues you trust and get on with who see the advantage of the synergies teamwork. Most top-tier journal opportunities emerge from teamwork. These networks also limit the affordable loss by providing diversity.
  4. Lemonade Principle (leverage contingencies). Many opportunities arise form emergence and leveraging contingencies. Surprises are not necessarily seen as negative, but may present new opportunities.
  5. Pilot-in-the-plane Principle (keep the big picture in mind). All the previous principles are put together in this principle. The future cannot be predicted, but as a researcher, you can control some of the factors which influence and guide how opportunities emerge if you adopt a strategic perspective.

Last but not least is the most fundamental thing in navigating an academic career is the collegiality that comes from friendships that add a social dimension. This is pepper and salt which brings an academic career alive and compensates for the long hours that are needed to succeed.

I nominate Lerzan Aksoy as next author in this series

Untitled1Roderick J. Brodie is Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His 200 plus publications include leading international journals articles. He is an associate editor for Marketing Theory and the Journal of Service Research and has served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Marketing, the International Journal of Research in Marketing, and the Journal of Academy of Marketing Science. He is a pioneer in Marketing Education in Australasia and internationally. In 1998 he became the founding president of the Australia New Zealand Marketing Academy. He has held visiting professorships at a number of leading US and European Business Schools.