Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Stephan Schaefer

Stephan Schaefer defended his doctoral thesis October 3rd. Below, he tells you a little about himself and what his research is all about.

I laid the foundation for my professional life as a researcher and lecturer back in 2006 when I signed on as a research and teaching assistant at the Chair of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations at the University of Mannheim in Germany. Limited possibilities of doing the research I really wanted pushed me to consider other options and I decided to move to Lund in 2007. After I graduated from the master's program “Managing People, Knowledge and Change” in 2008 I started my PhD in Organisation Studies here at the department. Since then I have been teaching on various courses on the very same master's program and a bit on the undergraduate level. Simultaneously, I have of course written on my doctoral thesis and other research papers.

My main research project was the doctoral dissertation which examines the way managers cope with the difficult and complex subject of managing creativity. In today's world the necessity of producing creative outputs and being creative seems to be unavoidable. The adjective creative for example appears in nearly all description of profiles on the social media platform LinkedIn. Yet what does it mean to manage creativity and to be creative? This is the guiding question of my doctoral research project. Based on interviews and an in-depth study of three managers I draw the conclusion that creativity is a subject area which is of great importance but at the same time confusing and messy for managers. It appears that in order to deal with complexity managers ignore contradictions with the purpose of showing themselves and others in the organisation that they have successfully “done something” about creativity. Such disregard of contradiction is what I label wilful managerial ignorance. Ignorance, I argue, works as a means to cope with the demands of having to manage creativity but essentially prevents learning and reflection and also the ability to make a positive difference. You can find my dissertation here.

Making a positive difference was also the topic of another research project I carried out during my time as a PhD student together with my colleague Christopher Wickert from VU Amsterdam. We investigated how researchers, who are affiliated with the Critical Management Studies movement, can constructively engage with managers and foster new constructive practices. We suggest the notion of “progressive performativity” which builds on a close engagement with managers and the installation of a dialogue which supports the establishment of a critical awareness of pertinent issues. The paper from this project has been recently published here.

After the defence of my PhD on the 3rd of October I started to work as a post-doc here at the department on a research project investigating the role of reflexivity and its constraints in organisations and management headed by Mats Alvesson.

Stephan Schaefer