As part of our profiles of TIM people, let us introduce Matthias Ploeg of the Radboud University Nijmegen which is in the Netherlands. Matthias, so…
What are your research interests right now?
My main current research project focuses on the relationship between exposure to problems and innovation behavior of firms. I find it a fascinating paradox whether and when adversity and resource constraints induce managers to pursue innovation or not. Using problemistic search, performance feedback and opportunity recognition theories, I am investigating which mechanisms and boundary conditions are driving these outcomes. This field is particularly interesting because of the multi-level perspective, linking individual (e.g. managerial cognition), organizational (e.g. power and internal communication) and firm environment (e.g. peer behavior and institutions) perspectives.
In my work as a practitioner, I have several research-focused projects. A particular exciting one is the external evaluation of the Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education and Innovation Reform, a DFID-funded initiative in developing and emerging countries. In our work, we will aim to assess the impact of introducing 21st-century skills in undergraduate curricula in terms of employment and entrepreneurial outcomes.
What do you think is your most exciting contribution to academia?
I profoundly believe in the highly mutually beneficial relationship between theory and practice. As a practitioner, I have the privilege of working intensively with entrepreneurs, higher education managers and policy makers. As such, I am confronted with their challenges, problems and opportunities every day. I try to use research to bring further insight into these challenges, bringing more solid foundation to often quite phenomenon-driven management & policy trends. A good example is a current working paper on theorizing frugal innovation mechanisms, a hot topic among firms and policy makers. Of course, as someone who is still in the late-PhD phase, I hope that the most exciting contributions are still ahead of me!
At the 2019 Conference you were a TIM Best Student Paper Award Finalist. Tell us about the paper and why you think its findings are important.
The paper focuses on the paradox between the performance feedback and threat-rigidity predictions: do firms engage more in innovation during negative feedback situations or less? Together with my co-authors, we used the perspective of informal institutions to look into the underlying mechanisms of these two theories. We created a dataset of a large number of firms in 70+ countries in order to assess performance feedback outcomes across a wide range of institutional contexts. The paper is important because is to our knowledge a first attempt to include the firm-environment dimension explicitly in performance feedback theory, and we found that indeed there is a large moderating role of some institutions. These findings have wider theoretical implications in that it shows that a contingent perspective is definitely required when looking at feedback responses, and that explicitly distinguishing and simultaneously including competing mechanisms is important. Practically, it means that innovation managers and policy makers should take into account contextual differences in institutions, such as the degree of communitarianism and power relationship patterns.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I enjoy hiking, cycling, playing the piano, cooking and good late-night discussions over a beer. However, as a newly-minted young dad I have now seen sleep as a good substitute at times...
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