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Where are you originally from? Have you lived in other places? What kind of things do you enjoy (eg sports, dance, music, food, art, movies, reading etc)?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
Well thanks for having me first of all, appreciate this. I'm a German, actually, I was born in Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia which is the most population they say with the highest population density in Germany. That's remarkable because when I was about 20 something I migrated to Australia which is a very sparse country. So in Australia which is almost the size of the US, you have about 20 something 22-million people living and in that tiny little states in Germany where I was born there’s 24-million and Australia overall is around twenty times the size of Germany. It's very, very different, it’s not a lot of people here. So I lived in Australia around for fifteen years in total and now I migrated back to Europe to be close to the family etc. In terms of, I lived in the States a little bit but nothing as long, I was in New York for a while, and I was in Canada, on sabbatical, which I also very much enjoyed, the west coast. And terms of the things I enjoyed I'm in, I'm in basketball I tried and I wasn’t very, wasn’t very tall, I was one of the smaller guys on the field. I'm around 6’3 roughly so that's just tall enough for basketball. And I like literature, classic literature I like reading some of the great novels about human kind I suppose, If I get the time. Is that right, when was that? Well I arrived in 2003 or 2002 I think so we just meet each other, interesting. 

What are the courses taught in your undergraduate program, and jobs students get afterwards? Please also discuss about your graduate program(s), if you offer any.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
Yup, still the University of Cologne here in the business school. They teach all the classical business and the great programs, management, finance, accounting, marketing and information systems as a degree. So you can graduate with the Bachelor of Science in Information Systems if you so choose. And in Germany, traditional people go on and straight away, do a master’s afterwards. So, Cologne offers a Master of Science in IS and it also offers IS majors in the other business schools. Of course, you can do a master’s in MBA say with a specialization in IS. The jobs, for IS graduates are usually either in the technology management field of larger corporations. A great deal of students become consultants. Accenture, Deloitte, McKinsey, these types of players, they get a lot of the graduates and in Cologne is a big financial market of the financial sector is very strong here. Both the banking and the insurance companies so they do get a lot of the graduates as well in the technology management’s field. So that’s classic job profiles and I should say basically the companies are ripping the students from our hands. So we can't produce enough graduates to fill the market. So it’s a great position for any student to be an IS graduate. Probably what we offer is the undergrad is a very classical broad spectrum, we do everything, from psychology and design, programming, technology management to strategy. So, for in the master we have more specialized minors around information and value creation, data-analytics and what we call IS for sustainable society. So anything that relied sustainability topics to information systems to save physical systems. Well EVA calls, ecology, these sorts of topics.  

What are your research interests? Can you discuss major research projects you have worked on?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 Well, I probably have to go back to a bit. My training was in a group that specialized in business process management. So the place where technology introduces changes to organizational routines and the ways organizations work and how these processes can be designed, improved and so for so. That’s a pretty vibrant research community stretching into computer science where they build on BPM tool sets to organizational clients where they think about how, you know, how process can be managed. That’s not here nor there. It is very interesting. That was my training, I think was on in ten years. The other training that I’ve had was in systems analysis and design, conceptual modeling. How do we describe what an information system is? How do we analyze and design? These had traditional pieces and I liked both of them because they reach very deep into you. Well, If I asked, you know, if I asked a question what is an information systems and where does it sit in relationship to the engineering disciplines and the organizational sciences. More recently, it's probably over the last ten years, I reached out firstly to the stream of people who called green IS. So the question how information systems can have a role in an environmental sustainable future? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? What, can I ask you? That’s all of a niche topic still, it's not a large community but a very vibrant, very active community around 50 to hundred people working on this. So that’s one of the topics that I do and the other one that’s even more recent as we all do, we do digital innovation. My focus is more on very small companies, startups, digital entrepreneurship and very very large companies. Some of the largest players try to be innovative. And I think that’s both interesting coz the very large player always wanna be nimble and edge on like the small ones. And the small ones wanna be like the large one’s coz they wanna have the assets and the power. And this particular focus came about because for around 6 years, I’ve been holding an endowed chair that was sponsored by one of the world’s largest supermarket companies in Australia called Woolworth. It’s like a retail company like Walmart, Tesco, Walgreen, ALDI with a very big difference that operates its market but only in Australia. So its one of the world’s largest retailers stuck on a tiny little continent. A very large company and they try to be innovative and then they threw their money and bought everything digital, eye-beacons, beamers, virtual reality, 3D printing. What have you? And obviously a lot of these things didn’t work. And then the question became, you know, why such a big company that’s very good at anything technical why they’re so poor in digital innovation? And that was a very intensive work/research project that took me 6/7 years to execute completely. That’s probably the largest one I’ve worked on. At the moment we’re trying to do the exact opposite. In which we are studying a lot of very small software and hardware, perhaps. So the people who build Fitbits, Ocular Swifts, Nests, lucky charms, smart devices were asking, you know, why are there so many of them all of a sudden? Why are people building hardware? That was usually a very hard thing to do. Yeah, it’s costly, it’s rigid, you have to build a prototype then you have to build ten thousands of them. Very different challenges. And now all of a sudden people are doing this again. And I’m asking why is that? So we’re doing a blend of fieldwork where we go out into many of this start-up ecosystems, Hong-Kong, Silicon Valley, in Sydney Australia and here in Cologne, that’s pretty much an ecosystem. And we’re trying to just look over their shoulders and see what they’re doing, and are they using digital technologies and systems to help them achieve that. That’s very exciting. Yeah, I think so too. I mean, I only got into this probably 3 years ago. And the reason I got into this field was in the QUT business school. My next door neighbor was a very big shot on entrepreneurship. An entrepreneurship professor and we just started talking just because we were sitting next to one another. And he had an interest in enabling entrepreneurship and I had an interest in technology side and these two fields fit together perfectly. And he has a very big interest in IS. What is an entrepreneurship? An entrepreneurship. For the people who bring the technology side into it. It’s a wonderful blend that you can basically connected to conversations that are happening in our all field as well as in the entrepreneurship field. So that’s very nice and there’s a whole of open questions left so I love to pursue that even more in the future.  

How did you come across these ideas? How did you decide that these projects would be worth pursuing?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
Well this last example is really I think you would call that hallway chat, right coffee chat, next to the water cooler, next to your colleague and it stems from that school mixing the professors from the different areas really nice. Right, so you have the IS guy sitting next to entrepreneurship and then all are being separated. Well I liked that very much. In general, I’d like to think I got my staff that even motivates in there that I thought intrinsically interesting. I mentioned the green IS example. I was actually did not agree to pursue this. Did not all have the money in this but I find it relevant, I find it interesting so that keeps me engaged and I think you need to be engaged to yourself to pursue this coz, you know, these are multi-projects, there’s a high risk of failures, a lot of papers rejected and so forth. So if you don’t believe in it, no one else will. So and then you obviously have to try to find a topic that sort of connect to something that people care about in the field. So if you get that planned, yourself interested and you got maybe good collaborators and you find a question that is of interest to a broader audience. I think that’s a good thing to pursue then. 

What criteria do you use to evaluate papers while reviewing? What are common reasons for papers getting rejected? How can authors improve the chance of getting their papers accepted?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 That’s a tough question isn’t it. I’ve had some editorial experience in the last couple of years and you do get to see a lot of papers and reviews and revisions and so forth. So, I think one of the common things for papers getting rejected is the clarity of exposition. Yeah, so I find that people are very often too loose with their concepts. It’s like they’re putting all the right buzzwords but all of them, right. And if you talk about everything then it becomes nothing. So at the moment which is very clearly evident in everyone that does anything around digital. The digitalization of everything. So and then you see a lot of papers in literature tech distributed to applied to every concept that’s been around for a long time. But if you’re applying it to every concept then it becomes meaningless because it doesn’t have any boundaries. Things are only interesting if there’s other things that aren’t, right. So that’s the meaning of this clarity of exposition. It’s just not careful enough in the writing.And the other thing is coherence. Sort of the idea that a theory, or the part of the theory are actually connected somehow. That they fit together. Yeah, there could be levels of obstruction, if you’re taking a theory about people and you know, you mix it up about the theory of organization. So you take the theory about technology and all of the sudden you talk about politicians. And all of these sorts of linkages, if you don’t have them fitting and align then it stands out and it’s a clear reason for rejection, right. So these are common failures that I see. Sort of, I throw too many words in there that I don’t actually need, that I don’t actually use. And my theory is too big and it’s too incoherent to make any sense.Well the last part that is how do you get your papers accepted? So I think sometimes it’s really less is more. One of the piece of advice that I got once was one paper, one idea, one story. Not two stories, not three ideas, just one. So that translates to less is more. So you take maybe one concept and you take maybe one hot theory, one hot phenomenon and you dig deep into this one and not try to connect to every conversation in the field but maybe just to one of them. And then I like the papers that have a new idea. Yeah, a new idea with some fitting data that goes a long way. And that’s a lot better than jumping on any hot band wagon that’s out there at the moment, trying to add a little bit to it. The good idea with some fitting data, that view is pretty exciting.  

What are some major research gaps that you believe needed to be addressed?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 I’d like to think that all the things that I do, obviously. No but seriously, well I think being so deeply in transient in the business, schools and then the motivation in management science. I think we’re a little bit truly economical, right. So, we have a lot of questions with our performance and value and so forth, right. And I think we need to look beyond that to look outside the business context and look outside that economic commercial sort of setting and evaluation. So I think that sustainability is a good topic. What can this, what can IS do? What the role of IS in saving the planet? I think that’s wonderful, very non-trivial questions to be asked, yeah. There is other things that I’ve seen recently around philanthropic phenomena. You know, donations, charity etc. How does IS enable that? That’s a very old, traditional niche around ICT for development. As initiative of the moment, ICT for bright initiative, the bright internet initiative. These are all the causes that are very little connected to money that's a moving or commission purposes. And then you shove that around. I think there’s still a lot of work to be done around you know using ICT for bad purposes. At CIS the journal that I’m running we had a very interesting case started last year on The Use of Information by Covert Networks. So terrorist groups if you want, see there’s a very little research on that. So I think these are all big, big gaps in our understanding of how IS has penetrated what we do these days. Now I think we’re a little bit too limited to the business in money-making context. And I think I should probably add that there’s an appetite right so if you’re going to the community, you’re going to the journal conference and people would like to see that. So it’s not that these papers can’t get accepted that’s an old saying. It’s certainly I’m not sure if it ever was true but it certainly is not true now. I think all the journals that I’m involved in, I would love to see such a paper, anything in these directions right. So I think there’s quite appetite for different streams, different questions and different ideas. 

How do you find collaborators outside your University for joint research projects or writing grants?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
I guess the simple answer is conferences, really you got to go to the water holes of your field. I’m not sure I’ve done this very well to be honest. Certainly not in the first few years of my career hopefully I am a little bit better now, but I know I have friends and colleagues that I’m much, much better. I try to meet the people that I wanna work with and approaching them. So it’s probably a matter of shyness to some extent and more introverts and but that’s basically, of course you got to go where these people go and take a step forward and talk to them. And probably you’ll find that these people tend to be very nice and very approachable. That’s my experience anyway with the very big names yeah. 

What approaches have you found to be effective in working with various grant making agencies? What common mistakes researchers do while applying for grants and funding?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
So, this strategy that I pursue is always you can go research first and then ask for those grants. I usually apply for grant after a big paper that just come out and then do a timely grant application. So, you have this novel insight and the very recent credibility in this domain of the work and so that you can build on. Usually any one paper, you know, ends up with a lot more open questions so you can take any on these questions and from that requirements and you already have credibility in this problem. And if you flip that around the common mistake that I know, that a lot of young people specially do. They ask money for something they have no track record in and show they can fold this. The metaphor that I always use is, If I apply for cancer research and I have a brilliant idea to solve you know, curing cancer I’m still not gonna get the money. I have no track record in curing cancer even if my idea is brilliant, I don’t have any problem-solving capacity that is on the spot. So, you gotta match that right. So, you gotta have a match in knowing a good problem but the capacity to execute and that’s what people look for. But you also translate that usually junior faculty cannot get grant they simply don’t have the profile that looks like they can execute. So, one strategy is just apply later, build your profile first then apply funding. And then secondly, strategically when you just have a big hit and you try to get some grant which to continue research. 

What suggestions would you give to a faculty member who hopes to start a new research center or set up a new lab?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 Start small, working perfectly, having like, have a plan a medium-term plan. So research that on lab they don‘t come overnight right. So usually you have to deliver it first which usually means you gotta try to make something out of nothing right. So, ask yourself what questions and what problems can you solve without needing any money. When you have success and you build a profile you’ll get somebody internally, externally, whatever right. So, try maybe getting a PhD with a student with a scholarship from somebody with stipend to work with you like a free resource and build something, do something with it and then slowly build from there. The one of the common mistakes that again people go and set up a lab and they go about it and ask for million of dollars. They never gonna get cause they haven’t done, haven’t showed anything but you gotta to the other way around and we speak well aberrations we speak centers we take the money and you know they don’t come over lab they come over after probably 10 years and stop what they doing what happened at the back row. You gotta have you know, have a long breath and work from the bottom up. 

What approaches have you found to be effective in working with industry for funding, getting data, and picking consultancy projects?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 Well what I think works is, first you gotta work pro bono. So first you gotta go in and be willing to deliver a value for them without asking for anything. So that means number one they see that they that your interested in working with them not in that your interested in their money. Second then, you need to deliver something of value. You need to do something that actually, I don’t know, sell something, save them some money, have to make some money, make better decisions whatever it is. So, you, without any cost, deliver value to them then it opens a lot of doors. It could be through consultancy, but it could also be through a sort of education in all things. So I thought of quite helpful to do’s more, education type of workshop’s maybe team training, these sort of things. These are good offers they’re very, they’re not very expensive for you, depending if there’s any money involved and all and you usually get to see people and people who like have some level of authority and could be connected to the people and could be eventually actually end up giving you money. And then if you show anything at all with a value of a very pragmatic business impact line, then you know over time it can of course turn into a small grant maybe some subsidy etc. Again, they call them to stay cause some people go in and they ask some company for half a million dollars. That’s not gonna work but if you go in and you help them, and you keep help them to having then over time it might lead to this. And effect this, that is very effective right, so you gotta go in and put yourself in this place first obviously in the group and then good things will come. 

What do you look for while accepting PhD students or postdocs?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 Well for PhD, I look for whether they had any sort of research training whatsoever, many don't but many have a strong interest right. Maybe they found something insightful for themselves. So, they have some training that gives them a little bit of a head start into the PhD program that's worth a look. I do that more from their training and capability level than about the actual topic I don't care too much about that. We can work that out later. If it’s too distant from me I mean I’m not gonna get rid of it but usually I'm more interested in the skills than the idea. As for post docs I guess that’s about good training obviously from good university right. So, the good university could be a proxy for good training. And then I guess primers right so not so much to have a great deal of papers to their name, but they have found work that shows a lot of promise. A promise to, to be you know something so that they have a healthy pipeline starting into postdoc position and then continue this while also trying to set up a new program project or something, with me that would be great right. I usually do that by giving them a little bit of homework and letting them write something. I wanna see how well they can articulate their ideas, what their views are and so forth. And then I see, I’m not necessarily looking for the one that has already an IS paper on his name or her name. Or rather something that I could have ideas or so whatever and try something over, that I could, I find more interesting.

How do you evaluate progress of PhD students or postdocs, and decide if they need to leave your program? What mistakes do you see them making in their initial years in the program?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
It was in Australia when I was there for a long time. It had a pretty formalized progress problem with that very formal milestones in between, where you make decisions whether or not to continue or to terminate. I found that very helpful to be honest. Sometimes it seems bit rigid but it's very helpful in keeping track. Usually the people who do struggle, you pick them early. If you get to the end of the program you've got to survive you've got a lot to make it right. You find out that you have people who are struggling to articulate their problem and at struggling scoping that project to a manageable size, that don't build up that training that you need. You can pick them out before they actually embark on that big PhD project. And here in Europe it’s very different because is not so formalized, so you got ideas, find other ways of evaluating all with the program is. The rate is high. I'm probably too early here to tell you a little bit about it. One of the common mistakes is, I call it the valley of death so second, third, forth any how long it is but somewhere in between when you build up your training and you don’t get that much input anymore you gotta fly by yourself. And then usually people go into this trough and it’s really hard cause it. I don’t know, the field studies are not going in as well and the data is not as good as you hoped and axis are just moving very difficult and it could be months without much progress. And then people try to get through that, stopping that downward trend and picking up again, that’s a big thing. And then if they make that then the final year they may get in to some sort of productive mode. What I think helps is If you get people to write early and write often. Forcing them to try to do stuff that they can write about which means that they have some piece of work that they need to complete, to have something to write about, should help in learning how to write, and it helps in forcing them to complete pieces of work without leaving too many things out in the open. Sometimes it helps. It’s tough. 

What advice would you give to PhD students, particularly who are searching for dissertation topic, and who are looking to enter the job market?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
The job market I think students need to realize that the PhD is a big thing but only until you have it. As soon as you have it is nothing cause everybody else has it too and it's a very binary entropy if you want right. So, it’s a big thing but it seems you haven't it's not gonna be good enough or anything. So, if you are on the job market you gotta build up the paper pipe line. And usually these days because it's such a buyer's market. It means you own a PhD topic plus X. Well one of the best pieces of advice that I got in my final days of my PhD program, my mentor ask me, All right well that’s got to be your PhD, what else you got, and I say, what do you mean what else I got, I’m doing my PhD. He said, no, you gotta build up a second stream. It doesn’t have to be active yet, but you wanna hit the ground up and running, when you submit your thesis, so you already have that sort of second stream in the back. And I think that’s a very good advice right. So, in some space you need be able to switch on completing one project to managing multiple. So that you build a stream, making many productive back to paper writing machinery and that connects to maybe new conversations that opens the door for other collaborations outside the supervisory team and so forth. Just got to become bigger and better and the earlier you do that, the better. And in terms of searching for the dissertation topic, I mean the good places are always conferences if you can go there. Not so much for the papers but to see what stuff people are talking about, what's the conversation there, in terms of phenomena but also theories and methods. It’s always hot things and it sort of change in a couple of years and there have to be a lasting value. So we go around and look into a dissertation topic and if you go to conferences and you find people talk about it. You know, data analytics, prospects mining, whatever and you know you can probably say that’ll be interesting to the community for the next couple of years. So that gives you enough time to finish your dissertation time frame. And then you’ll have something probably that people will want at that stage. 

What classes do you teach? How has your teaching philosophy changed over the years?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
I think that teaching philosophy is very stable not very innovative. Teaching of classes basically same way, a blend of bit of case studies into the lectures, try to discuss with student’s topic that are a little black and white, but I don’t do a lot of very innovative teaching concept so that’s pretty stable really. The classes that I teach in the undergrad, I like teaching fundamentals. For the moment, I’m teaching systems, analyzing design and systems development and Agile and other methodologies in the Bachelor programs. That’s really nice because it’s deep and core IS. It’s not management, it’s not strategy, it’s really what IS are, so I like that. And in the post grad, at the moment I’m teaching much more classes on IT entrepreneurship which I like very much. The students become entrepreneurial and their thinking some of them actually go out and they start up, and you can teach them some of this thing. And the other one is about in our minor on IS for sustainable society, so this is on the green IS, wall off systems and technology for greening the planet. It’s not a huge class obviously but it’s nice and small and only for those people who got interest in it. So, we have broad classes for the undergrad fundamentals and then some cherry topics that I like doing and maybe change every couple of years. The other thing I have done, I’m not doing it this year, but I have done it in the past years, is Masters level courses on research methods. So, on getting students to understand scientific methods, very basic introductions before they start a PhD. And then teaching them either quantitative or qualitative methods, I mean empirical research about nature. So, I like teaching students how go into field and getting data, it’s always got to be dirty and messy and so forth. I summarize and if you to teach them early and you spent year after you actually get people hooked on to it, the second coming pathway.   

Do you have any parting advice for young educators? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Sep 12 2019
 See what I wrote down when I prepared for this is things I didn’t do which is number one stick to your guts. So that your best shot on and getting to the tenure stage, getting a faculty position, getting promotion etc. is with the same theory do well, so that could be the PhD topic. You already invested four or five years into this. So that’s that probably your best shot in writing papers, for example, 'cause any new topics, I’ve tried that later and any new topic in couple of years and you just try to get into that field and relying on theories is so very, very hard to do. So don’t jump around too much.And the second thing is something that I certainly didn’t do is find good collaborators. I didn’t do that early on, I do this now a lot more than ?i've done ten years ago. If going out to the key thought leaders in whatever small community you are in and try to work with them. All are just picking people that are really good in methods. There are people that are really, really good at paper writing, you learn from them. I’ve done too late I think so I should have put it down that early. And then lastly, try the top level journal always first. You can always go down right, but you can never go up. If you get a paper through very, very easily, probably you tried it too low. So, a good journal is a good journal, it’s not only because they’re a bit tough but also, they’re very fast, so you don’t lose a lot of time. You get your reviews back in two to three months, that’s not a lot of time you get excellent reviews. They obviously relax to this but in general that’s pretty good. So, try these journals and try to find best honor for your work and take it from there.