Organization and Management Theory OMT

Ode to Andy: A Preview to 222

  • 1.  Ode to Andy: A Preview to 222

    Posted 11 days ago

    Thousands of Academy members will soon arrive virtually or physically at our annual meeting. Many may have heard that there is going to a special session to commemorate the life and work of Andy Van de Ven (Session 222). As one of Andy's doctoral students during the period 1989-1994, I would like to encourage the curious to attend by sharing some stories about my personal experiences with Andy and his influence on our field. These complement the complimentary tributes already posted here in the OMT Blog and in AMD and AMR (2022; Kilduff, 2022). My stories also meant to whet your appetite for the wise and witty words that will be spoken by Andy's co-authors, editorial and department colleagues, and students in Session 222: OMT Celebrates Andy Van de Ven's Wonderfully Full Life.

    My Ode to Andy is in two parts. The first section, called Oh, de Andy, discusses in more detail some of his incredible scholarship that I personally witnessed. The second, called Owed to Andy, highlights the some debts that we as a field and I personally owe to Andy, including what we owe to Andy to carry onward.

    Oh, de Andy! 

    Oh, that Andy has done tremendous research on a wide variety of subjects! (I use the Dutch word "de" in the heading instead of "the" or "that" because Andy was born in The Netherlands.) His early work with Andre Delbecq on group processes led to the Nominal Group Technique for generating and prioritizing ideas (Delbecq, Van de Ven, & Gustafson, 1975). Andy used this often in our classes. He also did pioneering work on inter-organizational relations and organizational assessment.

    More than three decades before innovation became the societal buzzword it is today, Andy wrote "Central Problems in Managing Innovation" (Van de Ven, 1986). To investigate some of these problems, he initiated and managed the Minnesota Innovation Research Program, known as MIRP. This project involved "14 studies … undertaken by different interdisciplinary research teams (in total consisting of 15 faculty and 19 doctoral students from eight different academic departments and five schools at the University of Minnesota)" (Van de Ven & Poole, 1990: 314). The findings from each study appeared in an edited book called Research on the management of innovation: The Minnesota studies (Van de Ven, Angle, & Poole, 1989). There were also other chapters about the program's development and recommendations. Because of the direct contrast to the linear sequential model that was the dominant paradigm of innovation, my personal favourite was chapter 4 that included what Andy often called the "fireworks model" of innovation(Schroeder, Van de Ven, Scudder, & Polley, 1989: 133).

    When I joined the doctoral program at Minnesota in 1989, MIRP was wrapping up, and we reveled in the fact that doctoral students Mike Rappa, Raghu Garud, and Venkat took jobs at top schools in the Northeastern US. Nonetheless, participants and artifacts from MIRP remained. People mentioned Bit Maps, TAP, and CIP as casually as "coffee" or "beer." One favorite artifact was a poster of the Peanuts' cartoon character Woodstock (a bird) and feathered friends fluttering around chirping thought bubbles containing the word "MIRP." Another aural memory were snippets of a song sung to the tune of "The Candy Man," a number one hit for Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1972 written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. I remember only a couple of bits, so I composed a verse for this ode:

    Who can take a bitmap
    just an empir'cal seed,
    Turn it into writings that everybody reads?
    The Andy man,
    The Andy man can.
    The Andy man can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes research that's good.

    It was clear to all of us that Andy loved research, his colleagues, and the scholarly and practitioner communities. And he certainly he loved helping us doctoral students develop our skills and interests, even if we weren't his students working on his projects. He carried his warmth into major roles in the Academy of Management, including leadership tracks in the OMT division and Academy of Management. His presidential address shared his affection and commitment towards his fellow scholars, proclaiming "This Academy's for you." His public statements were matched by his personal interactions at the Academy. Andy was always ready to talk with anyone, from famous scholar to brand new doctoral student. I witnessed him talking to many doctoral students, and he was always present and paying attention -- not thinking about his next meeting or someone more famous in the room that he wanted to go see.

    After MIRP wrapped up, Andy took a sabbatical. Reflecting his commitment to family, he remained a Twin Cities resident, but he left his office on the 8th floor of Management & Economics Building and moved to an office on the ground floor of Social Science Tower. I met with him there many times as I worked on my dissertation. He was surrounded with papers as he dedicated himself to a comprehensive review of organizational change with Scott Poole. They "reviewed about 200,000 titles and perused about 2,000 abstracts, which led us to carefully read about 200 articles that were useful in identifying about 20 different process theories of development or change" (Van de Ven & Poole, 1995: 513). They consolidated this immense human-analyzed review into four basic theories of change: life cycle, teleology, dialectics, and evolution. This paper won the best paper prize in AMR in 1995.

    These stories are Andy's scholarly contributions that I am most familiar with. You will hear more details about these and others at Session 222.

    Owed to Andy

    We management professors do owe a great deal to Andy. His prolific research provided a foundation for many of us to develop our work, evident by the more than 94,000 citations to his work in Google Scholar yesterday. However, he recognized that all scholars built from the work of others, frequently reminding us doctoral students that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before. 

    MIRP used a common framework that Andy would simplify when speaking. I paraphrase it thusly: People with ideas within contexts engaging in transactions that have outcomes (Van de Ven & Poole, 1990: 314). I aver that these five elements generalize well beyond the study of innovation processes, especially if people are abstracted to actors. This concise framework is worthy of greater use.

    Andy was also instrumental in improving theory and theorizing. When I arrived at Minnesota, Andy had just finished editing the special issue on theory building in AMR (Van de Ven, 1989); we read all the articles in our theory building class in winter quarter, 1990. These articles became commonly read by doctoral students in the 1990s and beyond, and AMR continued these special issues on theory development in subsequent decades. The importance of theoretical clarity, disciplined imagination, and the distinction between abstract propositions and tested hypotheses were central lessons for me that I sought to bring into my own work. Andy worked hard when reviewing drafts of my dissertation -- many of you will remember the handwriting of your advisor. I saved the draft on which he wrote: "Your writing is much improved." We owe it to Andy to work hard on our writing and help others whose papers we review.

    Andy taught a Theory Building and Research Design course up until the last months of his life. I took the course for credit in Winter 1990, and then I just had to take it again as an auditor when it was next offered in 1992. I loved the course so much that I modelled the introductory doctoral seminar at the University of Alberta on it, and like others, I used his book Engaged Scholarship, which won the Terry Award from the Academy as the best book published in 2007 (Van de Ven, 2007).

    Engaged Scholarship is an excellent book on which to end this ode because it offers so much direction to us. He highlighted the importance of research process as a cycle; I can hear him now saying that research is "a baseball diamond on which we run around the bases." He highlighted the importance of research problems and problem statements grounded in real life. To develop a better understanding of research problems, he advocated looking at them through multiple lenses and engaging with stakeholders as we design, conduct, and communicate our research. We owe it to Andy to apply these principles for the benefit of the world community.


    Academy of Management Discoveries. 2022. A Tribute to Andy Van de Ven, 1945–2022. Academy of Management Discoveries, 8(2): 167-169.

    Delbecq, A. L., Van de Ven, A. H., & Gustafson, D. H. 1975. Group techniques for program planning: A guide to nominal group and Delphi processes: Scott, Foresman.

    Kilduff, M. 2022. Remembering Andy Van de Ven. Academy of Management Review, 47(3): 339-340.

    Schroeder, R. G., Van de Ven, A. H., Scudder, G. D., & Polley, D. 1989. The development of innovation ideas. In A. H. Van de Ven, H. L. Angle, & M. S. Poole (Eds.), Research on the management of innovation: The Minnesota studies: 107-134. New York: Harper & Row.

    Van de Ven, A. H. 1986. Central problems in the management of innovation. Management Science, 32(5): 590-607.

    Van de Ven, A. H. 1989. Nothing is quite so practical as a good theory. Academy of Management Review, 14(4): 486-489.

    Van de Ven, A. H. 2007. Engaged scholarship: A guide for organizational and social research. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.

    Van de Ven, A. H., Angle, H. L., & Poole, M. S. 1989. Research on the management of innovation: The Minnesota studies. New York: Harper & Row.

    Van de Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. 1990. Methods for studying innovation development in the Minnesota Innovation Research Program. Organization Science, 1(3): 313-335.

    Van de Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. 1995. Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3): 510-540.


    Professor Doctor David Deephouse (they/he) 

    University of Alberta

    ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwacîwâskahikan), Turtle Island

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    David Deephouse
    University of Alberta
    Edmonton AB