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#037 Dorian's out the box research methodology

The story of Arno's, Leon's and Michiel's discovery trip is a story of Dorian's out the box research methodology

A good entrepreneur needs to have guts, according to Dr Dorian Proksch. Being a competitive German, it took some time getting used to the team spirit at UT. However, his colleagues Arno Jonkman, Leon Steenbergen and Michiel Bresser prove that the Dutch can be just as persistent. They have all leaped into the unknown before. This time, they embark on a new journey: Dorian’s life. Does he color outside the lines now and then?

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Tuesday 29 June 2021

Thinking outside the box

Leon: ‘Hi Dorian! I saw that you have a PhD in innovation management and entrepreneurship. This made me wonder: what makes a good entrepreneur in your view?’

Dorian: ‘If one has the guts to swim against the current. The person who comes to mind was actually more of an intrepreneur: an entrepreneur who works for a company. With the goal of developing a strong adhesive, Arthur Fry accidentally created an adhesive that was easy to remove. Although he was strongly convinced of the usefulness of this invention, he didn’t receive any support.’

‘Yet he continued to promote his invention until he found someone who believed in him. He saw potential for a good application of the glue; this is how the Post-it was born. Post-its are now a standard office product and sold in 150 countries - it shows what you can achieve by thinking outside the box. And that it’s worthwhile to go in your own direction every so often.’

Leon: ‘What a great story. And what is your best idea that was outside the box?’

Dorian: ‘Gosh, I have to think about that. Generally, I just want to consistently publish good articles. I also think that's where my strength lies. But I definitely try to think outside the box as much as possible. Instead of immediately accepting research results, I like to closely examine the methodology used.’

Michiel: ‘What do you hope to achieve with that?’

Dorian: ‘In short: to find better solutions for social or organisational issues and make better decisions. The method you choose also determines how you interpret results and to what extent you can generalise results. In my opinion, too little attention is paid to that. I still see that policy choices are often based on research results which are difficult to reproduce. That’s really too meagre, and makes me want to be involved in improving that. By researching methodology, we can develop better methodology. Hopefully that will lead to useful solutions - in practice.’

“I am a big fan of having lunch with your colleagues, since it can lead to very meaningful conversations”
Dorian Proksch

Michiel: ‘Sounds interesting. What research are you most satisfied with in your career so far?’

Dorian: ‘My most cited article is about solving a problem in a commonly used method within statistics: Partial Least Square Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM). Previously, researchers weren't quite sure how to deal with this particular problem, so it was simply ignored. I first heard about it myself when I was at a conference to present a paper, when someone asked me how I dealt with it. I subsequently pored over the problem and presented it to an expert in that particular field. He said: "Let's work together and find out" - which resulted in that article. Now, four years later, we still have a very good research collaboration. And the solution to this problem increases the statistical validity of models in many other research areas.’

‘So that particular person at the conference changed the entire direction of my career. That's why I'm such a big fan of having lunch with your colleagues – it can lead to very meaningful conversations. Especially at UT, because the interdisciplinarity means you hear many different perspectives.’

Arno: ‘Funny how that works. Do you like that interdisciplinarity the most about UT?’

Dorian: ‘It is one of the things that makes UT so much fun, yes. I also like the way the team is organised. In our department we work together a lot, and give each other feedback. Since I’m from Germany, I'm not used to that. I am relatively young and still trying things out, so I like it when professors with more experience tell me what works and what doesn't.’

Arno: ‘Is it more everyone for themselves in Germany?’

Dorian: ‘Absolutely. Science is competitive there. During my job interview at UT I said that I am a competitive person. In retrospect, I realised I shouldn’t have mentioned that since competitiveness isn’t as valued here, haha. The organisational structure is much flatter in the Netherlands.’

‘I hear similar things from other Germans who work or study in the Netherlands. A former colleague from Germany studied at UT and told me her advisor once spontaneously asked her over for coffee. My colleague said she lay awake for nights because she thought she was in trouble - missed a deadline or something. It turned out that her study advisor just wanted to catch up. I think that is emblematic of how we treat each other at UT.’

Michiel: ‘Haha, I think so too. But a bit of a competitive attitude won't hurt. It keeps you committed, right?’

“Students are still judged too much on their solutions. But learning is what happens on the way to a solution”
Dorian Proksch

Dorian: ‘Exactly. For example, I am now committed to the Challenge-Based Learning UTQ (University Teaching Qualification) pilot. I am trying to implement Challenge-Based Learning in my curriculum. Too often, students are still judged on the solutions they propose, while learning is what happens on the way.’

‘That's why my pre-master students are now all writing reflection reports. That way I do not only assess their solution, but also the process leading up to that solution. And if they did not find the right solution, maybe they can indicate why. I would like to dedicate myself to this way of learning in the coming years.’

Leon: ‘Sounds like a great challenge, I'm curious as to how you will fare. And I'd still like to hear about that outside of the box idea of yours!’

Dorian: ‘Yes, I'll get back to you. At lunch, or over coffee!’

After his degree in business economics, Arno Jonkman continued his teaching career with a master's degree in Accountancy at Nyenrode University. In addition to his education, he gained work experience as an assistant accountant, auditor and audit manager. In 2019 he became head of finance at ITC. At the end of March 2021, Arno switched to Eshuis Accountants and Advisors, where he is now a senior manager.

Leon Steenbergen studied human resources at Saxion Hogeschool in Enschede and then worked as an intermediary at Randstad for two years. He then switched to Royal TenCate, where he went from HR advisor to HR manager. Dubai was his place of employment for six years, after which he worked in England, France and Denmark. When he found out about the ITC vacancy for HR manager in 2017, which explicitly asked for international experience, it was easy for him to make a decision.

Michiel Bresser came to Enschede twenty years ago to study business economics. Besides a five-month internship in Sri Lanka, the UT city of Enschede has always remained his home base. He was a team manager at Essent, worked in recruitment at Xerox and started as the coordinator of the Education and Research Office in 2018. The Education and Research Office (BOOZ in Dutch) supports and guides students from their enrolment up to and including their deregistration, with non-academic issues, as well as provide support to the educational programs.

Dr Dorian Proksch (1986)

received his summa cum laude PhD in innovation management and entrepreneurship at the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Germany. After working there as a postdoc, he came to UT as an assistant professor in 2020. He teaches Global Entrepreneurship & Business, Innovation Management, New Technology and Business Development and Qualitative Research & Business Skills. He also conducts research on Endogeneity, Digital Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship, and Data Analytics & Science.