Colleen Mills is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She is passionate about helping young researchers to conduct their research, is involved on the editorial boards of four quality peer-reviewed journals and is an assistant editor of Communication Research and Practice. And she is also a new member of the International Affiliate Faculty at Audencia Business School.
How would you describe yourself?
I describe myself as a management scholar who studies organizations from a process perspective. This means I focus on communication and sensemaking – two processes that permeate all human enterprise. I have a long-standing interest in situations where there is a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty as these situations generate heightened levels of communication and sensemaking. That explains why I am attracted to organizational change (e.g., restructuring, CEO succession, strategic development) and entrepreneurship (e.g., business startup in the creative industries and ICT incubators). These interests mean I work across the fields of organizational communication, entrepreneurship and management so I am a bit of a ’boundary spanner’. This makes research much more interesting than if I stayed within the boundaries of a single field or discipline.
What is the story between you and Audencia Business School?
For eight years I have visited Audencia once or twice a year and am now delighted to be a FIA. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunities this is providing to learn more about the interesting research done by scholars at both Audencia SciencesCom and Audencia and to collaborate with them on new projects.
Can you tell about the ongoing collaborations with Audencia researchers?
Recently I have been doing some interesting research with Nicolas Arnaud, Celine Legrand and Eric Maton. This looks at communication, sensemaking and materiality during strategic change in a French bank. We have just published a paper from this collaboration in the British Journal of Management. Nicolas, Celine and I have also published another paper this year in Management International that explores the role of narrativity during change.
When I was appointed as a FIA, with Delphine Saurier’s help, I met with most of the Audencia SciencesCom faculty to find out more about their research and to see how I might be able to collaborate with them. Catherine Morel and her colleagues' project was one of many that I was attracted to. This study is about collectives and is being conducted by a group of scholars who are themselves following a collaborative philosophy. I thought that was a fascinating opportunity to do some sort of ethnographic study to explore how collaborative principles get enacted in practice in teams so I have suggested that each scholar diary their experience of collaborating on the project and then I could analyze their reflections. It would be a narrative analysis of self-ethnographic texts.
In the meantime, I am conducting a research project in New Zealand with Claire Burlat from Audencia SciencesCom. This study is looking at organizational communication in the energy sector and comparing the findings with a study Claire conducted in France.
I also have several ongoing projects with Nicolas Arnaud and a new study with Celine Legrand so I am planning to be very busy working with Audencia scholars. But I find that when the research is stimulating and deals with important contemporary issues like how to implement new ways of working that accommodate 21st century markets and social challenges it becomes a pleasure. You feel your work is making a constructive contribution – something we all strive to achieve.