Q and A introducing the Notebook Series

Post in 33 words – An imagined Q & A session introduces the new contentious direct published Notebook Series. This post conveys the rationale for the new Notebook Series, likes and dislikes of direct publishing and hopes for the future.

Interviewer: When did you start your academic life and how has academic life changed?

Mark: I started working at Brighton in October 1987 when the main audio/visual aid was a blackboard and a piece of chalk. There has been so much technological and organizational change since then that we almost take it for granted. Today ebook versions of textbooks outsell paperback versions and invariably we access academic journals online, yet the nature of academic dissemination remains broadly the same.  There is an emphasis on peer review which is crucial in an age of fake news and notions of post-truth. On the periphery blog/personal sites (such as this one) and social media allow greater engagement. I have been on Twitter @leadingchanges for the last few years and I have enjoyed that engagement.

Interviewer: You seem to want to provoke academic debate about organizational change, how has that worked out?

Mark: One of the joys of academia has been a lively debate around subject passions. It might be me, but over the three decades academic debate seems to have diminished. As colleagues and university managers emphasize publishing in the most prestigious journals, the goal to me seems to have become far more instrumental.  I would have loved to have been published in the most prestigious journals, but it was not to be.  However, I have provoked debate and I still want to provoke debate around organizational change because such debate has implications for all of us. 

Interviewer: I understand that the Notebook Series is directly published, isn’t that a bit Mickey Mouse?

Mark: Yes, a harsh but fair comment.  I have struggled to convince journal Editors and reviewers about some of my more contentious ideas.  They fairly and reasonably want evidence. My offer has always been a critical commentary on organizational change I do not do original research.  My goal is always to inform practice particularly in the health and education sectors as I care particularly about these agendas.  The Notebook Series represents my attempt to offer a very different narrative on topics such as organizational change failure and change leadership success.  

My messaging is very clear this is my informed/engaged opinion on these debates, no more no less.

Interviewer: What do you like and dislike about direct publishing?

Mark: Practically orientated organizational change debates had become inward-looking with practitioners invariably excluded from the academic debates about their practice. They have been excluded through the firewalls around our precious academic journals and the cost of academic books.

I can now make contentious ideas accessible and at a far lower cost.  As the author I do everything from cover design, to the layout. It has been a steep learning curve, but I have enjoyed seeing the whole process through from an idea to a publication.  The dislikes have been around when things go wrong.  The platform allows you to load up word files for formatting, but you are still involved in a conversion process. I was checking out one of my chapters using the Look Inside feature, only to see a couple of random capital letters in the chapter title, introduced after I had submitted the manuscript. I corrected this conversion error, but it was a gamble in that I might mess up the rest of that manuscript. My top tip is that Look Inside on the paperback version is more reader friendly than Look Inside on the ebook version. You have to do a lot of previewing for the ebooks and paperbacks. On the ebooks you have to preview how it would look on a mobile phone. I am showing my age, but the idea of reading anything on a mobile – arrghh!

Interviewer: What are your hopes for the Notebook Series?

Mark: In the best case scenario I provoke some debate around these aspects of organizational change. The royalties are likely to be relatively small, although you have a dashboard with real-time sales information which is fun. What I do like is being able to schedule all the work myself. I have enjoyed writing books for academic publishers, but at times it felt like a writing production treadmill, ironic given my interest in Labour Process theory. I will see how the first two Notebooks are received.  I want to write further notebooks around technological changes in universities and organizational change metaphors, but as I say I will have to extract the learning from this little adventure first.

Interviewer: Are you ceasing your academic writing?

Mark: No, I had a new monograph approach when I was finalizing the first two notebooks.  I could have fitted these ideas into a monograph, rewriting them in a more academic style.  What troubled me was that their peer review process might contort my divergent views back into convergent organizational change. It was this convergent consensus that I am attempting to subvert.  So hopefully when I have got these provocations out of my system, there are a few more academic books and chapters left in me, time will tell.

Interviewer: Thank you for your time and good luck with the new Notebook Series.

Mark: Thank you for your insightful questions, you read me well, I am sure that you will go far!