Geoffrey Wood’s research strives to understand and explain how complex organizational and business systems work. But one real-world issue – the tribulation of getting car insurance upon his move to Western from England – is a complication even he has a tough time resolving.
“For some reason they can’t wrap their head around the fact I have a spotless driving record overseas,” quipped Wood, who began his new role as chair of the DAN Department of Management & Organizational Studies on July 1. Wood, who was Dean of Essex Business School at the University of Essex, will also be the inaugural holder of the Dancap Private Equity Chair in Change and Innovation.
Car insurance aside, Wood is excited about the opportunity he has in his new role at Western.
“It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond, but North American academia is so much bigger. This is a great opportunity; I felt it was a good challenge for me – the challenge being to raise the DAN brand in the peer community.”
Wood’s research centres on the relationship between national institutional settings, corporate governance, firm finance and firm level work and employment relations. Lately, he has become involved with “big questions and how they’re interconnected,” including the relationship between long economic crisis, environmental issues and the nature of innovation.
When it comes to the need for change in managerial strategies, Wood said a number of events, like global warming, will leave many unprepared.
“If you speak to any climate geographer, they’ll tell you there’s a fair chance we’ll have to move Los Angeles, Beijing and Delhi, at least, and no one has ever moved a mega-city before,” he said. “These are issues that are high probability, but we are poorly prepared for.”
Another test continues to be the upswing in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with some economies focused on incremental innovation, with others having a more patent-centred approach.
“One of the perverse by-products of this is, of course, it becomes very difficult to develop a new generation of antibiotics. Speak to anyone in the biotech industry and they will tell you antibiotics are running (out of) steam,” Wood said.
So when that reality is translated to long-distance air travel, for example, it can raise some serious problems. “That doesn’t sound very smart, does it – have people in a metal box for a few hours and then go spread their germs? Or having thousands of poorly paid people who can’t get their health treated in a big warehouse (sweatshop) touching objects that are going everywhere? A lot of things we take for granted suddenly become not very smart.”
Policy change, environmental shifts and technological evolution operate hand-in-hand with economic and business change, he said.
As one example, he predicted, the move to build more electric vehicles will force at least one combustion-engine car-maker to a fate similar to that of Kodak, the camera company that closed when it couldn’t adapt to the digital age.
“We’re probably talking a million jobs lost, within that company and with its suppliers,” he said. “That has all sort of effects but, again, nobody is really prepared for that.”