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Bond academics inspire international colleagues with unconventional unconference format

After successfully adapting a radical tech-based conference format to the field of management education in 2013, two Bond University academics have taken their research ‘unconference’ to the world.

Assistant Professor George Hrivnak and Professor Amy Kenworthy from Bond’s Bond Business School recently hosted the 2014 Research in Management Learning and Education (RMLE) Unconference at the prestigious Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.

Professors Hrivnak and Kenworthy partnered with the editors of four international management education journals to run the event which attracted submissions from 52 academics representing 26 universities located across four continents.

“The ‘unconference’ format originally evolved from Silicon Valley computer industry gatherings where, rather than having a keynote speaker and invited presenters, the attendees themselves would set their own agenda and contribute equally to the discussions and debates,” said Dr Hrivnak.

“The concept is based on a premise put forward by entrepreneur Dave Winer that, at traditional conferences, the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of the expertise of the people on stage.

“In 2013, we decided to adapt the idea for professionals and academics working in management education. Rather than having a fixed agenda and planned presentations, we invited people to submit documents capturing their pressing, and yet unanswered, research questions, ideas and concerns about issues relating to the business of management education. We then use these as catalyst ‘prompts’ for group discussions at the ‘unconference’.”

The 2013 unconference proved so successful that the 2014 event attracted partnerships with the Editors-in-Chief of the Journal of Management Education, Management Learning, the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education and the Academy of Management Learning and Education – collectively regarded as the ‘top four’ international management education journals.

“Even more overwhelming than the geographic diversity of the participants and domain diversity of the submissions we received this year was the sustained enthusiasm and passion shown by all throughout the event,” said Dr Kenworthy.

“The collaborative, engagement-based format of the 2014 RMLE Unconference created an inspirational, organic and participant-driven environment.

“We received so much positive feedback commenting on the ‘positive energy’ and ‘how new ideas benefit from being tossed around within a community of scholars’ as well as how the format encouraged ‘ideas, groupings and potential projects to spring-up seemingly spontaneously’.

“Most importantly, the event produced tangible outcomes by creating research networks, and laying the foundation for specific follow-up initiatives and academic outcomes.”

“We now have requests from institutional partners around the world to host our unconferences. Our 2015 RMLE unconference will be held in partnership with the Eastern Academy of Management International (EAM-I) in Lima, Peru, June 21-25 and the 2016 RMLE unconference will be held in Fontainebleau, France in partnership with one of the world’s largest and leading business schools, INSEAD.

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