Projects per year
My research focuses on the nature of knowledge and learning in organisations and seeks to link this to questions about innovation and change. I am particularly interested in the social practices of producing, negotiating, and using knowledge within varied organisational settings, but especially project-based, network, and temporary forms of organising. My research draws strongly on practice-based theories, emphasising knowledge and learning as active accomplishments emerging from specific social settings that have important implications for how practices are shaped. Investigating the boundaries between different knowledge communities and how these are constituted, reproduced, crossed, challenged, and redrawn is a key element of this. The settings for my research have been many and varied, ranging from car factories to sewage plants, power stations to animation studios, offshore oil and gas platforms to humanitarian aid projects, road maintenance depots to aerospace companies, big rail construction projects to small firm action learning networks. Despite (or maybe because of) this diversity, the thread running through my research has been an enduring interest in the social and political dynamics of knowledge and practice and how these unfold in different contexts.
I am interested in supervising in the following areas: projects and project-based organising, innovation, organisational knowledge and learning, SMEs, charities and social enterprises, humanitarian response, and practice-based theories.
The following are titles of current and previous PhD research I have supervised.
- Time for a change? The framing of leadership in the strategic change projects of project-supported organisations.
- Improving project capability in the public sector: A case study within the UK government.
- Mediating control: Strategy implementation practice in an international hotel organisation.
- Social media practices within a micro non-profit art and culture festival.
- Implementation of blockchain technology in logistics and supply chain management.
- The User Organisation: Structure and governance in an open source project.
- The learning dynamics of external-internal knowledge and exploitation-exploration: The case of SMEs' learning-capacity building.
- Micro-enterprises participation in a learning network through the lens of personal and organisational change.
- Knowledge integration in open innovation: A comparative study in the Brazilian cosmetics sector.
- Managing the specification process in complex product and system projects.
I have many years of research experience having participated in and led numerous projects and major work packages in the areas of project and temporary organising, innovation and technology, organisational knowledge and learning, SMEs, and social enterprises. I am currently co-investigator on the ESRC funded Project X research that seeks to improve the delivery of government projects. I have specific responsibility for leading Theme E which focuses on issues of knowledge, learning, and capabilities in and across the government's project portfolio and project management community. I am the Chair of the British Academy of Management (BAM) Special Interest Group on Innovation and co-chair of the Innovation Track at the BAM Annual Conference. I have published in internationally recognised academic journals such as British Journal of Management, Construction Management and Economics, European Journal of Information Systems, European Planning Studies, International Journal of Project Management, Journal of Management Inquiry, and Management Learning. I have an MA in Geography from St. Peter's College, Oxford, and a PhD in economic geography from King's College, London.
Previous research projects I have been involved in are as follows.
2016-2020 - SPARK Social Enterprise, European Commission Interreg 2 Seas Programme (https://www.sparksocialenterprise.eu/): This collaborative research across three regions in the UK, Belgium, and The Netherlands, explored the nature of innovation in social enterprises - businesses that have their foundation in contributing social and/or environmental wellbeing. This led to the creation of an innovation model, strategy and action plan for stakeholders and policy makers, and programmes for building innovation capabilities in social enterprise start-ups and more established businesses. I led the design, collection, and analysis of the initial research stage and the subsequent evaluation activities once the support interventions were underway.
2016-2019 - INSPIRE Integrated Support of Open Innovation Professionalisation, European Commission Horizon 2020 (https://www.inspire-smes.eu/): This research made a major contribution to the under-explored domain of open innovation in SMEs. The project involved a detailed and extensive investigation of open innovation practices in SMEs and the influences on their success and failure across the different regions of Europe, recognising the importance of context, lifecycle, and developmental trajectories. This substantial evidence base was used guide the design, development, and validation of an integrated toolbox for open innovation in SMEs to enhance their open innovation capabilities. I made a significant contribution to the research design, analytical approach, and data validation process.
2013-2016 - Cre8tv.eu Unveiling Creativity for Innovation in Europe, European Commission FP7 (https://www.brighton.ac.uk/centrim/what-we-do/projects/cre8tv.aspx): The Cre8tv.eu research project aimed to make a substantial step forward in the study of an important aspect of the European economy: creativity, and its role in innovation. To achieve this it explored new methodologies and fresh and integrated approaches in the study of creativity and innovation, as well as deepening our understanding of the dynamics of the cultural and creative industries. I led the work package on developing a new innovation taxonomy relevant for the creative industries, based on in-depth case study research of three different creative industry sectors: animation, fashion, and furniture design.
2014-2015 - Mapping the Humanitarian Innovation Ecosystem, UK Department for International Development (https://www.brighton.ac.uk/centrim/what-we-do/projects/humanitarian-ecosystem.aspx): The challenges facing international humanitarian action are growing in scale, scope and complexity, and the gap between what is needed and what is provided by the humanitarian system is likely to grow in the coming years and decades. In the light of these serious challenges, there has been a growth of interest in promoting innovation in the humanitarian system. Using an ecosystem lens, the research mapped innovation practices, conditions, and constraints in the humanitarian sector, leading to new research and policy insights and the establishment of a new body, the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation. I contributed to the conceptual framework, literature review of innovation ecosystems, analytical approach for the extensive interview data collected, and detailed case study on the area of emergency water, sanitation, and health promotion (WASH).
2010-2012 - RAPPORT Building Rapport between Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Public or Private Research Capabilities, European Commission FP7 (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/245454/reporting): This study investigated policies across Europe designed to promote knowledge and technology transfer between research and small- and medium-sized enterprises. It considered not only the engagement of SMEs into the research process but also enabling SMEs to access developed knowledge and competencies of the research community. In addition to science-push programmes, it looked into demand-pull initiatives where the focal SME drives the process. The study placed a strong emphasis on the SMEs of lower absorptive capacity and how to open up their horizons to external research capabilities. I made a major contribution to the co-development of the theoretical framework and research design, conducted in-depth case studies of knowledge transfer policies in Scandinavia, analysed the overall European dataset, and co-authored the final report.
2007-2008 - Profitnet - Profit Through Networks - The Role of Group Dynamics in a Managed Learning Network, HEFCE: Profitnet is a learning network of small- and medium-sized enterprises designed by CENTRIM that has been run successfully for many years in the UK, Ireland, and South Africa. This study was part of the early research and evaluation of the programme into its effects and effectiveness that led to improvements in delivery and a deeper understanding of the operation of learning networks. I was theme lead for research conducted into the group dynamics of the learning network groups. This was based on a longitudinal ethnographic study of the groups in action over ten months. It revealed various configurations in the balance between task focused activities and socio-emotional dynamics of the groups that had implications for their learning activities and the appropriate style of facilitation.
2005-2007 - Mental Models and Communication Effectiveness in Multi-Functional Project Teams, ESRC: The research explored the implications of knowledge diversity for the nature and effectiveness of project communications, focusing on the evolution over time of differences and similarities in team members’ mental models and their implications for the quality of interactions. The research used a novel combination of cognitive mapping and ethnographic approaches to offer a more detailed understanding of how alternative frameworks or representations of knowledge are created, drawn upon, and modified in the day-to-day practices of project teams. I was Principle Investigator for this project, which was graded 'outstanding' by reviewers in the end of project review.
2002-2004 - Managing Knowledge Spaces: Mapping the Effects of Dispersed Teamworking on Project Performance, EPSRC: This research explored knowledge and communication practices in project-based organisations under differing spatial configurations ranging along the spectrum between co-location and dispersal. The intention was to break down the polarised debate between optimistic supporters of technologically-enabled collaboration at a distance who suggest that there are few barriers to team dispersal, and those who argue that organisational knowledge is so context-dependent and embedded in local practices as to be more or less place-bound. Adopting a more balanced approach, the research traced the complex relationships between spatial patterning, alternatively mediated forms of communication and interaction, and different project stages, tasks, and activities. This was based on detailed interview-based and observational studies of pairs of projects drawn from the case study organisations which exhibited greater or lesser degrees of team dispersal. I made a significant contribution to the design and theoretical grounding of the research, and to the collection and analysis of the case study and observational data.
2001-2002 - UK Work Organisation Network - The New Economy, European Commission: This research was conducted as part of the New Economy stream of the UK Work Organisation Network. To this I contributed a detailed report on the treatment of technology within the ‘New Economy’ literature. The main message of this was that this literature tends to provide a deterministic and largely asocial depiction of technologies and, as such, is poorly placed to understand contemporary developments in work organisation. The report called for a less aggregate and more refined treatment of the interactions between technology and organisation.
1999-2001 - Improving Performance in Complex Products and Systems through Inter-Project Knowledge Capture and Transfer, EPSRC: This project took place under the umbrella of the Complex Product Systems (CoPS) Innovation Centre. It aimed to improve understanding of the practices and tools that are being employed to improve the flow of knowledge across projects, to build a set of new tools and guidelines for project learning, and to make a contribution to the burgeoning literature on knowledge management, which had hitherto focused almost exclusively on organisational activities which are not arranged in project- or matrix-based formations. Central to the research was a major international interview-based survey of project learning practices involving 43 companies in Europe, North America, and Japan. Outputs from the research included a report to companies, a ‘rapid audit tool’ to help managers position their projects according to a landscape of learning practices, and a cross-sectoral workshop. I contributed to the development of the research method, data collection and analysis, and the creation of the diagnostic tool.
1996-1998 - Cultural Change in Construction: Developing the Client's Management Role to Improve Project Performance, EPSRC: This research investigated ostensibly more collaborative forms of project organisation, such as partnering and alliancing, which many companies had turned to in efforts to improve project performance. Drawing on nine detailed and longitudinal case studies covering construction projects of varying size (project values range from £9 million to £400 million) and sub-sectoral activity (offshore and onshore oil and gas, power generation, process plants, civil engineering, and building), this research examined a selection of such attempts to change the ‘culture’ of project relationships. The research traced out some of the complexities in the interplay between the more systemic and structured aspects of project organisation, the varied evolution of organisational values and attitudes, and the character of formal and informal practices and patterns of behaviour. I was involved in designing, conducting, and analysing all of the case studies.
In the spirit of practice based approaches I adhere to an active and engaged view of scholarship, both as a way of understanding practices from the point of view of participants and establishing a productive dialogue with them. This has taken many forms, from direct engagement with practitioners built into the research process, e.g. through the SPARK social enterprise project, which included interventions for building innovation capabilities in social enterprises; to influencing policy debates, e.g. through contributing to the European funded RAPPORT and Cre8tv.eu projects and the DFID funded project on innovation in humanitarian response; to evaluating and helping the improvement of practice-oriented interventions e.g. evaluations I have conducted of Profitnet in South East England and Donegal and the interventions delivered by the SPARK project; and the creation of support and diagnostic tools, e.g. in the SPARK, INSPIRE, Managing Knowledge Spaces, and Inter-project Knowledge Capture and Transfer in Complex Product Systems projects.
PhD, King's College London
Master, University of Oxford
Chair of BAM Innovation Special Interest Group (SIG), British Academy of Management - BAM2019 → …
External examiner for MA in Innovation Management, Central St Martins2016 → …
Member of Editorial Board of Technovation2016 → …
Standing Chair of Innovation Track for BAM Annual Conference, British Academy of Management - BAM2011 → …
Member, British Academy of Management - BAM
Member, European Group for Organizational Studies
Fellow, Royal Geographical Society
Developing innovation routines in social enterprises: Evidence from a multi-activity support programmeMarshall, N. & Tsekouras, G., 3 Sep 2019, BAM 2019 Conference: Building and Sustaining High Performance Organisations in Uncertain Times.
Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBN › Conference contribution with ISSN or ISBNOpen AccessFile
Tsekouras, G., Marshall, N. & Christian, J., 24 Apr 2019, 13th International Conference on Organisational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities (OLKC): The human side of Innovation.
Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBN › Conference contribution with ISSN or ISBNOpen AccessFile
Projects and innovation in humanitarian emergency response: insights from a case study of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)Marshall, N. & Rush, H., 5 Jul 2018, (Accepted/In press) p. 1-22. 22 p.
Research output: Contribution to conference › PaperFile
Connecting SMEs of Low and Medium Innovation Capability to the Research Base: Challenges, Enablers and Supporting PoliciesTsekouras, G., Marshall, N. & Kanellou, D., 11 Oct 2017.
Research output: Contribution to conference › Paper
Marshall, N., 1 Jun 2015, 59 p.
Research output: Book/Report › Commissioned reportOpen AccessFile