I am honored (and still a bit overwhelmed) by the decision of Thinkers50 to include me in the Thinkers50 RADAR 2020. On a yearly basis, the London-based organization Thinkers50 identifies a group of emerging thinkers with original management ideas. This year’s Thinkers50 RADAR consists of a group of 30 organization leaders, entrepreneurs, advisors and academics. About my inclusion in this list, Thinkers50 writes the following: “Van der Kolk offers a unique and unusual take on the realities and implications of how we measure performance.” Below, you can find a brief overview of my work on this topic.
Some background on research
Although financial and non-financial accounting information may seem objective, neutral and/or even boring to some people, together with my co-authors, I argue that there is more to such numbers than meets the eye. Drawing on case studies and survey research, we found that performance measurement can motivate employees, create cognitive dissonance and evoke opportunistic behavior. We also found that it matters how performance measures are used for the effects they generate, and that supervisors play an important role in balancing tensions that may arise from using combinations of management tools. To understand management accounting well, one should not only focus on its technical, but also on its social and ethical implications.
Practice and teaching
With my co-authors, I regularly try to communicate research findings ‘back’ to practice, for instance via practice-oriented outlets such as IE Insights, Holland Management Review and The Guardian, but also via practitioner events and teaching. Furthermore, together with my colleagues Maya Kumar and Martina Pasquini, I developed practical teaching cases about the ethical implications of business decisions – one about Audi’s first level 3 self-driving vehicle (forthcoming at Ivey Publishing) and one about the Madrid-based sustainable fashion brand ECOALF (available at IE Publishing).
I am highly grateful for the acknowledgement by Thinkers50, but I also would like to stress that most of my work really is a team effort. I consider myself very lucky for all the opportunities I have been given and thank my co-authors, in particular Paula van Veen-Dirks and Henk ter Bogt, (former) colleagues, students and those who gave feedback on my work for inspiring, challenging and helping me to carry out my job as a researcher and teacher. I am looking forward to continuing my work on performance measurement and ethics in the years to come, and I thank Thinkers50 for their encouragement.