Police communication research leads to management award

Professor Joep Cornelissen from the Corporate Communication Centre at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) has won a prestigious award for the best published paper 2015 from the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management. Prof. Cornelissen received the award during an award ceremony that took place at the Academy of Management meeting in Vancouver in August.

The award-winning paper covers the moment-by-moment interactions and communication that took place between police officers in London, who as part of a UK anti-terrorist police operation, come to mistake civilian Jean Charles de Menezes for a suicide bomber, with fatal consequences.

Real-time decision-making

Cornelissen’s paper explores the combined effect of communication, emotions, and materiality on sense-making during the shooting. “This paper is relevant to the business community because it clarifies the complex combination of communication, emotions and materiality in real-time decision-making,” says Prof. Cornelissen. “By focusing on a dramatic, high-profile case it also offers insights and pointers for questions of leadership, improvisation, and effective communication within other, less challenging contexts.”

Subconscious communication

The shooting took place in Stockwell, London on 22 July 2005, a day after a failed terrorist bombing attempt, and two weeks after bombings by Islamist extremists in London’s public transport system killed 52 people. “The officers’ verbal communication during a time of high-alert was subtle – but crucial – in the decision-making process,” says Cornelissen. “The suspect wasn’t identified according to their protocols, but the subtle cues that they sent in their communications to one another combined with intense feelings of emotional distress convinced police officers that they were facing a terrorist suicide bomber.”

The professor said the subtle cues and effects of communicating also happen in management. “Business leaders often also are influenced – and influence others – subconsciously through their choice of words and idioms, and at times in unforeseen ways,” said Cornelissen. “Being aware of how words and expressions frame ideas and prime responses is thus a crucial skill for any manager or leader.”

High-profile investigation

Cornelissen’s paper won because of the theoretical complexity of their study and the rich nature of the qualitative study that the paper reports. The paper, which deals with a high-profile public case, was co-written by Saku Mantere, associate professor of strategy and organisation at McGill University; and Eero Vaara, professor of organisation and management at Aalto University School of Business.

The award is presented each year by OMT to the authors of the paper that the Academy believes has made the biggest contribution to management and organisational scholarship. The jury, chaired by Professor Royston Greenwood, surveyed the best work published in eight leading journals: Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Organization Science, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management Studies and Organization Studies.

Joep Cornelissen

Joep Cornelissen is a professor of corporate communication and management in RSM’s Department of Business-Society Management. He was appointed to this role in June 2015, and he teaches in the Executive Master in Corporate Communication programme (run by the Corporate Communication Centre) as well as the MSc in Global Business and Stakeholder Management programme. Cornelissen’s research is well known in the area of corporate communication, management and organisation theory.

The Academy of Management’s Organization and Management Theory division (OMT) is the largest division of the Academy of Management and aspires to advance robust theoretical understanding of organisations, organising, and management. The division promotes and develops the community of researchers, educators, and practitioners who advance OMT scholarship and practice and its application across domains and topics. OMT has almost 4,000 members, including academics, students, and management executives.

More information

For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Jacco Neleman, senior press officer at Erasmus University Rotterdam, via +31 10 4081216 or by email at press@eur.nl.

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