Beyond the Bio: Brent McKnight

July 30, 2014 | Hamilton, Ontario
Contributed by Brent McKnight, Assistant Professor, Stategic Management

317r-brent-mcknight-2012_ppIn a few sentences, please summarize your academic/business career leading up to you joining DeGroote.

Following my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering and Management, I spent four years working with Accenture as a consultant in the telecommunications sector. I worked with all of the major telecoms in Canada. After four years, I happened to meet academics who had been studying sustainability-oriented topics in the context of management. At the time, this was a very new field in management. The idea of pursuing a PhD had always been a consideration and the combination of interest and opportunity led me to the Richard Ivey School of Business for my PhD. My research and teaching explore how firms build capabilities to respond to the shocks and disturbances they face, and the role that firms play in building more resilient communities.

What is the most interesting place/event/moment that your research/career has led you to?

While my research and academic career is relative young, one of the most interesting moments was hosting a Group Vice President from GM during my doctoral studies. I was studying the North American automotive industry at that time so the interaction with him was highly valuable. Universities are a great meeting ground between industry, government, and the broader public. As such, you get to meet a lot of really interesting people in this profession both inside and outside the classroom.

Why academia? What led you to teach?

During my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to work on an academic paper: entitled e-improvisation. That paper was published in a journal and I attended an academic conference in Lisbon on the topic of organizational improvisation. While far from the work I do now, that sparked an early interest in research. My interest in teaching comes from an innate love of explaining concepts and ideas. Constructing ways to engage students in the classroom is an enjoyable challenge.

What is the first thing your students learn about you that isn’t in your academic bio?

The first thing they learn is that I have two small boys, Liam (5) and Owen (3). I typically bombard the students with cute pictures of the kids on the background for my laptop. They are also likely to learn that I am an avid cyclist and fan of the tour de France.

What excites you about your current research interests?

Evidence is accumulating that extreme weather is increasing in frequency. One simply has to pick up the newspaper. It is affecting more and more people and hitting closer to home. Flooding in Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto are good examples but so is Hurricane Sandy in New York. For-profit firms represent both a largely untapped and poorly researched area yet hold significant potential for improving community resilience. I am excited about pushing this research forward with actionable insights about how firms can productively and profitably become part of appropriate community adaptation to extreme weather.

BrentMcKnightBrent McKnight conducts research at the intersection of strategy and sustainability. His research on dynamic capabilities has advanced understanding of how firms build capabilities over long periods of time that enabled them to respond to persistent regulatory, societal, environmental, and competitive disturbances. His current research examines the role that for-profit firms play in building community-level resilience to natural disasters.

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