Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Grand Tour

I will be doing only a limited amount of blogging these next two weeks while I’m traveling in Europe — mainly catching up on stories on my hard disk rather than researching new stories. Meanwhile, here is a supremely off topic and self-indulgent reflection on what I’ll be doing.

Once upon a time, when it took a week or more to steam to Europe, Americans visited the Continent in a “Grand Tour,” of the sort ridiculed by the movie “If Today’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium.” (I don’t know if it’s that different when Europeans want to cram into one trip the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, Yellowstone and the Golden Gate Bridge.)

When I was 22, I conned my employer into relocating me to its Dublin office for two months. After that, I took my InterRail pass, one suitcase and a wad of various currencies to visit 5 countries in two weeks. (The trip was was cut short when my spending went over budget, and fortunately I could catch an earlier PanAm flight back to my apartment in L.A.) That was my first trip to Europe, but since then nearly all of my visits have been single-city jaunts, popping off the plane to visit a trade show in Hannover, or a conference in Paris, Helsinki (twice), Aachen, Copenhagen or Geneva. (We won’t count the time my mom broke her arm in Rome and needed someone to fly over to carry her bags so she could enjoy her first and last trip to Italy).

Nearly 27 years later, over the next two weeks I’m doing my 2nd Grand Tour of the Continent. This week I’m in Paris, both keynoting and presenting a paper at one of two open innovation tracks at the European Academy of Management conference. The invitation to keynote at an academic conference is a great honor, not one that I thought I’d enjoy this early in my career. (To be honest, there are many tracks, each with its own keynote speaker(s)).

Next week, I’m presenting invited papers at the business schools of Switzerland’s two technical universities — EPFL and ETH — which at their request will be two chapters from our in-progress book. In addition to a nice dinner and a chance to make new friends, I’ll be around a larger audience for my work than I’m likely to find at home. In between, I’m also visiting two co-authors to work on papers.

This is my longest and most logistically complex trip this year, with 5 planes and 7 trains (not counting intracity trips). But then it’s a very busy year, with plans (thus far) to present at seven academic conferences and invited papers at five universities — all between January to October.

Before I got tenure, I thought tenure meant “take a sabbatical and work on what you think is important.” In my case, that meant the book. But I now realize tenure also means “take as many trips as you can afford” and “present as much as you want without regards to the tenure committee.”

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