Co-creation? A higher level of engagement, better implementation

“Should I continue to aim for profit maximization or do I want to help students acquire more knowledge?” This is the point at which Koen Tackx arrived when he decided to embark on an academic career. In September he took up the position of Professor in Strategy and Marketing at Vlerick Business School, with telecommunications, energy and finances as his prime areas of focus.

“My career is rather atypical. After more than twenty years in the business world I made the switch to an academic career. I completed my doctorate at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management with a thesis on ‘fair process perspectives on strategy creation’ in June 2015. Just a few months later I started as a professor at Vlerick, which was precisely where I wanted to be. What I found here is a perfect synergy between the business world and an academic institute”. Koen Tackx sounds determined. “I have travelled a fascinating career path, including a position as Vice President of Marketing at Proximus. Still, I felt it was time for something new. I asked myself if I should continue to aim for profit maximization or if I wouldn’t rather help students acquire more knowledge. Intellectual freedom is something I value very highly. I also genuinely enjoy the teaching aspect. Taking this as a starting point, it was a logical choice for me to embark on a career in the academic world”.

Co-creating strategy

“My field of operations includes both strategy and marketing. I am fascinated by the co-creation of strategy. Co-creation is based on another type of process management, in which staff is involved in determining the strategy. Although this may not be a democratic model, as the final decisions are ultimately made by the manager, it is nevertheless the opposite of the situation in which one or more senior managers independently determine the long-term strategy of a business or organisation, without any involvement on the part of staff. Practice has shown that co-creation also results in a better implementation of the strategy. The parties involved have a more realistic view of the business. This yields better ideas that can, in turn, be implemented faster. Moreover, involvement also guarantees a higher level of engagement, from which all parties ultimately benefit”.

Practical experience

Tackx is thoroughly enjoying his new life as a professor. He does not necessarily consider his limited experience in the academic world a disadvantage. “I get a lot of mileage out of the expertise I built up in my former career. Considering that I know all the ins and outs of the business world, I am now far better able to arrive at a theoretic estimate of how certain things will turn out in practice. Is a concept or approach realistic? What will its impact be in concrete terms? This contributes a great deal of added value. What is, however, entirely new to me is the aspect of writing papers, publishing and joint research. The convivial atmosphere among my colleagues is highly beneficial. Also, their broad academic backgrounds are immensely interesting and complementary to my own”.

Current research domains

Tackx currently focuses on three domains. “On the one hand, I am conducting research into multinationals. How should they deal with foreign branches? Or cultural differences? On the other hand, I am investigating the acquisition and/or merger prospects of energy companies. And as an overarching domain, I am exploring the way in which business enterprises can achieve a balance between value creation and value capturing. How can you create value for the customer, while creating value for the shareholders at the same time?” He has presented several papers at major conferences such as the Strategic Management Society Annual Conference and the British Academy of Management. When asked where he would like to be in five years, Tackx answers with healthy serenity: “At present, I am where I have wanted to be for quite some time. The present is fine, just as it is. I am putting a great deal of effort into my current research and look forward to what will be crossing my path in the future. There is no need for me to set all the details in stone. I am motivated, but I also like to go with the flow”.

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