Innovator Spotlight: Vern Glaser

Vern Glaser focuses on helping organizations envision and implement strategic change.

Vern Glaser, associate professor at the U of A

Dr. Vern Glaser is an associate professor in the  Centre for Entrepreneurship & Family Enterprise (CEFE), the Eric Geddes professor of business in the  Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Management at the  Alberta School of Business and the academic director for CEFE and the Alberta Business Family Institute. Dr. Glaser’s current group research involves the intersection of artificial intelligence and strategic decision-making to explain how organizations can overcome the problem of dynamic inertia.

In this week’s spotlight, Dr. Glaser shares how taking advantage of an opportunity, however small, can generate analogical thinking, why prioritizing the process rather than the end result is valuable, and how creativity and routine can go hand-in-hand in generating innovative ideas and solutions.

How do you describe your work to people who don’t work in your field?

My research revolves around a simple question: “How do organizations strategically change practices and culture?”

What’s one big problem you want to solve through your work?

Organizational change is extremely difficult. I hope that my research helps people in all types of organizations do a better job envisioning and implementing strategic change.

What does the word “innovation” mean to you?

I think the essence of innovation can often be distilled into a simple insight or kernel that helps you overcome an obstacle or take advantage of an opportunity. These insights or kernels often can be generated through analogical thinking.

What’s been your biggest a-ha moment — in life or work — so far? 

When I was working on my PhD, I did research on a law enforcement organization that wanted to change the way that they conducted their patrolling routines. They struggled to create unpredictable patrolling schedules, and worked with an organization to use algorithms to address this challenge. Interestingly, I found that the most significant change occurred during the efforts to design the new algorithmic routine. This has shifted my focus from prioritizing outcome goals to prioritizing the processes used to achieve those goals.

How do you or your team come up with your best ideas? 

I find that my creativity is tightly connected to my daily routine. Over the last few years, I’ve found that there are three foundational habits that spark my creativity: sleep, exercise and meditation. I also love to watch movies and TV shows and read, and find that fictional stories are both enjoyable and stimulate creativity indirectly and sometimes directly.

What’s your favourite thing about working at the U of A? 

The U of A has a great research culture, both in my department, in the School of Business and in the university more broadly. Being in a community with members who are passionate about doing research that makes a difference is inspiring and energizing.

What’s next for you? Do you have any new projects on the horizon? 

I’m currently working on several projects at the intersection of artificial intelligence and strategic decision-making. In my most immediate project, with co-authors Omid Omidvar and Mehdi Safavi, we’re developing a model to explain how organizations can overcome the problem of dynamic inertia, which occurs when an organization deals with a complex environment by using algorithms ineffectively. 

Dr. Glaser Vern

About Vern

Dr. Glaser earned his PhD from the University of Southern California, his masters in business administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and his bachelor of arts in economics from the University of California (Los Angeles). 

Before entering academia, Dr. Glaser gained experience in sales, customer service, operations management, business development, merger integration and management consulting. In 2005, he founded Red Hill Advisors, a niche consulting firm which provides management consulting and software development services for medium-sized businesses in a variety of industries. Additionally, he co-founded Red Hill Technology Solutions, a joint venture software company that utilizes dashboarding technology and mobile devices to provide real-time business intelligence solutions for the construction materials industry.

Find Dr. Glaser on ORCID.

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Innovator Spotlight is a series that introduces you to a faculty or staff member whose big ideas are making a big difference.

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