J C Spender

Cranfield School of Management

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J C Spender

Visiting Professor


J C Spender


  • Knowledge management
  • Corporate strategy

JC is a visiting professor in the Centre for Business Performance. JC is based in New York (USA) to where he migrated in 1982. In his career he served in the Royal Navy in experimental submarines, doing engineering at Oxford, and going on to Rolls-Royce to help design and build nuclear power plant for the UK submarines. He also did time with IBM (UK) on large experimental banking systems. Then his PhD thesis 'Industry Recipes' (Blackwell, 1989), which examined managers' uncertainty handling procedures in three different industries, won the US Academy of Management's 1980 AT Kearney Prize. After several years at UCLA he went back into business as Marketing and Strategy VP with Enigma Logic, computer security specialists, now part of the Secure Computing Corporation (SCUR). 4 years on the road world-wide and then new opportunities beckoned in academe - so on to Glasgow, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Rutgers. Now retired after seven years as a Business School Dean and building a new full-time career as a consultant, researcher, writer, lecturer, and generally itinerant academic.

His principal work is on Knowledge Management and Corporate Strategy. The focus, as always, is on the management and industry responses to uncertainty - meaning (a) the absence of key strategic data, and (b) difficulties with making actionable sense of the data available. This complements work on risk analysis and risk management with an exploration of how groups (teams, firms, industries, and nations) work together, often without realising it, to develop heuristics to help resolve the business uncertainties they face. The drivers are both functional (we need an answer - now!) and emotional. Emotion is little considered by decision-making researchers, and most managers are reluctant to talk about it. Yet it is the immediate and unavoidable consequence of our exposure to uncertainty - that is why 'emotional intelligence' (EQ) is so important, it relates to our ability to handle uncertainty without blocking reasoned action. New research could involve the use of rich simulations to expose us to uncertainty, generate emotion, and so help us develop EQ skills and personal uncertainty-resolving heuristics. These are more pervasive and important in our professional lives than superstitious habits like making sure to put one's left boot on first when going to play a big football game!

Management Themes

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