Prof. dr. Carol OuProfessor of Information Management at the Department Management
“A good researcher will never stop re-search-ing for problems and solutions”
What is the main goal of your research?
Technology is advancing at an amazing pace. The main goal of my research is to understand how technology has changed individuals, teams, organizations, business and society. To give one example of my research projects, recently I started to work with a fashion company to investigate their customer and sales data from three channels: physical stores, traditional e-commerce platforms and social commerce data (all pseudonymized). The integration of large data sets from this company provides the opportunity to explore how technology is transforming the business, as well as to scrutinize the effect of omnichannel on consumer behavior based on panel data, click-stream data, and social network data. Such a project is only a very tiny part of the huge research domains surrounding digital transformation. It is stirring to see the significance of technology and information management everywhere.
How does your research contribute to societal problems?
“Theory without practice is sterile. Practice without theory is blind. There is nothing so practical as a good theory": the immortal words of the late Kurt Lewin. I hope my research can contribute to the understanding of problems, regardless of whether the problems exist at the individual or societal level, in a structural way. There is nothing better than to build a theory based on data, and the theory is the structural way of understanding a phenomenon.
What is your main motive?
My main motive for research seems to change over time. When I was a student research assistant in my study at a master program (20+ years ago), I only wanted to know how to accomplish the task of building a database as a programmer. When I finished the database task, I was tempted to go further for a PhD. Now I got nicely trapped by different projects with companies and my colleagues. I think a good researcher will never stop re-search-ing for problems and solutions. Along the way, the diversity of people, ideas and things can keep inspiration running.
Who is your role model?
It is difficult to name a life-long role model, but in general I am amazed by people who put their good will into persistence. For instance, as an ocean advocate, Lewis Pugh completed the long distance swims in all five oceans of the world and hit almost all the world’s major landmarks (in fact watermarks) over a period of 30 years. My friends, a Dutch couple, have spent more than 10 years in finding the biological parents for their three adopted kids from China, with a wish to make their lives complete. The miracle happened twice already and now they are still on the journey of making the third miracle happen.