What is your main area of research and what motivates you in your research?
I am involved in a couple of research projects. One is about the valuing, controlling and accounting of intellectual capital. That is to say knowledge, structures and relationships. The question is how we can classify, calculate and measure the value of something non-physical and non-measurable. I am interested in our uncritical belief in figures and the reality they intend to reflect. I am fascinated by the magic of numbers: only that which can be measured is the object of performance management in the company. I am also involved in a project about performance management in central government. An exciting project that investigates how government performance management could be done in an effective way. The question is what controls there could be and what is effective from a welfare and democratic perspective.
What results has your research led to so far?
Heavens, what a question… Basically the results of the research (in an empirical field such as ours) are about how research is received by students, other researchers and in practice. I can hardly know this. But if I still try to summarise my publications they are about the relationship between the figures and action, figures and responsibility and the possibility for representation. The accounting figures can have, but do not need to have, a mobilising power that supports action. But the figures lead to the focus on accountability and less on the importance of responsibility.
You are Sweden’s representative for the European Accounting Association and Vice Chairman of Svenska Revisionsakademien (Swedish Academy of Auditing). What does this involve?
It means that I try to be involved and have an influence in order to improve the research situation for those who are and those who will be working within my field.
What do the students learn from you?
I hope they learn to appreciate or come to appreciate the joys of problematising techniques. I want students to be able to see and understand that it is great to get new insights and the main point is to learn, learn, learn!
How long have you been at the School of Business?
I started to study on the ‘new economics course’ in 1984. I was in 85th place on the reserve list... Since then I have been in contact with the School in one way or another during the years I was out and working at other organisations. I was employed in 2002 after I had publicly defended a doctoral thesis in 2001. I took up my professorship in September 2008.
What is best about the School of Business?
I believe there are many people here who are interested in challenging the boundaries of what we should study, how we should study our subject, what sources of knowledge are reasonable to make use of and test the boundaries of the subject itself. The disadvantages of city universities are also their advantages: We are restless at the same time we are innovative. Perhaps it does not suit everyone, but I am comfortable with it.
What is most enjoyable about doing research?
The most enjoyable aspect about doing research is writing. It is a fascinating prism for my thoughts: as soon as I write something, I notice that what I have written requires an explanation – and I often actually disagree with myself. It is like having a dialogue with myself and a way of checking whether my fleeting thoughts have any substantial meaning.
What is the most difficult about doing research?
The time it takes to do it. Research does not give the same rapid feedback at all as, for example, teaching or administration. The question is asked, the study is designed and carried out, texts are read and written. The results are sent in, to be judged later. Unfortunately, the judgement is seldom mild.