Simon de Jong: An Analogy of Basketball and Business

Prof. dr. Simon de Jong is a (Full) Professor in Organizational Behaviour and HRM at the Department of Organization & Strategy. He also acts as the Vice-Chair of the O&S department. Additionally, he serves as an Associate Editor on the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.

Before joining Maastricht University, Simon worked as a Human Capital consultant at Deloitte Consulting and held various academic roles at top universities and business schools across Europe, including the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), EADA Business School (Spain), and the Universities of Bath and East Anglia (UK).

In his research, he focuses on understanding the dynamics between power and teamwork, the challenges for achieving good job and organizational designs, and the characteristics of effective leadership and HRM. Moreover, together with his co-authors, he researches various other topics such as the impact of top management teams on employees and the effects of HRM practices on the psychological contract and the aging workforce. His research spans different levels of analysis, ranging from the relational/dyadic level, to the individual-, team-, department-, and organization-levels. His articles have been published in top scientific journals, such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Management, Journal of World Business, Human Relations, and Organization Science.

Drawing on the above experience, Simon has taught a variety of HRM and Organizational Psychology courses ranging from strategic HRM to consulting, and from negotiations to diversity and leadership training. He has also supervised theses on all levels (i.e., BSc, MSc, (Exec.) MBA and PhD) and received various grants and awards. His consultancy experience ranges from HR benchmarking and HR strategy consulting to process and service improvement.

What is your role at SBE?

Akin to other professors, I have a whole range of duties, including: doing research myself, but also making sure others can do research. This means managing resources and funding, getting the right people in and afterwards coaching, advising, and supervising them. And then of course teaching courses and supervising theses. Last but not least, besides the regular teaching I also do MBA teaching.

What motivates you as a professor?

From an educational perspective, it is very rewarding to have people think thoughts they have not thought before. It is nice when students say: “Ah, I’ve never thought about it this way”, and then are able to apply this in a project or their job.

For research, it is basically the same: I like solving puzzles and problems, and science is one big continuous problem solving exercise. Everybody builds a small part of the puzzle, that is the cool thing. And working with intrinsically motivated people on solving these puzzles is very rewarding.

What is your role within the MBA programme?

Currently, I supervise BCP theses and of course teach various modules on, for example, understanding individuals, understanding teams, and performance and SHRM. Additionally, we (as the O&S group) are also expanding our involvement in external consulting/training projects, so I also play a role there. Previously I was director of Executive Education at another university, which meant that I also had to provide overall leadership to the FT and MBA programmes (e.g., curriculum, staffing, marketing, recruitment, etc.). Hence, all in all a varied range of MBA-related activities.

What is your topic for the week?

Understanding business in times of change. We start with the context, focus on the organisational level, strategic HRM and then go into social and individual psychological aspects like: what is motivation, what makes teams work.

How do you make the connection to today’s business?

There are different ways of doing that. We present a whole range of different source materials: from scientific articles to practical articles and links to websites. I think that as an MBA student, you should have a critical mind and be able to flexibly use, integrate, and critique those various sources. In short: you have to know what the strengths, weaknesses and limitations are of different sources.

Another thing that we try to do in the MBA, is to provide a bit of a historic perspective. The things you hear about today; some of them are hypes, and some are new, yet some have been done before. It is therefore valuable to understand where topics are coming from: by understanding the past, you can understand today (and the future).

In science, there generally is a broader perspective, but in business, issues sometimes collapses into “this is it”. In such cases, it does not hurt to take a step back and look at things a bit more critically from a more holistic understanding. I think this is a very important skill to learn during a MBA.

What are you particularly proud of professionally?

Careerwise, I’ve enjoyed working internationally and getting my first full professorship at the relatively young age of 36. I am also quite proud of various publications my co-authors and I have been able to publish in global top scientific journals.

Would you like to share something personal with the readers?

I used to play basketball at quite a high level (i.e., junior ‘eredivisie’ and senior ‘eerste divisie’ and even some games at senior ‘eredivisie’ level). With the juniors, my position was center, but I was too short for the same position with the seniors and thus moved more towards power-forward. Unfortunately, a knee-injury put an end to my active playing, but it is still in my DNA. So don’t be surprised if you spot a basketball-analogy or two during classes!