La Trobe Business School

Month: October 2016

What does it mean to be part of the LBS incubator team for My Big Idea?


By Anne Brouwer

In September I was asked by the La Trobe Business School to be part of the incubator team of My Big Idea Australia. It’s a project organised by the Australia Futures Project to encourage Australians to submit ideas for a better Australia on a range of areas such as: concern for future generations, effective healthcare, caring for the elderly and economic growth. Ultimately over 1200 ideas were submitted and 10 winners were announced. Our team went to Sydney for a two-day workshop on how to further develop two of the ten winning ideas but also to learn how to lead such a workshop ourselves. Those Australians that submitted ideas but didn’t win were given the opportunity to take part in a full day workshop on further developing their ideas. Therefore, on the 8th of October 2016, La Trobe Business School hosted a successful start-up bootcamp, called Minihack, delivering on its My Big Idea promise to train 500 Australians to be positive change makers. All Australians in Victoria involved in My Big Idea were invited.

A small but very motivated number of Victorians worked a full day on their ideas. Everybody brought their own ideas to the table ranging from tackling the obesity epidemic, setting up a system that provides legal advice for indigenous people in incarceration to an app for reducing meat-intake for a more sustainable world. It was incredible to get to know all these ideas, to hear about how the participants came up with the ideas and also to see the various stages the ideas were in. One participant’s’ idea was already picked up by the local media, another one already developed an app and some were upscaling themselves in specific skills as to better execute their idea.

The day was coordinated by La Trobe Business School’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, Dr Alex Maritz, who gave the welcoming presentation to participants in the morning. He spoke about ways for participants to refine, pitch and build on their idea and encouraged participants to share their idea with others in the room. The approach is learning by doing. The workshop participants were divided in small groups and received mentoring, support and advice from myself and several other La Trobe Business School staff members, including academics and PhD candidates. LBS Staff included Associate Professor Vanessa Ratten and PhD candidates Claudia Shwetzer and Ana Amirsardari.

I sat together with three lovely women, all three having very different ideas: using big data to tailor health care services better, a platform to bring home cooks and people who do not like to cook, can’t cook or those looking for some social interaction over dinner together, and setting up mental health healing centres where the use of a mindfulness program reduces and prevents long-term mental health problems.  I was impressed with how the ideas developed throughout the day and how well everybody got along. There was a great vibe in the room the whole day.

The feedback at the end of the workshop was incredibly positive. Contact details were exchanged and a My Big Idea Minihack Facebook Page had emerged.

For me, being the only team member with no entrepreneurial background, working with the LBS’s incubator team existing of highly successful academics and professionals, was a great experience. It was also great getting to know all these amazing people and their ideas. All in all, both the workshop in Sydney as well as the mini-hack at La Trobe University were great events bringing together lots of creative minds developing innovative ideas to make Australia even better!

Anne Brouwer is currently a PhD candidate at La Trobe Business School.

Accounting on puppy love


By Lauren Mitchell

For accounting student Emma Ashworth, choosing a charity to fundraise for as part of her course was one of this year’s easiest uni tasks. It had to be Righteous Pups. The Bendigo-based not-for-profit group trains assistance dogs for at-risk teens and children with autism.

“I have a sibling who was diagnosed with autism at a young age and if he had had access to one of these dogs then it would have made a huge difference in his life,” Emma says. “I am honoured to be able to raise funds for a charity that is doing fantastic work.”

Emma is one of a group of accounting students to join their Bundoora counterparts in the fundraising challenge. The La Trobe Business School will kick in an extra $500 for the group that raises the most for its chosen charity.

“We’re hoping we can win against the Bundoora groups for the prize money to increase our donation to Righteous Pups,” says fellow student Elysia Young. “They’re much more than a cute puppy charity. They do really meaningful work training autism assistance dogs, as well as dogs for medical alert and therapy.”


Accounting student Michael Martin and new mate Fergus.

The students took their efforts off campus this week for an event at the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank headquarters. As well as chocolate and raffle ticket sales, the students helped host tours of the bank building with Righteous Pups Labradors. The dogs provided some much-loved puppy therapy for bank staff, plus prompted plenty of loose change donations.

Accounting lecturer Kate Ashman was also on hand to help. “This group of accounting majors have demonstrated a level of commitment and passion to a voluntary program which has been a credit to themselves,” Kate says.

“I have watched the growth of these students, from when they were hesitant about the project through to being aware of the professional skills they now possess and can take with them into long-term careers.”

Kate says the project has connected students to many local businesses, including RSD Chartered Accounting, which gave them some professional advice to help the cause.

“The support from our local community has been fantastic. So many businesses have donated goods to raffle and assisted our students to achieve their goal of assisting Righteous Pups.”

Student Michael Martin says he can already see how taking part in the project will have benefits for life post-uni. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity to develop my work-ready attributes and philanthropic desires at a critical point of my degree,” he says. “We’d also like to say thank you to the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank for supporting us and this wonderful cause.”

This article was originally published on the La Trobe University Bendigo Blog.

Hanna Sarkkinen: “Since the Bootcamp session my brain has been buzzing with ideas.”

By Hanna Sarkkinen

Last April when I was creating my website for my Lets Mind Project, I found the My Big Idea Competition by coincidence. Reading up on the competition, I decided to participate with my idea, “The Mindful Mental Health Movement”. So far I have had a great experience!

My Project: The Mindful Mental Health Movement

The Mindful Mental Health Movement idea was born out of my own personal experience. From my professional experience as a nurse, I already know how prevalent mental health issues are, both in our society and globally. But when I struggled with mental health problems myself, I quickly learned how strong the stigma surrounding mental health issues actually is. This made me realise how people are often undereducated about mental health. Drawing from these experiences, I wanted my initiative to address this gap in education, when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Since starting my website I have heard so many stories of people struggling with their mental health. If anything, these stories have shown me that no one is immune to mental health problems, and how it is crucial for people to know that mental health and physical health often go hand in hand. As the World Health Organisation, WHO, states “There is no health without mental health”.

Research all over the world has shown that one of the most effective tools for both mental and physical wellbeing is mindfulness. It can be used to maintain a healthy mental balance, or improve this balance significantly. Because of this, I wanted to make sure our programme included mindfulness training, and make sure that this training would be accessible and achievable for all.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently revealed that in 2015, 3027 lives were lost to suicide. Every one of these suicides is one too many. I am hopeful that through our programme, we can improve these statistics for the better, and give people the knowledge, tools and techniques to keep their mind healthy, while also teaching them about how to get help when they are unwell. Through the Mindful Mental Health Movement we want to spread the message in communal spaces like schools, universities, workplaces, and community houses. We want our programme to be accessible to everyone, because offering these tools to everyone is the way to tackle the mental health stigma.

My Big Idea Start-Up Bootcamp at La Trobe Business School

On 8 October 2016, I attended the My Big Idea AU bootcamp day in Melbourne that was organised by La Trobe Business School. The bootcamp was an amazing opportunity for us participants to learn about startups and entrepreneur principles. Coaches and mentors from La Trobe Business School shared their valuable knowledge with us and taught us different techniques to test and develop our ideas. The atmosphere throughout the day was one of excitement, curiosity and support. Everyone was delighted to be part of this Bootcamp and embraced the opportunity to make a positive impact on our society. For me personally, the most important message of the day was to be brave and believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure or mistakes because all great ideas have once started from a small “maybe dumb” idea which has been developed to a great success.

The Bootcamp was a start session for the My Big Idea AU online entrepreneur course, in which I am participating too. Since the Bootcamp session my brain hasn’t stopped buzzing and I have millions of ideas in my head about the Mindful Mental Health Movement. The next step for me, is to test my idea with a greater group of people. Based on this test, the next step is to take the concept in the right direction, and to make sure my idea correlates with the needs of the clientele. I am really excited to take these steps, as I learn more about start-ups. I am excited to master the tools to bring my idea to life and make it a success! And, most importantly, I hope that I can make a change in someone’s life.

Hanna Sarkkinen is a 32-year-old nurse from Finland currently living in Australia. She is a passionate surfer, snowboarder, nature lover, and the creator of the
Lets Mind Project.

Big Data and Cybersecurity: Are We Ready?


La Trobe Business School would like to invite you to La Trobe University’s panel event: “Big Data and Cybersecurity: Are We Ready?”

The Australian Crime Commission estimates the annual cost of cybercrime in Australia to be more than $1 billion. At the same time there’s a severe global skills shortage in cybersecurity workers, with 1 million job vacancies expected to be advertised this year.

The exponential growth in cybercrime, and the number of jobs available in this area, has seen cybersecurity emerge as a key field requiring skilled specialists. Companies are now recognising the importance of cybersecurity and protecting their data. This panel event will explore the complex nature of data-rich industries and discuss the importance of data-driven decisions in the new age of cybersecurity.

Our panel consists of leading industry experts, La Trobe academics and representatives from our industry partners. The event will conclude with an audience question and answer session followed by drinks, canapés and the opportunity to network.


  • Master of Ceremonies: Stilgherrian – freelance journalist, commentator and broadcaster
  • Sandie Bradley – Executive Director Cyber Security, Australian Signals Directorate, Australian Government’s intelligence agency within the Department of Defence
  • Brian Williams – Technical Product Manager of Security, Cyber Security Centre of Excellence, Optus
  • Kristin Lyons – Chief Information Security Officer, Australia Post
  • Professor Wenny Rahayu – Head of the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, La Trobe University

Panel Event

Date:  26 October 2016

Time:  6pm  – 8.30pm

Venue: RACV City Club, 501 Bourke St, Melbourne

Register: Please register via the La Trobe University web page, here.

Were directors asleep at the wheel? And are they awake now?

Paul Mather La Trobe Business School

LBS Head of School Professor Paul Mather was an invited speaker and panellist at a symposium on Corporate Governance organised by the Institute of Directors in New Zealand and the University of Otago in Dunedin.

Were the directors asleep at the wheel? – This was the main question asked in the wake of corporate collapses such as Enron. Regulatory reforms emerged emphasising board structure such as independence, expertise and formation of committees. It has been more than a decade, so did reforms turn out to be yet another round of governance box checking which overlooked what directors are expected to do: apply independent thinking and knowledge in the best interests of the organisation? This symposium examined the importance of board culture and processes and what directors should do to meet shareholders’ interests.  Paul provided a high level overview of the academic research to date and highlighted some of the key regulatory implications flowing from the research.  In particular, he emphasised the need for regulations to also pay attention to processes rather than largely focus on structure.  A robust panel discussion followed.

The other panellists were:

Michael Stiassny – President of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand.

Jan Dawson – Chair of Westpac New Zealand, deputy chair of Air New Zealand and an independent director of BECA, AIG New Zealand and Meridian Energy.

Colin Magee – Head of Conduct for the Financial Markets Authority in New Zealand.

La Trobe Business School hosted successful start-up My Big Idea Bootcamp!

On 8 October 2016, La Trobe Business School hosted a successful start-up bootcamp delivering on its My Big Idea promise to train 500 Australians to be positive change makers.

The day was coordinated by La Trobe Business School’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, Dr Alex Maritz, who gave the welcoming presentation to participants in the morning. He spoke about ways for participants to refine, pitch and build on their idea and encouraged participants to share their idea with others in the room, using Pollenizer techniques such as ideation, proof of problem discovery and pitching for influence.

Several La Trobe Business School staff members, including academics and PhD students, acted as mentors for participants throughout the day, offering their feedback and advice on several ideas. LBS Staff included academics Associate Professor Vanessa Ratten, Dr Quan Nguyen and PhD candidates Anne Brouwer, Claudia Shwetzer and Anna Amirsardari. “Giving the participants the chance to interact about their idea with our experienced staff one-on-one is a very valuable opportunity,” Professor Alex Maritz said. “We put quality over quantity, in the favour of our aspiring Big Idea participants.”

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Participants enjoyed the day and hoped to use the tools to take their idea to the next level: “I personally was very pleased to get tools to test my idea and see if it is logical and all in all achievable as a concept.” Bootcamper Hanna said. “I feel like I now have more knowledge to critically evaluate my idea and determine which direction I want to go in. Big thank you for La Trobe, all the mentors, My Big Idea Australia and fellow bootcampers!”

La Trobe Business School is looking forward to see participants unpack their ideas in the future!

Women’s Leadership in Business Schools Event: Opportunities and Challenges


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Ever wondered why there are so few women as Head of Business Schools or Vice Chancellors?

Ever asked yourself if women face extra challenges on their way to leadership roles?

Join our workshop and have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues with our successful academics and highly regarded panel members including Head of La Trobe Business School Paul Mather, Professor of Accounting and Associate Head of La Trobe Business School Jane HamiltonLBS’s Professor of Practice Susan Inglis, LBS’s Associate Professor Suzanne O’Keefe, Dr Jeanette Fyffe, and Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Amalia Di Iorio (panel chair). This workshop focuses on PhD students, early career researchers and staff of the La Trobe Business School, but we welcome anyone who is interested.

Afternoon Tea is included.

Preliminary Programme

Time Sessions
2:30 pm – 2:40 pm Welcome note: Introduction of panel members
2:40 pm – 3:30 pm  A short speech by panel members (10 minutes each)
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm Question and Answer Session
4:00 pm – 4:05 pm Concluding Speech by the project members
4:05 pm – 4:30 pm Networking with afternoon tea

Time and Date

Date: 20 October 2016

Time: 2.30pm – 4.30pm

Venue: John Scott Meeting House Chamber, La Trobe University, Plenty Road & Kingsbury Drive, Melbourne, Victoria 3086

Cost: Free

Register: Please register via Eventbrite.

From uncertainty to the semi-structured interview


By Jason Murphy

Taking on a PhD while working full-time can be a rewarding experience. I get to delve into an area of intellectual enquiry in a really rigorous way, and in a fashion that I’d be unlikely to undertake during my spare time!

My post today shares my preliminary experiences with research interviews. I hope it will prove useful to others in the social sciences. I present this post with the caveat that I’m by no means an expert in this area, and that these insights are things that I’ve learned along the way.

Within the social sciences – my discipline – candidature often involves establishing your position, concerns and argument within the existing literature and defining your methodological approach. This is often done before attempting to collect your data.

For those who are studying part-time, this can be a considerable journey and one that almost risks the complete abstraction of your original question and motivation for embarking on your journey of enquiry.

In my own case, it’s been a truly humbling experience and one where, quite honestly, the more I “learned” (note those deliberate commas); the more I delved and enquired, the further I seemed to drift away from any kind of absolute clarity about what I was doing.

In other words, the more I learned the less I knew. With this came an acute sense of ambiguity within a boundless ocean of perspectives, enquiries, points of view, etc.

While the journey can be long, once you’ve reached an outline or semi-definite position from which to form your argument, you’ll need to gather your data.

You’ll be presented with the very real task of applying your foundational work to a tangible world of differing uncertainty– something that lives outside of your head: the world of others. Critically, your enquiry will need to be grounded and of some practical use to others, in an applied or theoretical sense.

My journey took me to the semi-structured interview and, with this, a considerable level of anxiety and self-doubt about its effectiveness as a method and my effectiveness as an interviewer!

I was very fortunate that my supervisors have a lot of experience in the area of interviewing and qualitative enquiry, and they were happy to share this expertise and guide me through a lot of my own self-doubt. A really critical point here was their recommendation to produce a pilot study. This involved taking every aspect of the interviewing process: the recruitment; the formal, ethical considerations; the interview itself; the transcription of data; and, finally, a draft analysis.

This process was extremely helpful because I could choose people with whom I was already acquainted, were part of a valid target group, and would be able to appreciate and support the pilot nature of the study at this point. It allowed me to be clearer about the formal processes (starting the participation information statement, acquiring signed consent and explaining the project), the technical requirements (using the audio equipment effectively and testing it in a number of environments), reflection and refinement of the interview questions, the process of transcribing an interview, and the analysis of the data itself.

If you’re about to start using interviews for the first time, I can’t recommend enough doing a pilot study. It really helps you to live through the experience and gain insights that you wouldn’t necessarily have considered. It will also give you an opportunity to reflect again on how well your questions are working.

Right now, at the point of writing this post, I’ve done over twenty interviews and I’m still learning new things every time! It’s a really complex process – there are whole shelves of libraries devoted to the issues!

Here are a few strategies that I think would help those getting started with research interviews:

  • Do as much of the technical/formal parts ahead of time (at least a day before), like sending on copies of the paperwork, testing your audio equipment, and recharging your extra set of batteries.
  • Send your participate a calendar invite to lock in your date and time. Send them a reminder the day before.
  • Bring along hard copies of the paperwork and the consent form.
  • You’re probably going to feel mildly to acutely nervous. Try your best to remain calm and remember that it’s not about you – it’s all about your participant. If you transfer this nervousness to your participant, it will be harder for them to relax into the interview and you will be less likely to gain deep insights.
  • Quickly form a rapport with your participant. Show an interest in them and find points of common experience early on, but make sure you get into the formal interview as quickly as you can.
  • Rather than taking notes during your interview, make lots of eye contact with your participant and listen to them as closely as possible. Listen for opportunities to ask follow up questions, or to probe their response more deeply. Sometimes, participants will begin making a statement and change the subject – this can be a great opportunity for an unplanned follow up question that delves deeper.
  • My interviews are semi-structured, and it has proven useful to be familiar with the questions, or themes, but not approach the interviews in a rigid way. Every participant is different, and being relaxed, and using cues to adjust the focus of the conversation is one way of keeping the conversation flowing and relaxed. Your participant is more likely to share deep themes if they are relaxed.

I tried to gather some field notes soon after the interview is complete. Sometimes, I use my iPhone to record these as spoken notes. Other times, I scribble down some bullet points if I’m pressed for time but, ultimately, I try to record in long form observations about the interview and how it went. I focus on the environment where the interview took place, the body language, and personal feelings and emotions around how well the discussion went. These notes will provide you with additional context around each discussion.

One of the significant parts of the interview process is the transcription itself. I was very surprised by how time-consuming this can be. I’m not a slow typist, but it can take me a whole day to transcribe a single, one-hour interview! While there is no better way to get close to your data, I’d recommend that you consider transcribing every second interview, and having the others professionally transcribed. It will free up time and energy to focus on recruitment and reflection on your data. My department had some funds available to support research-related expenses, which I was able to apply for after discussion with my supervisors. While you will still need to carefully check your transcriptions for accuracy, this takes 1–2 hours, instead of a whole day. This can also be a good opportunity to take further notes about key parts of your interviews.

Finally, the key thing that I’m discovering even as I write this post is that although I have put countless hours of preparation into positioning my study and delving into theories that surround my topic, research by its nature has an inescapable core: discovery.

I couldn’t help forming assumptions around what I’d find through my interviews, but these are the things you bring as a researcher to your field. Ultimately, you don’t know what you are going to find, and I’ve been finding that I have needed to correct myself and be open to learning the things that I didn’t know were there.

I believe that this open, adaptable approach is necessary with interviews, in order to be able to learn fully from your participants, and have a chance at seeing what it is they have been willing to share with you.

Jason Murphy works with the La Trobe University Graduate Research School (GRS) as a senior research communications advisor. He manages the GRS website, social media, and newsletters that reach out to graduate researchers. His professional goal is to help make La Trobe a great place to do research.

Jason is also a PhD candidate at La Trobe Business School. His multidisciplinary PhD research focuses on the work of marketing professionals and asks if this contributes to ideologies that reinforce and perpetuate social class. Situated in the field of marketing, the project draws from work in the fields of marketing, anthropology, and the broader social sciences. He tweets at @murphy_jason and you can connect with him via LinkedIn.

This piece was originally published on the Red Alert blog.

LBS’s Professor Tim Bartram conducts research on why emotional intelligence makes you more successful

Image: Team Business Meeting by Unsplash (CC0.1.0)

Image: Team Business Meeting by Unsplash (CC0.1.0)

If you’ve recently read anything about getting ahead at work, you might have read that people with a high ‘EQ’ are more likely to get hired, promoted and earn better salaries. But what is EQ and why is it so important?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and understand the emotions the others. A high EQ helps you to build relationships, reduce team stress, defuse conflict and improve job satisfaction. Ultimately, a high EQ means having the potential to increase team productivity and staff retention. That’s why when it comes to recruiting management roles, employers look to hire and promote candidates with a high EQ – rather than IQ.

Identifying the importance of EQ, La Trobe researchers Dr Leila Karimi, Professor Sandra Leggat and Professor Tim Bartram have recently developed emotional intelligence training for healthcare employees. This training helps healthcare professionals excel while dealing with potentially emotionally taxing challenges like caring for ageing and dying people.

EQ is important for everyone who wants to be career ready. Drawing on the work of Daniel Goleman, below are five pillars of emotional intelligence and how they give you an advantage in the workforce.


Self-awareness is the ability to recognise one’s emotions, emotional triggers, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, values and goals and understand how these affect one’s thoughts and behaviour.

If you’re feeling stressed, annoyed, uninspired or deflated in your role, for example, it’s important to take the time to check-in with yourself and investigate why you might be feeling this way. When you’re able to label the emotion and understand its cause, you’re in a much better place to address the issue with appropriate action, such as putting your hand-up to take on additional work that might inspire you or finding productive ways to deal with a difficult colleague.


Drawing on one’s self-awareness, self-management is the ability to regulate one’s emotions. Everyone – including those with a high EQ – experiences bad moods, impulses and negative emotions like anger and stress, but self-management is the ability to control these emotions rather than having them control you.

This could mean delaying response to highly stressful or aggressive situations. Deciding to sleep on that angry email or phone call means you can react thoughtfully and with a clear-head, rather than impulsively. Negative emotions and impulsive behaviour not only negatively affects those around you, but can take a toll on your wellbeing too.


Motivation is essentially what moves us to take action. When we face setbacks and obstacles, checking in with our motives is what inspires us to keep pushing forward.

Those with low motivation are more likely to be risk-averse (rather than problem-solvers), anxious and quick to throw in the towel. Their lack of motivation may also lead them to express negative feelings about project goals and duties, which can impact team morale.

Those motived by ‘achievement’ and doing work they’re proud of, on the other hand, are more likely to ask for feedback, monitor their progress, push themselves and strive to continually improve their skills, knowledge and output. It’s easy to see why people with high motivation are an asset to any team.


Empathy is the ability to connect emotionally with others and take into consideration their feelings, concerns and points of view. It’s an important skill to have when negotiating with internal and external stakeholders and customers, as it enables one to anticipate the other’s needs and reaction.

In today’s workforce, emotionally savvy and intelligent managers assemble diverse teams whose unique perspectives and strengths they can leverage. Empathy is a key part of welcoming and appreciating different points of view to solve problems and come up with innovative ways forward.

Empathy is also essential for team harmony. Noticing and responding to the emotional needs of the people you work with makes for a happy work culture.

Relationship management

Relationship management is all about interpersonal skills – one’s ability to build genuine trust, rapport and respect from colleagues. This is about more than the cliché of a trust fall during a team building exercise – it’s about trusting and being trusted in a team.

A manager with outstanding relationship management skills is able to inspire, guide and develop their team members, greatly affecting team performance and productivity.
Final thoughts: although emotional intelligence seems to come naturally to some, our brain’s plasticity means we can increase our emotional intelligence if we’re willing to put in the work.

Find out more about our research into emotional intelligence.

This post was originally published on the La Trobe Knowledge Blog.

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