Professor Walter Baets

QUALIFICATIONS: BSc in Applied Economics; MSc in Operations Research and Econometrics; Postgraduate studies in Business Administration; PhD in Industrial and Business Studies

AREAS OF EXPERTISE: Complexity Theory, Innovation, Knowledge Management, Management Learning, Non-linear Dynamic (complex) Behaviour in Management, Pedagogical Innovation



Currently, I am the Dean of "the camp", an innovation campus in Aix en Provence, France. Previously I was Dean/Director of the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town, the Allan Gray Chair in Values Based Leadership and the past Chair of the African Association of Business Schools. I held academic positions in France, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia and Belgium. In the 70s of the previous century, I graduated in econometrics and operations research at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. I went into business and I constructed econometric and optimization models: stock exchange forecasting, scenario analysis, risk management, assets and liabilities management, portfolio management, etc.  

I did a PhD (at Warwick Business School) where I experimented with the use of artificial intelligence as a research methodology. I was invited in what was then the only centre in Europe in Complexity Studies (in Aix en Provence, France) as visiting scholar.   I equally came across complexity theory in physics, initiated by Prigogine (a fellow Belgian) and was unexpectedly invited (again in Aix en Provence) to be keynote speaker, together with Francesco Varela, to a conference on the Learning Organisation. As a result, a world of biological complexity opened up to me that I continued exploring afterwards.

In the meantime, my interest in artificial intelligence, or complex adaptive systems (things like neural networks, genetic algorithms, agent based simulations, artificial life, fuzzy logic, etc) became more and more important. I experimented a lot with those techniques in management applications and they appeared to give a way to visualise emergence. 

Social sciences (such as management, organizational behavior) are non-linear and dynamic and in no way Newtonian. Complex adaptive systems seemed to do a good job, based on complexity in its largest understanding: non-linear dynamic systems behaviour (Prigogine); biological concept of autopoesis and enaction (Varela); and the interconnected structure of agent based simulations (Holland, Langton).

The larger picture is what I found in quantum mechanics.  Puzzled by the questions why most quantum mechanics asked themselves about "spooky physics on the background" (Einstein) or "complementary physics" (Pauli), an entirely new world opened up. Could reality be considered from a quantum perspective, or what I call a quantum ontology. That is what I explored in my Senior Doctorate (HDR, Aix-Marseilles University) titled A quantum interpretation of innovation, and it got published in a book: Complexity, Organisations and Learning:  A Quantum Interpretation Of Business (Routledge, 2006). But I still had the open question of meaning.  In fact, at least in my interpretation, the most challenging of all contributions of quantum mechanics is precisely their questioning of meaning. Our book Rethinking Growth: Social intrapreneurship for sustainable performance (Palgrave, 2009 co-author Erna Oldenboom) gives that more practical dimension also to meaning. Our latest book brings my exploration back into the realm of innovation: Values Based Leadership in Business Innovation (Bookboon, 2013, co-author Erna Oldenboom).

My current (research) interests include applications of the above-mentioned theories into a number of managerial areas: Innovation and knowledge; Complexity, chaos and change; Learning and artificial intelligence; Leadership and responsibility; On-line learning, work-place learning and pedagogical innovation.

I have been a Visiting Professor at the University of Aix-Marseille (IAE) and GRASCE (Complexity Research Centre) Aix-en-Provence. I held visiting teaching positions at ESC Rouen, KU Leuven, RU Gent, Moscow, St Petersburg, Tyumen University, Purdue University, Narsee Monjee (Mumbai, India) and Jiatong (Shangai, China). I have substantial experience in management development activities in Russia and the Arab world.

I have been one of a selected group of 20 academic that have written the Principles of Responsible Management Education (Global Compact of the UN), and have worked on those concepts in preparation of the academic conference on PRME in New York 2008 where I presented our reflections on teaching innovation.

I am the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Africa Journal of Management and a member of the International Editorial Board of the Journal of Strategic Information Systems, and Systèmes d'Information et Management.  I have acted as a reviewer/evaluator and chair for a number of International Conferences, like ECIS and ICIS (European and International Conferences on Information Systems) and have organized the Second ECIS, (launching it as such as a real international event). I have been auditor and evaluator for the EU RACE programme. I was guest editor of a special issue of Accounting, Management and Information Technology on Complexity in Management.  I have published more than 50 refereed articles and chapters in several journals including the Journal of Strategic Information Systems, The European Journal of Operations Research, Knowledge and Process Management, Marketing Intelligence and Planning, The Journal of Systems Management, Information & Management, The Learning Organization and Accounting, Management and Information Technologies.  I authored more than 10 books, and around 60 peer reviewed conference papers.

I was a winner of an Award for Excellence 1997 of MCB (publisher) for the publication of an outstanding paper in "The Learning Organisation". I was awarded the Best Teacher Award at Nyenrode Business University, 2000,with the course "Complexity and Knowledge". I was Organiser and Scientific Coordinator of the Summer Schools on "Managerial Complexity", in 1998 on behalf of the EU, DG XII, Science, Research and Development. I have graduated over 10 PhD students and examined another 10 worldwide. 




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