Prof. dr. Bert George

Question & answer

What is your hidden talent?

I obtained a black belt in judo as a youngster. For more than 20 years, I practised various martial arts, ranging from judo, boxing to Thai boxing. I even visited Thailand three times to learn the traditional sport from the real local masters and entered the ring twice. The code that prevails in Eastern martial arts still guides me in my life (and career) today: courage, perseverance, discipline and respect. Perhaps my fascination with combat sports is also one of the driving forces behind my main research interest, which is strategy.

What is your research about?

My research focuses on strategy in the public sector. The government, but also other organisations with a social purpose, face different challenges to which they require a strategic response. At the same time, strategic thinking, acting and learning in the public sector is not always easy. Different stakeholders come into play, and what is a good solution for one, is bad for another. In my research, for example, I examine the effectiveness of strategy processes, such as strategic planning in public organisations. The government is all for plans, but when do these really contribute to creating value for society?

Where did your interest in this subject come from?

Strategy has always fascinated me. It is both abstract and challenging. It is a theme that transcends "hypes" - strategy is inherent in human behaviour and strategic thinking, acting and learning can help public organisations to actually realise policy goals. Strategy will always be important as policymakers and managers will always have to make choices about what they want to achieve, why, and how. Moreover, strategy is a theme that transcends disciplines, which makes the concept so interesting. From economists to historians, everyone is fascinated by the transformations that great strategies have brought about in society.

Why is your research socially relevant?

I have had the pleasure of teaching/advising on strategy worldwide. From Berlin to Hamburg, Rotterdam to Ghent, Abu Dhabi to Georgia, I hear the same frustration every time: How do we prevent our strategy from becoming nothing but an empty shell? In my research, teaching and service, I provide (future) policymakers and managers with tools to "do" strategy. This should ultimately enable them to make better decisions, decisions that fit within a vision, that are based on in-depth analyses, that take into account trends and scenarios, and that are supported by stakeholders and are actually implementable.

How would colleagues describe you?

I prefer to leave that to my colleagues. :-)

What do you still hope to achieve in your academic career?

As a strategist, I naturally reflect on my aspirations for the future and how I will realise them. On my wish list is the development of a book that connects theory and practice in the field of strategy in the public sector. A book that helps policymakers and managers to "do" strategy, while also stimulating researchers to conduct research into the conditions under which certain strategy processes have or have not worked. Naturally, I want such a book to be international in scope and, why not, to conquer the world (which takes us back to the military origins of strategy).

What is the first thing you do when an unexpected slot opens up in your schedule?

Go for a nice game of golf or a nice long walk with our rough-haired dachshund Elton.