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“Every sentence in her papers is just right”

“Every sentence in her papers is just right”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob

Alexander Brüggen inspired by Joan Luft

A clear thinker who provides constructive and unambiguous feedback, but who can also deal with criticism very well. Alexander Brüggen, senior lecturer at Accounting and Information Management, came to know Joan Luft, emeritus professor at Michigan State University, during two projects on which they worked together.

“She is extremely clever, very friendly and has absolutely no airs. She has a broad interest, something you notice when you speak with her. It is not just all about work. I think that is important. I feel sorry for people who only live for their research, it is inspiring when someone has various passions,” says Brüggen. He got to know Joan Luft when - having just completed his research traineeship - he went to Michigan State University for six months in 2007. “She is an expert in her field and very amicable. There is no such thing as hierarchy with her. Until it occurs to you in conversation how clever she is.”

Brüggen and Luft carried out research together on the question in how far departments competing against each other for part of the budget provide false information to the person dividing up the money. “It turned out that when competitiveness is very intense, the information is correct. Most people think that chances of them getting the money are so slight, that there is no point in making things look better than they are. When there is no competition, nobody lies either; why would you want to? But if there is a little competitiveness for the money - which is the case in most businesses - then a lot of incorrect information is provided.”

During their time working together, Brüggen became impressed by Luft’s style of writing. “Her papers are a joy to read, I think they are also comprehensible for outsiders. Every sentence is just right. Her way of reasoning is very clear and accurate and she works extremely systematically and well planned. She taught me to put my arguments in a logical order, to turn dry data into a good story. The danger in writing a paper is that you end up making a sort of list.”

If Luft has criticism about anything, she is clear in that. “Wrong is wrong, she is very direct but also very constructive. It’s a combination that you don’t often see. She helps you to find the right approach. She can also deal with criticism well. She looks at it from a distance, doesn’t take it personally and often even manages to turn it to her advantage. Reviewing papers is partly a game, of course, and she plays along.”

Their second research together was recently completed. “We looked at the funding of projects spread across multiple years. Businesses often have managers rotate jobs; one gives funding for the first year, someone else may do so for the next year. The idea is that, by doing so, everything is kept under control. But because project leaders know that chances are smaller that they will receive funds again for the second year, they give false information during the presentation of the first year in order to obtain additional budget.” Luft retired last summer, so their co-operation has come to an end.

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