Martin L. Martens of the
Department of Management
Photo by Christian
by James Martin
Martin L. Martens cant remember his hula chants. He has, by his
own admission, fallen out of practice since moving from Honolulu
for a city of plenty, Montreal lacks in things hula. After several false
starts, he gets his groove back, locking into a singsong string of monosyllabic
words. He is not your typical management professor.
Martens is a new addition to Concordias
John Molson School of Business, and is currently teaching a fourth-year
course on strategy and competition. (He becomes Dr. Martens early next
year, pending final dissertation approval from the University of British
Before pursuing his MBA, he worked for over 10 years as a manager in the
Hawaiian newspaper business. Never a career, hula dancing is just one
of his many and varied interests. The initial plan was to use his MBA
training in the newspaper world, but going through the program just
raised more questions, so Martens decamped for UBCs doctoral
For his PhD dissertation, he looked at how strategy and risk were presented
in every single American IPO launched from 1995 to the first quarter of
2000 no small feat, because that period marked a massive burst
Beginning in 1995, IPOs initial public offerings on the stock market
caught a wave of techno-enthusiasm. Traditionally in the neighbourhood
of 250 per year, the number of annual IPOs began skyrocketing, peaking
at nearly 900 before the bubble burst in 2000. (This year, by comparison,
will likely see no more than 50 IPOs on the US stock exchanges.)
For Martens, it was an exciting time to be studying the market, and not
just because he was using his research to guide personal investments.
(He good-naturedly noted that like a lot of people, I probably didnt
pull out quickly enough.)
Martens research looks at how various forces (legitimization, unconscious
assumptions, government and industry regulations) change how firms behave.
IPOs, specifically, reflect the legitimized expectations of how
a firm should think and act.
Im interested in the social and environmental influences on
how people perceive and make sense of the world, he said. Bringing
it into a business context: What social and physical forces shape how
managers think about risk, and consequently formulate strategy to deal
with that risk?
His interest in risk extends past the boardroom, all the way to Antarctica.
Martens is a Sir Ernest Shackleton buff. In 1914, the British explorer
and his crew set sail for Antarctica on the 144-foot Endurance, hoping
to complete the unprecedented deed of crossing the continent on foot.
The ship became trapped in the ice en route, and there the men remained
for two years. Incredibly, every last crew member lived to tell the tale.
Surviving adversarial times
There is, not surprisingly, a business spin to this story. The happy ending
is testament, Martens argues, to Shackletons exemplary understanding
of leadership, and his ability to influence his crews perception
so they came out of these unbelievable conditions alive.
Almost a century later, the Shackleton Model is an emerging
management strategy, and Martens has taught the expedition in his organizational
behaviour classes. On November 8, hell present an elaborate multi-media
lecture, Why Leadership Matters Shackletons Endurance
Expedition, at the University of Washingtons Burke Museum
of Natural History and Culture, which is currently hosting a travelling
exhibition on the Endurance.
Its an impressive show, using dramatic readings of crew diaries
(Martens hired actors to record them) to guide the audience through a
play-by-play dissection of the events, and the lessons to be gleaned from
Martens is a bit of an adventurer himself. While living in Hawaii, he
climbed all of that states volcanoes, dormant and active including
the 13,000 foot, five-day hike to the summit of Mauna Loa. When the Soviet
Union opened up in the early 1990s, Martens helped cash-strapped Russian
volcanologists raise funds for a research trip in Kamchatka, home to over
50 active volcanoes concentrated in a California-sized peninsula.
The catch, naturally, was that Martens be allowed to tag along
and so he spent a month camping in the caldera of a volcano named Ksudach,
merrily collecting radon gas samples and swimming in volcano-heated hot
springs. (A caldera is a large depression at the volcanos summit;
the Ksudachs last big eruption was in 1911.)
He and his wife are also avid kayakers. Theyve spent two weeks alone
in the southern-most part of Gwaii Haanas, in the Queen Charlotte Islands.
They look forward to kayaking in Quebec, and hope to kayak around Elephant
Island, where Shakletons crew camped for four months before their
rescue in the Antarctic.
Martens is also a dedicated chaser of total solar eclipses, having witnessed
the midday sun fade to black on three mind-boggling occasions:
North Dakota in 1979, Hawaii in 1991, and Peru in 1994.
Although he cites the Hawaiian peoples relationship to volcanoes
as yet another example of how social and physical forces determine
thinking, Martens is hard-pressed to relate solar eclipses to strategy
and risk unless you count his excuse for missing this years
eclipse action in Angola: I couldnt go, he laments,
because I was finishing my dissertation!
Martin Martens will give a talk on Shackleton in the Department of
Managements brown-bag workshop series on Nov. 1 from noon to 1 p.m.
in the GM Building, GM-300-24.