On Collegiality


Collegiality - Is it alive and well in marketing? A brief essay by Michael Jay Polonsky

 ARC: Connections: ELMAR: Posting


Almost 15 years ago I wrote an editorial piece in the Marketing Educator suggesting that we needed to put the collegiality back in Academia. I think it is possibly time to revisit this question and I unfortunately would suggest that things have necessarily not improved.

Academia, is about the pursuit of knowledge which is based on an active discourse and debate, where all points of view are valued, even when one disagrees. To some extent this model assumes that people participate for the sake of the debate and discourse, rather than simply seeking to get personal benefit or pursue agendas. This means that people not only engage in the debate themselves, but also participate in discussions with colleagues to assist them in refining and developing their arguments.

It seems that the increased pressure to ‘publish or perish’ has potentially distorted this collegiate approach. Increasingly I am surprised that people seem to want to focus on narrowly defined areas and do not want to engage outside their area. I have seen this all too often result in people focusing only on what has some explicit value to them rather than a genuine desire to advance knowledge.

There are of course many academics globally who are exceptionally generous with their time, expertise and in some cases even money. For example, I invited an eminent scholar to visit Australia and they simply agreed, subject to fitting the visit within their schedule. There was no assumption that they would benefit financially; rather they were simply happy to help colleagues elsewhere in the world. There are also a number of active academics who take on important roles of editing journals, organizing conferences and reviewing materials for these, as well as being willing to comment on the work of colleagues within their university or elsewhere. We should certainly thank all of these people. Unfortunately, academic generosity sometimes seems not to be the norm, for example several colleagues (at various institutions) have recently commented to me that they have limited ability to get feedback from other academics, even within their own institutions.

While being collegiate does not ‘count’ on your CV, I believe that it does certainly count in terms of making the academic community more active, productive and positive. Possibly more importantly, spending time with colleagues will engrain this characteristic in them (in our discipline we recognize that positive modeling can shape behavior).

Collegiality is like the movie “Pay it Forward” where the young creator of the idea suggests we could change the world if each person undertook three random acts of kindness and the recipients of these acts then did the same (yes, this is a socially positive pyramid scheme!). Taking this approach would mean that collegiality can spread throughout marketing academia being lead by example.

We all want to make a contribution to the academic community; collegiality is possibly an undervalued approach that allows us to do this, or as Albert Einstein said “Not everything that counts can be counted.” However, the second part of the quote is possibly a warning for us as well, for it suggests that “not everything that can be counted counts.” We should focus on what makes a contribution to our academic community, not simply those things we can list on our CV.



Michael Jay Polonsky
Chair in Marketing
School of Management and Marketing
Deakin University
70 Elgar Road
Burwood VIC 3125 Australia.
Phone:+61 3 92446968
International: +61 3 92517083
Email: Michael.Polonsky@deakin.edu.au