Article | Academy of Management Learning & Education | September 2009

The Technology Manager's Journey: An Extended Narrative Approach to Educating Technical Leaders

by Robert D. Austin, Richard L. Nolan and Shannon O'Donnell


Technology management poses particular challenges for educators because it requires a facility with different kinds of knowledge and wide-ranging learning abilities. We report on the development and delivery of an information technology (IT) management course designed to address these challenges. Our approach is built around a narrative, the "IVK extended case series," a fictitious but reality-based story about a newly appointed, not technically trained chief information officer (CIO) in his first year on the job. We designed the course around a narrative and composed the narrative in a specific way to achieve two key objectives. First, this format allowed us to combine the active student orientation typical of case-based approaches with the systematic construction of cumulative theoretical frameworks more characteristic of lecture-based methods. Second, basing the narrative on the monomyth—a literary pattern common to important narratives around the world that encourages students to more fully inhabit the story's hero—leads to fuller engagement and more active learning. We report results using this approach with undergraduate and graduate students in two universities located in different countries, with executives at a major multinational corporation, and with participants in an open-enrollment program at a major business school. Student course feedback and a follow-up survey administered about one year after the course suggest that the extended narrative approach mostly achieves its design objectives. We suggest that the approach might be used more widely in teaching technology management, particularly with "digital natives," who have come of age in an environment crowded with engaging approaches to communication and entertainment competing for their attention.

Keywords: Information Technology; Management; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Business Education; Multinational Firms and Management; Entertainment; Communication; Curriculum and Courses; Framework; Design; Goals and Objectives; Learning; Information Technology Industry;


Austin, Robert D., Richard L. Nolan, and Shannon O'Donnell. "The Technology Manager's Journey: An Extended Narrative Approach to Educating Technical Leaders." Academy of Management Learning & Education 8, no. 3 (September 2009).