Nina Granqvist is investigating how the marginal becomes mainstream

Hype creates the impetus and expectations of the future needed to drive big changes, as the professor who made the leap from the business world to academia knows.

At the moment Nina Granqvist is engaged in research projects related to material sciences, solar energy, and food trends. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

Professor Nina Granqvist, what do you research and why?

I have always been interested in change and the emergence of novelty. I explore how ideas, products and activities move from the margins to the mainstream and, as part of this, the anatomy of hype.

The transition from margins to mainstream is a very interesting research topic. How are the shared meanings and practices created such that are required for the transition? How do people begin to talk about the same things and act in similar ways? The most rewarding aspect is studying the ongoing processes, that is, exploring the emergence of something new in real time. At the moment I am engaged in research projects related to material sciences, solar energy, and food trends.

In my fieldwork I frequently encounter hype. Hype is a social phenomenon that has a strong presence in our media-dominated society. It arises when an issue is highly future-related and resonates with many people’s interests. We need hype: it creates the impetus, enthusiasm and expectations of the future needed to drive big changes. New industries are built on visions; not because those exact visions would be realised, but because they generate activity and interests.

How did you become a researcher?

Even at quite a young age I knew I wanted to do a PhD. After graduation, during the mobile boom years in the 2000s, I worked in a start-up that developed concepts and products for market that did not exist, for customers who did not understand the products or feel that they needed them, and for devices that had not been developed yet. After that I worked as s a consultant and I wrote white papers about for example mobile payment – I was therefore involved in creating the hype around concepts that eventually were feasible after a relatively long period.

When the mobile hype died down, the idea of doing a PhD resurfaced.  I thought that I would get back into the business world but I was completely absorbed by research. This work is extremely interesting and rewarding – I always wanted to understand how “stuff works”.

What have been the highlights of your career?

The first one was definitely when, after a lot of hard work, I got my first article into the prestigious publication Organization Science. Receiving awards have also been wonderful moments because they show that colleagues find my work important. And when other scholars come to talk to me and ask about my research – you see that people are building their own thinking on some of these ideas.

What is the most important characteristic of a researcher?

A good researcher is curious – she or he must have a desire to understand how things work and a thirst for knowledge. Perseverance is required because the work involves a lot of repetition and setbacks; you must not let them discourage you. Integrity is also important: be faithful to what you observe. And of course, be brave, dare to defend things and if necessary, swim against the tide.

What do you expect from the future?

There are many ideas that I would like to write into publications together with my colleagues. Developing the research community is also important. We have many talented PhD students who I do my best to support – I would like the next generation of researchers to always have better premises for their work than the previous one.

The privilege of this work is the great freedom to choose one’s research topic. I am constantly on the lookout for the new developments in the society. We are working on The Future of Work Project, which explores things like automation, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. These all have been up and coming for a long time – in the next ten years I believe they will generate further major changes.

Nina Granqvist and the other recently tenured professors at Aalto University will present their research in the multidisciplinary afternoon on 15 November at 2 pm. We hope to see you there! Check the program here

 

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