Dr Jesse Olsen

Jesse at The Second City Training Centre

Q&A with Dr Jesse Olsen

"What does your role involve?"

I teach subjects relating to human resource management and organisational behaviour. I also conduct research on improvisation, leadership, international and cross-cultural management, and diversity and inclusion. Another important aspect of my job – which in a way combines elements of teaching and research – is communicating findings from management and leadership research to organisations and the general public.

"What do you enjoy most about your position?"

I enjoy the various aspects of my work – teaching, research, and engagement. Furthermore, being an academic allows me an amount of autonomy and flexibility that other positions cannot offer.

"Tell us about your background?"

I was born and raised in the United States, and I have studied and worked in the US, Japan, South Korea, and now Australia. When I was an undergraduate student, I never thought I would become an academic, pursuing professional positions in the higher education and banking industries. However, questions about what I saw at work led me to postgraduate school, where I obtained a PhD in organisational behaviour. Along the way, I have been fortunate to have opportunities to study and work in different countries, which has also shaped my research, teaching, and personal interests.

"Tell us about something you are currently researching?"

I am currently very interested in improvisation in organisations. This is particularly relevant right now, when we all have had to improvise our way through a pandemic. I enjoy looking at principles from theatre and comedy improv to see if they might have applications at work – for both managers and employees. In other words, what do successful theatre/comedy improvisers do? Can managers and employees replicate any of this? While I am an evidence-loving social scientist, I also believe we have much to learn from the arts.

"What is something your students have taught you?"

Whenever my students tell me about their own academic and organisational experiences, I learn more about how the concepts we discuss in class and in research manifest themselves in the ‘real world’. If a student ‘stumps’ me with a difficult question, it inspires me to go out and learn more from others who have done work on the topic, or even to ask new research questions in my own work.

"Name a working achievement or initiative that you are most proud of?"

My three kids!

"What would surprise people to know about you?"

I am actually not an alien from outer space.

"What advice would you give to your younger self?"

‘Hi, young Jesse. Go buy some bitcoin and stock in Tesla.’

"If you were not an academic, what would you like to do?"

Take old time-travelling Jesse’s advice and buy some bitcoin and Tesla stock.

"What are your hobbies or interests?"

I used to read comic books in my youth, which ‘matured’ into my current obsession with superhero movies and series. From time to time, I also enjoy a little gaming (PC and PS4). I have taken comedy improv classes, which ultimately inspired my current research interest in improvisation. I’ve also enjoyed drawing for much of my life, and now I’m getting into epoxy resin crafts and 3-D printing. Having reflected on my hobbies and interests, I realise now that I should probably go outside and exercise more.

Dr Jesse Olsen

Senior Lecturer in Leadership