chapter
35 Pages

Taking the Road Less Traveled

Serendipity and the Influence of Others in a Career
WithJeffrey Pfeffer

On August 15, 1989, in the ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, I received the Richard D. Irwin Award for Scholarly Contributions to Management from the Academy of Management. In my brief acceptance remarks, I noted that performance was not just ability times motivation, 1 but performance in general, and whatever career success I had enjoyed in particular, was very much a function of one’s specific social environment and social network—of the friends, peers, and colleagues who provided support, stimulation, ideas, and often provoked unanticipated changes in direction. During my life and career I have benefited greatly from the networks and organizations in which I have been embedded—but often the associations and their consequences were unanticipated and unplanned. This theme—of the importance of serendipitous social relationships and chance observations—is coupled with one other in thinking retrospectively about my career. I have often chosen a path not well-worn or traveled, and in so doing, have frequently adopted a perspective at variance with that dominating the field of study. I have seldom shied away from controversy. On reflection, of course, the two themes go together—for in order to traverse the road less traveled, one needs good friends, social support, and sources of insight that stimulate one to think in different ways.