Spotlight on... Dr Onyaglanu Idoko

This week we meet Dr Onyaglanu Idoko, Lecturer and Co-Programme Leader at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity. Here, she chats to us about working on a new project on entrepreneurial resilience and recovery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Lecturer in Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and co-Programme Leader for the Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship MSc.

As a Lecturer my job has two main overlapping aspects - teaching and research. The teaching side involves the design, delivery, assessment, and moderation of the modules I lead. My role also entails MSc and PhD supervision. In addition, I have the privilege of providing pastoral support to students throughout their time with us. From a research perspective, I conduct research in entrepreneurship and creativity. I am interested in a) how unexpected events, characterised by time pressures and uncertainty, can lead to entrepreneurial creativity and innovation, b) the role of emotions during the creative process and c) the emergence and evolution of business models.

As Co-Programme Leader, part of my job involves leading and coordinating the programme delivery team, leading the annual review of the programme and proposing programme developments, and attending examination boards. I also work with colleagues such as the Director of Education as well as our Marketing and Recruitment officers on recruitment and admissions activities.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL in May 2021. Prior to taking up this new role, I was a Research Associate at Imperial College Business School.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

During my time as a Postdoc, I was part of a research team studying what we refer to as ’networked creativity’. We were studying how social interactions shape and reshape the business models of early-stage entrepreneurs. One of the paper publications from the project recently received a second revise and resubmit from the leading management journal - the Academy of Management. I am very proud that our paper has made it to this level. The paper was also nominated for best paper award at the Managerial and Organisational Cognition Division at the 79th Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

As mentioned above, I’m interested in how creativity and innovation happen when we find ourselves in a crisis such as the recent pandemic. It is no surprise that many business models were rendered ineffective due to the COVID-19 crisis. The question is, how do entrepreneurs turn a crisis into an opportunity? How do they innovate and create new business models, new products, and the ’new normal’, and how can this be nurtured by policymakers for social and economic recovery? These are some of the questions that my current research seeks to address.

I am part of a team working on a UKRI EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund project called Entrepreneurial Resilience and Recovery During and After the COVID-19 Crisis: Firmand Community-level Responses in China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. The project is led by Imperial College Business School (UK) in collaboration with De La Salle University (Philippines), Mahidol University College of Management (Thailand), Malaysian Global Innovation and Creation Centre MaGIC (Malaysia), Wuhan University (China), Asian Development Bank, and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Thailand). The objective of the project is to inform entrepreneurship policy and practice. You can find out more about the research here. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I like Jane Austen’s work. My favourite movie is Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed reading The Alchemist, it was so easy to picture everything as the story unfolded.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Here’s a physics joke:

Einstein walks into a bar and says to the bartender, "I’ll take a beer, and a beer for my friend, Heisenberg."
The bartender looks around and asks, "Is your friend here?"
"Well," says Einstein, "he is, and he isn’t".

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I like hosting people for dinner. I would have loved to have Maya Angelou over, she is phenomenal. I would politely ask her to stay the night because I would need the entire night and morning to listen to her. I would enjoy having Massimo Bottura as a guest (and co-chef). He’ll need to arrive early so we can prepare the food. I would also like to have a conversation with Christine Legarde (I’m already thinking about the three-course menu). It would be lovely to sit down with Frank Gehry and listen to his creative process from start to finish. This would require a slow cooker. Finally, Tali Sharot, who is here in UCL. I admire her work in neuroscience and emotions. We will discuss research while enjoying a plate of creamy tagliatelle and mushrooms.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to smile more, take more risks and build up a tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

That I had a twin and all this while they’ve been relating with the wrong Onya. I’m kidding. I do not have a twin but secretly wish I did.

This has happened to me in real life. I had a friend during my undergraduate studies who had an identical twin. I would see her twin and try to have a conversation with her while wondering why she had a blank stare on her face. It never occurred to me that my friend might have a twin.

What is your favourite place?

This is a tough one! I have several places. Two of my favourites are Vancouver and Edinburgh.


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