Five Questions With Herbert Nold: In Modern Business World, Adaptability Is the Key to Success

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

On his curriculum vitae, Polk State Business Professor Herbert Nold describes his research interests as such: “interpreting the organizational culture and dynamics needed to integrate diverse functional disciplines into a cohesive unit to improve performance and gain a competitive edge.”

Or in other words, Nold’s work is all about helping employees — and entire organizations — work better.

Nold holds a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in education from Northern Illinois University. He’s also a certified public accountant, and has 30 years of experience in the private sector. He is currently managing director of AgilityINsights USA, LLC, a management services firm.

He was hired at Polk State just over three years ago, and teaches courses in strategic planning, organizational behavior, leadership and management practices. Since moving into academia, he’s emerged as a thought leader in his field, having been published in numerous academic journals. Just this year, he has been published in Management Education: An International Journal, the Journal of Applied Business and Economics, Leadership and Organizational Development Journal, and Organizational Cultures: An International Journal.

In August, a blog entry Nold wrote was published by the highly selective Drucker Society of Europe Global Forum.

Here, Nold tells us more about his work and the impact it is having not only in academia but also in the real world of business.

  1. What inspires your research? What, ultimately, are you hoping to achieve with your line of inquiry?

My 30 years in business led me to conclude that time is critical in the decision-making process. By “time” I mean the time it takes to make decisions and the rate at which organizations can create knowledge.

Few management textbooks mention time as a factor and few explore the influence of organizational culture on effective decision-making. My research shows that the “right” culture, that is high in trust, camaraderie, and purpose, accelerates knowledge creation, which improves decision making and innovation.

The rate of change is accelerating in the 21st century, so what inspires me is to find ways to help CEOs and companies be agile and adapt quickly. The key, I believe, is in creating the culture that allows ideas and new knowledge to be injected into the decision-making cycle and accelerate the entire process.

What I hope to achieve is to someday go to a CEO and say, “Here is what you need to do to create a knowledge-based organization and accelerate effective decision making … specifically.” Or, teach future leaders what is needed so they can inject these concepts into their organizations as their careers unfold.

2. What do you consider your most important research accomplishment to date?

Without question, receiving the 2013 Outstanding Paper Award from the Emerald Literati Network for my paper published in the Journal of Intellectual Capital. To have written one of 50 papers — out of over 15,000 published worldwide — judged to have made a significant contribution to their respective fields is an achievement that most academics dream of. Second would be the recent publishing of the blog by the Drucker Society of Europe Global Forum because one of the criteria is: “Is the author a recognized authority in the field?”

3. How does your research apply to the real world? Can you give us an example of how your research has been implemented in the real world?

My research is directly applicable to the real world because change is the only constant facing all businesses. Building a company that is agile and able to adapt and change as the world around it changes is absolutely essential for success. Example: While at Universal Technical Institute, Inc., (an automotive trade school where Nold worked as campus controller and director of operations) we were assigned an annual budget that was 105 percent of our maximum capacity. I gathered the directors of education, IT, and facilities, and we developed a plan to meet the seemingly impossible goal. The fiscal year started Oct. 1, and we committed to having additional capacity online and functioning by the end of May the following year to meet the goals. By applying the techniques that I developed to accelerate knowledge creation and decision making, we had the additional capacity in place on Feb. 1. The result was an increase in revenue above the budget for the year of $3 million and operating profits of $2 million. We finished the project early, under budget, and we over delivered.

4. What is next for your research? Where is it taking you?

My research is leading me more into the field of organizational change and the managerial capabilities needed to navigate change. I am currently working with a colleague from Steinbeis University Berlin, Germany, to explore managerial capabilities, and hope to form a research team to try to identify the critical mass of people who need to adopt new ways of thinking for change initiatives to stick, that is become permanent after the pressure from management to change is removed. I am also working with a colleague in Switzerland to develop a model and diagnostic tools to assist organizations in becoming more agile and adaptable.

5. How does your research come into play at Polk State? Do you integrate it into your teaching? How so?

The intangibles of culture and the need for rapid change are becoming increasingly important in the business world. I hope to give my students an advantage in the workplace by exposing them to innovative research and the most recent developments in management. This, I hope, will give Polk State grads an advantage in getting jobs and advancing in their organizations after being hired. So far, it seems to be working, judging from the feedback I am getting.

I integrate these concepts into my teaching in all of my courses. All of my courses have content, in the form of discussions, paper presentations and guest speakers, when I can coordinate them, to expose Polk State students to these emerging ideas. I also make all of my papers and research available, but not required, for reading. Believe it or not, several students have taken my papers and shared them with their bosses and are keeping them for future reference.

For more information about Nold’s classes or research, contact him at 866.669.4925 or