Member Spotlight: Muhammad Aqeel Awan and Niranjan Janardhanan, recipients of the 2023 Carolyn B. Dexter Award

17 Oct 2023
“Developing a theory of fate, destiny, and luck in organizational context is about giving ourselves as academics an opportunity to reflect on some of the discourses that often go unaccounted in our theory development.”

The winners of the 2023 AOM Carolyn B. Dexter Award are Muhammad (Aqeel) Awan and Niranjan (Ninja) Janardhanan of the London School of Economics for their paper Work Engagement and Multiple Work Identities: Livelihood Construction Amidst Precarity. Their innovative research explores how workers construct identities and develop meaning toward work amidst multiple precarity.  

“Winning the 2023 Dexter Award is an immense honor. For us, it is a positive nod from the scholarly management community that the experiences and voices of workers from such extreme and precarious contexts matter—they matter because they have the potential to teach us something more about management than what we already know.”  

The Dexter Award is an All-Academy award given to the paper that best meets the objective of internationalizing the Academy of Management. Each of AOM’s Divisions and Interest Groups nominate one annual meeting submission for this prestigious award each year; up to three of these nominations may be selected to receive the award. This year’s winning submission was nominated by the Managerial and Organizational Cognition (MOC) Division.  

Aqeel and Ninja collected qualitative research– including 60 interviews, 45 informal conversations, and 100 hours of observation—from fisher folk of Karachi, Pakistan, and are developing a management theory around the notion of fate/destiny and luck—how and when do workers turn towards a fate/destiny focused meaning of work, what role does this notion play in helping them understand their past and present work-lives as well as prepare and anticipate for the future work, and how does it influence their work identities. 

“In our everyday work and non-work lives, many of us refer to fate, destiny, and luck in both, religious and secular sense. However, we rarely ever stop to think about what these notions mean to us personally and socially, and what implications does it hold for our work. For fisher folk, the notion of fate, destiny, and luck is at the heart and center of their narratives, thus giving us academics an opportunity to learn from them.” 

Aqeel is a 3rd year doctoral student at the London School of Economics and holds a master’s degree in Development Studies from Lahore School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Politics from Lahore University of Management Sciences. Ninja is Aqeel’s supervisor and an Assistant Professor of Management at the London School of Economics. Ninja received his PhD in Management from the University of Texas at Austin, and holds a bachelor’s and master’s in Electrical Engineering from the National University of Singapore, and an MBA from the Indian School of Business. AOM 2023 was Aqeel’s first time attending the Annual Meeting, where Ninja has been attending for over a decade. Ninja is a Rep-at-Large for the MOC Division and a member of the Conflict Management (CM), Entrepreneurship (ENT), and Organizational Behavior (OB) divisions. Aqeel is a member of the Careers, MOC, and OB Divisions.  

“At every stage of my career, AOM has given me a lot, be it the peer group of fellow students who are now accomplished in their own right, or the guidance of experts and seniors in the field about how to navigate a research domain or one’s career.”
—Niranjan “Ninja” Janardhanan  

Aqeel and Ninja hope their research will help future management scholars and practitioners alike by providing an internationally inclusive framework to understanding precarity as a grand challenge in an increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. 

Each year at the Annual Meeting, the program awards are selected by committees comprised of AOM members. This year’s Carolyn Dexter Award Committee included: Daniel S. Halgin (Chair), University of Kentucky; Anna Brattström, Lund University; David Dwertmann, Rutgers University; Mukta Kulkarni, Indian Institute of Management; Jamie L. Perry, Syracuse University; and Katharina Scheidgen, Georg-August-University Göttingen. 

Learn more about the 2023 Annual Meeting Program Awards.