Dr Irene Skovgaard Smith

Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour

The Institute for International Management Practice

Faculty:Lord Ashcroft International Business School

Department:Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour Staff

Location: Cambridge

Dr Irene Skovgaard Smith holds a PhD from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, an MSc and BSc in Social Anthropology from University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and an MA in International Human Resource Management from London Metropolitan University, UK.

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Irene's specialty is the use of anthropological perspectives and ethnography in organisational contexts. Broadly speaking, this means a focus on exploring everyday life in organisations and associated identity construction, social interaction and relations between people.

Irene’s research career to date is broad and varied, as she has carried out a range of qualitative research projects both in academic and applied contexts. Her PhD was an ethnographic study of management consultants and their interactions and relations with managers and employees in client organisations in the context of change.

Research interests

  • Identity
  • Social boundaries
  • Cultural diversity
  • Global organisations and transnational professionals
  • Management Consulting

Irene is interested in issues of identity and difference in organisations. Firstly, in the context of management consultants implementing change in client organisations where she focuses on exploring how different groups of staff navigate in relation to change and in so doing, collectively identify themselves and others depending on the situation they are in and the interests at stake. Secondly, in the context of cultural diversity in headquarter organisations of multinational companies in global cities where new forms of cosmopolitan, non-national identities are being formed.

Areas of research supervision

  • Identity in organisations
  • Differentiation / boundary construction
  • Cultural diversity
  • Organisational change
  • Organisational ethnography


Mainly in the areas of Organisational behaviour and Organisational change.


  • PhD in Organisation Studies. Copenhagen Business School, Dept. of Management, Politics & Philosophy
  • MSc in Social Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Dept. of Anthropology
  • MA in International HRM, London Metropolitan University, Business School
  • BSc in Social Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Dept. of Anthropology

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • Member of European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS)
  • Member of Academy of International Business (AIB)

Selected recent publications

Poulfelt, F., Smith, I.S. & Christiansen, K.G. (2014) “When West Meets East – The Case of a Scandinavian Consulting Firm’s Expansion into India”. I: European Journal of International Management. Vol. 8, No. 4, p. 373-391.

Smith, I.S. (2013) “Management consultants at work with clients: Maintenance and contestation of elite status”. I: Abbink, J. & Salverda, T. (eds) The Anthropology of Elites: Power, Culture, and the Complexities of Distinction. Palgrave Macmillan: New York.

Poulfelt, F., Christiansen, K. & Smith, I.S. (2013) “Organizational identity change through international expansion: The Case of a Scandinavian Consulting Firm’s Encounter with India”. I: Buono, A.F., & (eds) Exploring the Professional Identity of Management Consultants. Research in Management Consulting Series, Vol. 16. Information Age Publishing: Charlotte, NC.

Recent presentations and conferences

Smith, I.S. & Poulfelt (2014) “The Non-nationals: The Emergence of a transnational elite in and around foreign-based headquarters of MNCs”. Paper presented at The 30th EGOS Colloquium 2014, Rotterdam, Holland.

Soekijad, M. & Smith, I.S. (2012) "Situational identity at work: How professionals strategically construct and use identity”. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Conference. 3.-7. August 2012, Boston, Massachusetts.

Poulfelt, F., Christensen, K. & Smith, I.S. (2011) "When West Meets East – the Case of a Scandinavian Consulting Firm’s Entry in India". Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Conference. 12.-16. Aug, 2011, San Antonio, Texas

Smith, I.S. (2010) "Materializing the Organization - The role of consultants in processes of objectification". Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Conference. 5.-11. Aug 2010, Montreal, Canada

Smith, I.S. (2010) "The 'being there' Quality: Reflections on ethnographic ideals of immersion". Paper presented at the 26th EGOS Colloquium. 30. June - 3. July 2010, Lisbon, Portugal.

Taminiau, Y., Berghman, L. & Smith, I.S. (2010) "'I should do more of it' - Informal client contacts in consultancy organizations in seven European countries". Paper presented at the 26th EGOS Colloquium. 30. June - 3. July 2010, Lisbon, Portugal.

Smith, I.S. & Soekijad, M. (2010) "The 'Lean People' in complex organizations: An ethnography on practicing identity in the face of hospital change". Paper presented at the Second International Symposium on Process Organization Studies. 11.-13. June 2010, Rhodes, Greece.