Meet Sri Lankan Researcher — Nipuni Sumanarathna
What are you currently working on or worked on before?
My Ph.D. research aims at exploring how do construction firms stimulate learning and implement innovation. Hence, the research framework is developed adopting the theories- exploratory-exploitative learning and organizational ambidexterity, to illustrate learning and innovation at the firm and project levels in construction firms. In addition, the effects of social capital and collaborative environment on learning and innovation are determined by this research.
You can find my published works here: link 1, link 2.
What encouraged you to pursue your research topic?
I conducted my B.Sc. research in the context of the Sri Lankan construction industry and chose the Hong Kong construction industry to conduct my Ph.D. research. Hong Kong is one of the developed cities/countries and I observed how Hong Kong construction industry practitioners and academia consistently consider innovation as a significant aspect when the construction process is concerned.
Several construction firms use their innovation deployment as a competitive advantage. Even the clients in Hong Kong recognized ‘innovative construction firms’ when it comes to the ‘contractor selection process. This was an entirely new area for me when I was still a first-year Ph.D. student and I wanted to study the whole procedure that how would a rational construction firm stimulate learning and implement innovation at the firm and project levels.
In addition, I wanted to know whether there is a significant impact of social network ties/relationships on innovation implementation of construction firms. I am currently working with The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?
My biggest inspiration is fellow researchers who have already proved their capability in research. Their success stories, accomplishments, and significant research outcomes inspire me to do a better job.
What lessons would you share with a budding researcher?
Everything! Whether it can be my research focus and outcomes or my personal struggles, I’d like to share it, especially with early-stage researchers, if it helps and motivates them to do a better job. What I am going to say might be a cliche, but it is the truth. Everybody’s journey is different, don’t try to compare and feel bad for yourself. You are already doing a good job and you will definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In fact, I started a YouTube channel called ‘Re-search Life’ to share different research experiences, particularly with early-stage researchers.
You can find the link to the Re-search Life Channel here.
What motivated you to be a researcher?
I started my carrier in academia as a temporary lecturer at the Department of Building Economics, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. During this period, I engaged in several research projects with my B.Sc. dissertation supervisor Prof. Kanchana Perera while performing teaching duties.
This research background and the requirement of having a Ph.D. to be a senior lecturer at the department inspired me to be a researcher. Initially, it was just a feeling of fulfillment of the requirement. Lately, I became more passionate about my research. Especially, the application of research findings to the Sri Lankan construction industry would do a significant change. If it is possible, at least to change the mindset and culture of the Sri Lankan construction industry towards innovation, that would be a greater accomplishment.
According to your opinion, what are the changes that the Sri Lankan education system needs to do, in order to meet the requirement of the international industry and academia?
In my opinion, school education should be provided in English. If not, special attention should be given to enhance the English language skills of our students. Also, I feel that the current research practice is mostly aligned with providing theoretical outcomes than practical implementation. This should be changed. Moreover, the utilization latest technology and equipment should be enhanced.
Our education culture and mindset are generally not open to changes. This applies to each other industries. Hence, the education system should be changed where students are encouraged to take risks and think out-of-box.