Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Business Education: Research, Teaching, and Practice


Paul Adler, in his presidential address to the Academy of Management (http://aom.org/Multi-Media/2015-Annual-Meeting/2015-Annual-Meeting-Presidential-Address.aspx) highlighted Boyer’s four types of scholarship (https://depts.washington.edu/gs630/Spring/Boyer.pdf). Candidly admitting that perhaps research had been given an exalted importance at the cost of teaching, he called upon the Academy’s membership to take a fresh look at the importance of teaching.

Refreshing as the idea is, I am not sure how far the academic community is willing to listen. After all, no university that I am aware of places teaching as being more important than research when it comes to faculty performance and tenure. 

The problem is not new. Many years ago, the gold-standard of business accreditation, AACSB International, lamented: “… business schools have been criticized for placing too much emphasis on research relative to teaching, and for producing research that is too narrow, irrelevant, and impractical.” (http://www.aacsb.edu/~/media/AACSB/Publications/research-reports/impact-of-research.ashx)
When we place the above observation against the fact that over 15,000 English language business and management articles are published each year in the nearly 1,900 English-language journals listed by Cabell’s Directories, one is forced to ask the question: what is the real impact of business and management research on the practice of management?

Sumantra Ghoshal had this to say by way of an answer – the title of his 2005 article in Academy of Management Learning & Education, Volume 4, Number 1, PP 75 – 91 speaks for itself: “Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practices” (http://www.corporation2050.org/documents/resources/ghoshal.pdf)

Never known for mincing words, Ghoshal castigated management research: “Many of the worst excesses of recent management practices have their roots in a set of ideas that have emerged from business school academics over the last 30 years.”

In 2012, a colleague and I randomly picked 20 journal articles and their abstracts from Tier I journals across disciplines and sent them to 800 senior executives with two simple questions: (1) What do you understand from this title? And (2) from the abstract, do you believe you can use the idea in your professional life?

Surprisingly, we received 709 responses. 93% of executives said they did not understand the title. 98% said that the idea meant nothing to them in practical terms, with the remaining 2% preferring to say “I don’t know.”

On the one hand, you have universities and schools emphasizing the need for scholarly research. On the other, you have practitioners who have no hesitation in casting such research to the trash can.

Surely, something is amiss here. At the very least, there appears to be a huge disconnect between academics (represented by scholarly research) and practitioners (who do not seem to see any value in the research).

What do you think?

How can we ensure that business and management research has some relevance to management practice?

And what do you and/or your school think of Paul Adler’s call?

Krishnamurthy Venkateshiah (BVK) is the Director of Research & Development at Peregrine Academic Services.

BVK has served as Director and Distinguished Professor of Strategy and International Business at two business schools in India. He has been honored with the Education Leader of the Year Award by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (www.iacbe.org) in 2012 and with the Teaching Excellence Award by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (www.acbsp.org) also in 2012.

BVK served a conglomerate for 24 years including 5 years as an award-winning CEO, before entering academe in 1998.

BVK can be contacted at bvk@peregrineacademics.com


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