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Managerial Studies: An Italian Perspective

Managerial Studies: An Italian Perspective

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Published by Gandolfo Dominici
Donatella Depperu - Vice-President of
Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale
British Journal of Management, Vol.22, 545–547 (2011)
Donatella Depperu - Vice-President of
Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale
British Journal of Management, Vol.22, 545–547 (2011)

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Published by: Gandolfo Dominici on Aug 07, 2012
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Managerial Studies: An Italian Perspective
Donatella Depperu
Universita `Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, via Emilia Parmense 84, 29122 Piacenza, ItalyEmail: donatella.depperu@unicatt.it
The last 20 years have been very important formanagerial studies in Italy. There are severalreasons for this. The growing importance of managerial issues within Italian firms is due to
the trend towards globalization;
the shift between first, second, third andfourth entrepreneurial generations;
increased competitive pressures from foreigncompetitors (principally, but not exclusively,from developing countries);
the transformation from a monopolistic into acompetitive structure in some industries (e.g.broadcasting and the telecommunicationindustries).As a result of all these factors, Italian firms havemanifested an increasing need for solutions,responses to their doubts and queries, andsupport from managerial studies.The interaction between the factors mentionedbelow has reshaped managerial studies from botha content and a methodological perspective:
the generational shift for managementscholars;
the introduction of reforms by successiveeducation ministries;
the trend towards globalization in theuniversity sector;
the reduction in financial support for univer-sities on the part of the state.Until the 1990s the Italian approach tomanagerial studies was characterized as follows.The central importance of the Italian school of thought was developed in the 1920s and stronglyinfluenced by Gino Zappa and a few otherscholars in the field. For years after, managerialstudies grew out of the theories and models of these ‘founding fathers’ and any significant studywas required to build on them. The Italianlanguage was used exclusively. Book publication(as opposed to research papers) was veryimportant for one’s academic career. Researcherswere required to produce complete books inorder to demonstrate a capacity to study aspecific issue in depth and from a variety of viewpoints. This also explains why, until recently,the eld was dominated by a qualitativeapproach. There was a focus on rather broadissues, relevant to the domestic economy ordomestic firms (i.e. managerial issues for smalland medium sized firms; family business manage-ment; corporate governance). Importance wasgiven to the accounting side of management andto the history of accounting. Importance wasgiven to public administration management. As aconsequence, many studies were focused onpublic administration and organizational, strate-gic and administrative issues.Since the end of the 20th century there havebeen considerable changes and the trend is nowtowards the globalization of managerial studies.There are significant implications to these changes.Globalization has obliged Italian researchers totake into consideration foreign points of referencemuch more so than previously. Something similarhad already occurred in some fields, given thatmanagerial studies in Italy had clearly always hada close relationship with the Anglo-Saxon schools.Now, however, a significant number of researcherspay more attention to foreign studies and foreignscholars than domestic ones.This heightened dependence on foreign studieshas significantly affected the publications of Italian academics. In terms of ‘negative trade-off’ there has also been a tendency to lose thestrong cultural identity that had characterizedItalian academia and a shift from qualitative to
British Journal of Management, Vol. 22, 545–547 (2011)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2011.00772.x
2011 The AuthorBritish Journal of Management
2011 British Academy of Management. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd,9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA, 02148, USA.
quantitative methods, implying loss of thepossibility of leveraging on its own strengths. Inthe past there was intensive use of a deductiveapproach using qualitative methods combinedwith an ability to study cases and industries.Currently, most new generation researchers areoriented towards quantitative research, as theysee this as their only possibility for involvementin academic competition and discussion abroad.The actual research content has also changed,and researchers are now much more specializedthan in the past, focusing on much narrowertopics and issues. This is a key issue as ‘relevanceof topics studied seems to be becoming less andless relevant’. The risk is to focus on a kind of research that is appreciated only in the academicworld, but not outside it. Previously, researchwas oriented much more to the needs of firms,even though it was still considered too academicand often not relevant enough to the practicalissues that firms had to deal with.Managerial studies have also been affected bythe growing globalization of Italian universitycourses. Even though most undergraduate andgraduate programmes are still delivered inItalian, many universities are launching coursesin English, both to improve the internationalemployment prospects of domestic students andto attract foreign students.The combination of globalization in educationand research has given rise to a need to attractforeign scholars to be involved in both researchand teaching activities. A further consequence isthat both Italian academia and, more specifically,Italian managerial studies are beginning toincreasingly resemble those of other countries.As mentioned above, the introduction of avariety of university reforms over the last 20years has also played a role in this transforma-tion. Both the
Bologna Process
and the introduc-tion of research assessment have made Italianuniversities increasingly similar to universities inother European and extra-European countries.The most recent reform (which is currently beingput in place) appears to have been inspired – atleast as far as research assessment is concerned – by the British Research Assessment Exercise andResearch Excellence Framework. Combined withthis is the fact that universities have received lessand less financial support from the state in recentyears. This makes life very difficult, especiallywhen the objectives are to launch internationalpublications, involve foreign faculty and set upimportant research projects.Given the current situation, there would notappear to be a simple or clear-cut conclusion.Indeed, there are many different interpretationsthat could be made. Therefore, moving from thispicture to a single set of conclusions is not easy,not least because there are very different percep-tions and feelings about the role, content anddevelopment of managerial studies in Italy.A pessimistic view would consider the shiftfrom a domestically oriented to a globallyoriented approach as leading to a lack of differentiation which, according to some com-mentators, will become a weakness. Furthermore,it is not clear whether this change will lead to astrong new culture and identity. Finally, playingby American rules creates a huge disadvantagefor scholars who are not native English speakers,have considerably less money to invest and live ina context that is markedly different from that of the USA.If we consider what is happening to managerialstudies in Italy from a different perspective,however, globalization is potentially a hugeopportunity for Italian researchers. First, glo-balization opens up the world to our traditions,our scholars and their work, and our approachto managerial issues. Second, the opportunityto be involved in the international conversationon management and managerial studies makesit possible for the Italian academic world toshape the debate at least in Europe. Inaddition, globalization provides Italian re-searchers with opportunities to work abroadin international teams and develop their re-search competences.However, in order for this to be a successfulexperience, certain conditions need to be met. Weneed to be able to identify and develop thepositive aspects of these international experiencesrather than merely copying them. Indeed, ourenvironment is different, and this must be takeninto consideration if we are to adapt the systemto local needs and strengths. In addition, we needto play the game according to the current rules,whilst also endeavouring to change them inorder to eliminate certain disadvantages and/orrisks. The most dangerous of these is perhaps atendency to become highly competent at ana-lysing extremely narrow issues (which areperhaps not always that central) and losing546
D. Depperu
2011 The AuthorBritish Journal of Management
2011 British Academy of Management.

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