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SOAPBOX

April 23, 2012 12:05 am

Academics must bridge divide with business
By Kai Peters

Recently I’ve attended the 25th anniversary dinner of the British Academy of Management, the 50th anniversary dinner of the Journal of Management Studies, a meeting with David Willetts, minister of state for universities and science, and a meeting with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, convened by Ernst & Young, the consultancy. All of them had the same theme: sometimes as an observation or lament and other times as a genuine frustration: the link – or lack thereof – between business school research and business. Academia is slightly conflicted. Rationally, academics recognise that business school research should have intellectual rigour – but it must ultimately be useful for business. Some academics make well-meaning efforts to show correlations or causality between research and impact. Others, both publicly and privately, complain that the system of academic publishing is increasingly quantitative and highly specialised, forcing them into a “publish or perish” game where careers are defined by articles published in a small range of journals. In some institutions, economists and econometricians are redefining traditionally qualitative fields such as organisational behaviour and human-resource management into quantitative domains. While this can offer new perspectives, it can also create a situation where journal articles become patently impenetrable – certainly to practitioners. Every now and then, either as compulsion or in encouragement, funding bodies try to promote relevance. For the next research evaluation in the UK, impact has been tossed around as one of the criteria to evaluate research and subsequently to allocate funding. Major initiatives such as the recently concluded Advanced Institute of Management drew together academics from various institutions with more of a reward than a punishment approach and tried to encourage intellectually rigorous but practical research. Very good work was produced, but the link to practice never really

and Fraunhofer Institutes aimed at applied research. the business school value chain is being disaggregated by newcomers focused on specific aspects – course offerings. evaluation and assessment. executive education or consulting – and where.ft. They are not fully rounded research and teaching institutes. politicians and academics cannot find a solution to the divorce between business school research and practice through the above means. no research at all is taking place. Contact us if you wish to print more to distribute to others.materialised. a nuanced line needs to be taken. So if funding councils. At the prestigious end of the spectrum. If some players disappear and heterogeneity emerges. is questionable. online education. is outstanding. is there another way to frame the discussion that can be more productive? From my vantage point. Kai Peters is chief executive of Ashridge Printed from: http://www. © THE FINANCIAL TIMES LTD 2012 FT and ‘Financial Times’ are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd. the German system of funding with Max Planck Institutes aimed at fundamental research. surely targeted funding is sensible and a link between the academic and the rigorous practice-oriented criteria should be broken.html Print a single copy of this article for personal use. Both are valuable in their own right. The market is in flux and the landscape is changing rapidly – with UK speculation about not whether universities will fail but how many will. the system of business schools is simultaneously consolidating and disaggregating. a winner-takes-all situation is becoming more apparent and traditional research will no doubt continue. And as for rankings. on the basis of the same small selection of prestigious journals. in some cases. The link between research and teaching can be split.com/cms/s/2/7fb18d40-8949-11e1-bed0-00144feab49a. homogenous systems for research encouragement or evaluation do not seem suitable. . At the other end of the spectrum. Where funding is concerned. some of these institutions also have sufficient resources for what is in effect a translation department where research is reframed for non-academics. Pleasingly. One size does not fit all. nor do they pretend to be. Evaluating schools with different missions and funding models.