Blog about the mixed value of management studies
What benefit does management studies and research bring to companies and organisations, and are the leaders in these interested in this research? The marketing of research and business schools are among other blog themes.
Your comments are welcome
- Introduction: Crisis in management research
- Nov 18: 'Rethinking the Business model of B-schools'
- Nov 9: Comments to an article by the dean at LUSEM
- Nov 7: RRBM - community for Responsible Research
- Nov 4: Ranking of Business schools - problems
- Sept 25: Accreditation & marketing of Business schools
- Sept 13: The careers of PhD-students in Bus. Adm.
- Sept 5: Business Administration (FEK) in Lund
- Aug 29: Who does Business research?
- Aug 28: Do 'managers' read Business admin. research?
- Aug 27: Publishing in a local language or in English?
I am a senior advisor in strategy and organisation, and a PhD-student at present at the Department of Business Administration at the University of Lund. My web thesis is titled 'Encyclopedias in search of a new business model'). Posts may be updated.
"Return to Meaning" and the crisis in management research
Mats Alvesson, professor at the Department of Business administration at Lund University, and one of the world's most cited scholars in social science, published in 2017 the book 'Return to Meaning - a social science with something to say' Alvesson et al. (2017), ref. The book states very clearly that most social science research does not add any significant benefit to either society, research knowledge, or the researchers themselves, and that most articles remain cited or read by very few people.
The authors say that there will be a crisis if no changes are made. In fact, it is already a crisis, according to David Tourish, professor at Sussex University, as proclaimed in his article 'Everything that's wrong with management research - in 5 minutes'. Management today (2019).
The theme in 'Peters K, Smith R.R., Thomas H. (2018). 'Rethinking the business models of business schools: A critical review and change agenda för the future' - is that it is time to prepare for change, even disruptive change.
The authors give a brief overview of the development of today's business schools and the growing academic literature discussing business schools. Several new initiatives to redesign curriculums are noted, pp. 31. One referred event took place in 2014 sponsored by the Watson division of IBM och Boston University Questrom School of Business. Over 6.000 participants were invited to discuss innovations and business school education. In summary, the organizers said -
Our business model for education, rooted in an outdated model, is unsuited for student-centered mastery of learning and thinking. In other words, we offer standard products and services while students demand tailored solutions. Ibid p. 31
The accreditation company EFMD - which, among other things, is behind the acronym EQUIS - publishes a magazine 'Global Focus'. On October 31, Fredrik Andersson, dean at Lund University School of Economics (LUSEM), wrote an article in which he discusses the network and community 'Responsible Research in Business and Management' (RRBM). He argues in so many words that RRBM and similar initiatives have a "narrow concept of social benefit and a simplistic notion of social progress that risks constraining research." Fredrik Andersson further says ...
"In my mind the pursuit of profit more often than not goes hand-in-hand with the improvement of practices and the improvement of resource-use".
Global Focus' published on November 8, my objections to his views and positions cited above.' Read the article and my comment.
In an article in the journal BioScience (Nov. 2019), 11.000 researchers warn about the accelerating environmental threats. One can easily argue that it is profit-maximizing companies that are overfishing our oceans, deforest large areas, emit carbon dioxide, evade taxes, counteract unions, and enrich a few. The list can be made much longer. I would like to attend a seminar for students at the Lund University School of Economics, where Fredrik Andersson develops his views expressed in the article. What will the students say? Are Fredrik Andersson's views shared by the EHL board and its external Advisory board?
The, in 2014 started, community RRBM, which I have written about here, is another harbinger of change. It is a global community to make business and management research more meaningful. I am one of, at the moment, some 1.000 endorsers.
I have written a comprehensive analysis - Rankings of Business Schools - which presents several international studies on the ranking of universities and business schools. Many researchers have highlighted these rankings' methodological weaknesses and inability to measure quality issues.
I present a new model I call "Group rankings" which is about removing the individual ranking and replacing it with a group classification. The number of B-schools in each group is not a fixed number. Such a model would reduce the annual news value and leave room to highlight other factors in the assessments.
The likelihood that some media companies - e.g. Financial Times, Business Week, U. S. News, and others - would want to switch to a Group model is for commercial reasons very low. But universities and business schools should seriously question whether and how long they intend to participate in these media companies' business models. It's time for them to take constructive initiatives.
Sept 25, 2019: Accreditation and marketing of Business schools - 1
This post has outgrown the scope of a blog post and is now published as Branding and Accreditations of Business Schools in a separate case and research project. It is a critical review of accreditation as marketing, and the value of accreditation for students, readers, business schools, and the 'accreditation companies'. Alternatives to the major accreditations are developed.
Recruitment is also undergoing digitalisation and change, where there is a strong trend to neutralize the applicant's gender, education and CV. The systems do not differentiate between an applicant from the London School of Economics and one from the University of "Smalltown".
It is something of a paradox that on the one hand Business schools spend a lot of effort and money building their brand through accreditation, and on the other hand, other factors are becoming increasingly important in recruitment.
Sept 13, 2019: The careers of Business Administration PhD-students - Academia or whereto?
At the Department of Business Administration in Lund, there are today some 50 PhD. students. Where do they come from, why do they want to get a PhD., how many finish their studies (on time) and what do they do after their degree?
About half of the doctoral students do not pursue an academic career according to the department. But how many PhD.'s are thinking of working in business? Among the others, some want to remain at the same institution where they have done their dissertation, which, however, probably does not promote their skills development. Quite a few students get personal and other problems during their doctoral studies.
If there had been more transparent information about these types of questions, it would have been an interesting guide for those considering starting a Ph.D. eduction - or quitting.
Some years ago, I did a consulting assignment for Malmö University on how to get more students into their theme 'Technology and Society'. One of my points was to make it clearer to interested people what kind of work an education could lead to. This advice would also be of value for postgraduate education in business administration in Lund and other higher education institutions. More transparency is needed and this is not replaced by the marketing in the form of accreditation stamps, sometimes several, for which an educational institution is applying. More about this in an upcoming blog post.
In my experience, the doctoral program at my department is heavily weighted towards the group who want to continue working in Academia. This bias does not increase the other half's competence and status in a career in public organisations or in business.
The doctoral students who are thinking of a career outside the academy would benefit from learning to write less academically - in both Swedish and English. Moreover, it takes training to structure your thoughts towards supporting decision-making. Problematisation and "reflexivity" in all honor, but managers are faced daily with questions of the type: what is our strategy, what do we do now?
Sept 5, 2019: Research in Business Administration in Lund (1)
On the 'About us' page for the Department of Business Administration (FEK) one can read (read today)
The Department of Business Administration in Lund is one of the leading environments for education and research within the business administration field.
On the page "Strategic Management" one can after an incomprehensible introduction about dependent and independent variables read that in our changing world, we work with both old and new methods in both old and new areas. However it is expressed as below ...
The corporate world is often said to be in constant flux, and our education and research programs reflect this variety. We study traditional as well as contemporary phenomena in the corporate world, and we do it with the help of established as well as emergent theories.
The page ends with a text that emphasises that the department is focused on almost all current and relevant global big issues. [If (when) the texts are changed, this post may be updated.]
August 29, 2019: Who does research on companies / organisations?
It is a widespread notion that social and business economics research is something that is mainly done at universities by experts employed there with 'titles' like professor, associate professor, or even a doctoral student. You could almost compare to the historic Guilds .
Digitalisation and new forms of evaluation methods that can be "elevated" to science will SLOWLY change both reality and this notion. Many studies show that the academic "peer review system" has major flaws.
At the beginning of the peer review system, the review was open, and "everyone" could see who audited a research project. Today, the reviewers are secret. The academic world is "stuck" in a costly iron grip skillfully created by the large international publishing houses voluntarily and perhaps "innocently" aided by Academia. It may be time for start-up companies to address this problem and come up with new solutions. More on this topic in another blog post.
Several of the largest consulting companies such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain, Accenture, and others are conducting research today that - apart from the academic review system - can make as high a claim to be scientific as many university-based studies.
Aug 28, 2019: Do 'managers' read Business Administration research?
Preparations are underway to make a first smaller study of whether leading people in Swedish business and Swedish organisations read business economics research. How do they find it? And if they read it, what benefit does it bring?
Aug 27, 2019: Publishing in Swedish (any local language) or in English?
A researcher who wants to pursue an academic career in Sweden must publish in English. Almost all theses in business administration are written in English. In the past, theses were usually a monograph - a thick book printed in 100-200 copies - while the most common one today is a 'compilation thesis'. One has a longer introduction and summary - called 'kappa/coat' - but it is based on 2-4 articles in scientific journals. At the Department of Business Administration in Lund, it is today enough to print 20 copies of a thesis, a number which has been reduced over time. However, they are usually found in one or more free Pdf archives.
These magazines are predominantly behind a paywall and are accessible to only a few people and organisations outside the academic world. Single items can be purchased for some 20-40 USD. More about this system in an upcoming blog post. Thus, most of the business economics research is published in English behind paywalls. This does not contribute to this research being read in business and organisations.