I've always had a hard time picking out academic journal articles that I can recommend to entrepreneurs, either because they are too academic ( too full of statistics or jargon that is incomprehensible to the average entrepreneur), or simply irrelevant. After 50 years of study, academics have not been able to produce a solid theory of "opportunity recognition"-the cornerstone of new venture creation.
I could never understand the paradox-- businesses send their managers to business school, but then rarely adopt the advice that comes from business journals or research.
This frustration is echoed in a story in the Financial Times this week called: Why business ignores the business schools By Michael Skapinker
......some key points & highlights:
- "The three Democratic front-runners in the US presidential primary campaigns are lawyers. Even the spouses of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are lawyers. Mike Huckabee and John McCain are not lawyers, but Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson are. This is meant to be a race to become America's chief executive, not its general counsel. Are there any business school graduates among the candidates? Mitt Romney ? And he did a law degree along with his Harvard MBA.Business schools have a thing about lawyers. First, they seem to run the US. Of America?s 43 presidents, 25 have been lawyers. Only one has been an MBA (the current incumbent, so perhaps best not to mention it)."
- "Second, law schools seem to have an impact on their own profession that business schools cannot match. When law schools publish journals, lawyers read them. When law schools put on conferences, lawyers turn up."
- "Chief executives, on the other hand, pay little attention to what business schools do or say.[..unless it is written in a best-selling book by a "supper star academic." --Walter Derzko] As long ago as 1993, Donald Hambrick, then president of the US-based Academy of Management, described the business academics Summer conference as "an incestuous closed loop", at which professors "come to talk with each other". Not much has changed."
- "In the current edition of The Academy of Management Journal, Rita Gunther McGrath of Columbia business school says: "Most of what we publish isn't even cited by other academics."
- "..[...] I suspect the business school academics are missing something. Law, medical and engineering schools are subject to the same academic pressures as business schools. To publish in prestigious peer-reviewed journals and to buttress their work with the expected academic vocabulary. The reason that real-life lawyers, doctors and engineers have no problem with their research is not because they are smarter than business people, but because the research assists them in what they do."
- "Lawyers and doctors proceed from a corpus of knowledge and build on it. They look at what their colleagues do and try to do it better. They are also dealing with more predictable material. People's hearts, lungs or nervous systems behave in similar ways. The way people behave in the office is far more mysterious. What works in one company may not work in another. Managers tend to be practical rather than theoretical, proceeding by trial and error: this works, that doesn?t. Rather than building on competitors achievements, the best often seek to do something different."
- "Business schools can describe what innovative companies have done: Harvard's case study method does just that. But this is, by definition, backward-looking. Business school professors will struggle to tell us what innovators will do next. If they knew, they would surely do it themselves." [time and time again I've heard professor after professor apologizing for not being able to predict the future...most have little knowledge for foresight tools or practices--Walter Derzko]
Full story here in FT.com
What do you think? Add your comments
Update: from Jan 11, 2008
In a strategy listserve, Ruth H. Axelrod [RAxelrod@GWU.EDU] writes:
"[…] It reminds me of a statement by the American psychologist, Harold Kelly, who lamented in the 1950's that, in psychology, "there are the questions that one can research and then there are the really interesting questions."
"In my experience, most academic research in organizational studies is founded on the issues that we can research using experimental designs derived from the hard sciences, so that is the driving force in selecting research questions, *not* the needs of practitioners. It is hardly surprising, then, that our work often does not address the questions and problems that *really* plague practitioners.
Furthermore, if you look at the history of management theory in the context of social changes in a wide variety of domains (which I am currently working on), what you see is that theory *follows* practice--that is, in the vast majority of cases, a practitioner who faces real problems that threaten his/her job and/or organization conceives of a new way of doing things and tries it out. Then, academics come along and study it, create an abstract model to describe it, and publish the model (note, IMO, most of what we publish is not theory--which explains the why of things--but simply descriptive models which we often call theories). Rarely do academics actually innovate. We're not under pressure to do so. (Remember that Peter Drucker observed that the organizations that most need out help are governments and nonprofits because they don't have "the discipline of the bottom line," which drives innovation in businesses; we academics don't either.) What we are under pressure to do is to publish research that has been conducted within the current paradigms of our fields and--for the most part--according to the restrictive tenets of "the scientific method" (as opposed to qualitative methods which, historically, have been responsible for almost all of the break-through thinking.)"