It’s Time to Make Business School Research More Relevant

One of the biggest challenges facing management scientists has been the struggle to produce knowledge that is both academically rigorous and applicable to practicing managers. There are two problems that contribute to this challenge.

The first is what we called the “Lost in Translation” problem, which refers to the fact that almost no managers turn to academic journals for advice on how to improve their skills or practices. Researchers have found that managers tend to be unaware of research-supported management insights reported in academic journals, and that such insights are typically excluded in practitioner-oriented journals. Relatedly, managers tend to hold on to long-held assumed truths that often management scholars’ studies have dispelled. For example, many managers still believe that the errors they make in evaluating their employees can be corrected by training them to recognize the potential errors and suggesting ways to avoid them, while the actual evidence shows that such training can actually increase the number of errors they make.

The second problem, which we refer to as “Lost Before Translation,” is the tendency for academic researchers to design studies without input from managers or employees — the populations that their studies’ results are meant to help.

If academics want to help practitioners improve the way they manage and have an impact in the real world, they need to address these two problems.

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