Research with Business in Mind

Bridging the gap between academia and practice.
Research with Business in Mind

HOW CAN BUSINESS SCHOOLS get their faculty’s best research into the hands of practitioners, who can apply the findings to their organiza­tions? Six researchers have taken a closer look at how schools can bridge the divide between academics and practitioners.

The co-authors of a recent report include George Banks and Jaime Bochantin, assistant professors of management at the University of North Carolina’s Belk College of Business in Charlotte; Jeffrey Pollack, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, and Bradley Kirkman, profes­sor of leadership, at the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management in Raleigh; Christopher Whelpley, lecturer at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business in Richmond; and Er­nest O’Boyle, associate professor of management and organizations at the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

The research team surveyed 929 practitioners and 828 researchers, and conducted interviews with 16 business academics and 22 practitioners. These interactions revealed two factors fueling the disconnect between researchers and practitioners: Their interests do not al­ways overlap, and they lack understand­ing of the other side’s concerns.

Those surveyed also revealed areas of common ground that, if leveraged effectively, could encourage more collab­oration between the two sides.

When asked to share their most pressing problems, those surveyed repeatedly emphasized eight business challenges: eliminating pay inequality, workplace discrimination, and unethical business practices; expanding opportu­nities for continuing education; using technology to improve job availability and quality; improving employee morale; reducing carbon footprint; and enhanc­ing customer service.

The study recommends four ways that business schools could promote greater collaboration with businesses:

  • Encourage academics to share their research findings with practitioners.
  • Create a peer-reviewed, practi­tioner-focused journal that provides managers with advice they can use.
  • Encourage academics to use social media, blogs, and other online platforms to inform practitioners of their research.
  • Evaluate and reward faculty not only on research, teaching, and ser­vice, but also on the “practical impact” of their work. The researchers define “practical impact” as a professor’s ef­forts to reach out to business audiences.

The research team has identified more than 160 businesses that would like to work more directly with academ­ics—a growing list that the co-authors are willing to share with other schools.

“Management’s Science-Practice Gap: A Grand Challenge for All Stake­holders” was published online July 19 by the Academy of Management Journal.