2011年2月13日 星期日

Why business still ignores business schools

2011年02月14日 07:16 AM

Why business still ignores business schools

The Academy of Management is the world’s leading association of business scholars, with more than 18,000 members in 104 countries, so it is something of an honour to be criticised in its journal.

管理学会(Academy of Management)是世界一流的商业学者协会,共有1.8万多名成员,遍布104个国家,因此,在该学会期刊上被点名批评也不失为一种荣耀。

I am not the sole target. An article in the Academy’s Learning & Education journal has taken to task several people who have argued that the research turned out by business schools is irrelevant to business.

我不是唯一受到批评的。该学会《学习与教育》期刊(Learning & Education)上登载的一篇文章,把矛头对准了好几个持有以下见解的人:商学院进行的研究与商业毫无干系。

My contribution was in a column in 2008, entitled “Why business ignores the business schools”. I said that there was no profession in which the gap between researchers and practitioners was so wide. While medical, engineering and law schools energetically engaged with their respective professions, business schools did not command the attention of managers.

我的文章刊登在2008年的一个专栏上,标题是“企业为什么无视商学院”(Why business ignores the business schools)。我说,就研究者与从业者的脱节程度而言,哪一行都比不上商业。医学院、工程学院和法学院都积极与业内同仁打交道,而商学院却不要求管理 者的关注。

It was not just outsiders who said this. My column was based on an anguished series of articles – in the Academy of Management journal, as it happened – from business school professors admitting that few people paid attention to their research.


My column prompted a bigger response than anything I have written in 30 years of journalism. Almost all of it came from business school academics, and they overwhelmingly agreed that managers generally ignored them.


They offered three reasons. First, management was not a profession. Unlike doctors, lawyers or engineers, managers did not need qualifications from professional schools and so paid little attention to them.


Second, management was not a science. Medicine and engineering lent themselves to rigorous experimentation. Human behaviour – and therefore business – was unpredictable and produced less compellingly clear-cut research.


Third, business schools were desperate for respect from other academic disciplines and needed to produce the sort of arcane research that universities demanded. Junior faculty said they would not win tenure if they wrote books that managers actually wanted to use.


I was not completely convinced by these arguments then and am less so now. The unpredictability of human behaviour does not prevent experts in childcare or teenage education producing research that grabs public attention.


Management may be an art rather than a science, but there are many issues business schools could be researching that managers would want to hear about. For example, do managers who submit to a 360-degree performance appraisal think they benefited from the experience? Do companies that employ their own sales people in India do better than those who use agents? The results may not be as robust as an investigation into whether meningitis vaccinations reduce the incidence of the disease, but they would be interesting and provoke thought and discussion.

管理或许是一门艺术,而不是一门科学,但是,管理者会关心的许多问题,商学院怎么不去 研究呢?譬如,接受360度绩效考核的管理者是否认为自己从中受益了呢?在印度自己组建销售队伍的企业,是否比聘用代理的公司做得更好?这些结果的震撼 性,或许比不上脑膜炎疫苗能否降低发病率的研究结果,但它们会很有意思,发人深省,引起讨论。

The most recent Academy of Management annual conference did have a few business-academia sessions, but the majority of talks had titles such as “Exploring paradoxes across diverse organisational contexts” or – probably what the academics really wanted to know about – “Research through funded grants”.


The argument that business school researchers have to play the game to win tenure also does not add up. Medical and law school researchers are subject to the same pressures – and what is to stop business school professors doing more relevant research once they have tenure?


The writers of the latest Academy of Management article come up with a novel defence of business school research: it produces better-paid graduates.


There is no doubt that an MBA is a good investment. The 2011 issue of the Financial Times MBA rankings appears next Monday. It will show, once again, that an MBA from a top school more than doubles the graduate’s salary. But isn’t this because the top schools attract the best students and teachers who, because they are attached to the leading universities, publish the most research? The writers of the Academy of Management article say that even when you control for that, more research equals higher salaries. Faculty who engage in research seem to have more knowledge to pass on to their students.

攻读MBA是一项不错的投资,这一点毋庸置疑。2011年英国《金融时报》MBA排行 榜即将出炉。新榜单将再次显示,顶尖商学院会让MBA毕业生的薪水上涨不止一倍。但这难道不是因为顶尖学校会吸引最优秀的学生和教师?一流的教师依附于一 流的大学,所以他们发表的研究成果最多。管理学会那篇文章的作者们表示,即使有意加以控制,研究数量与薪水之间也是成正比的。从事研究工作的教师似乎有更 多的学识可以传授给学生。

Really? Freek Vermeulen of London Business School wrote in the FT on Monday that not only did business school research not reach managers; it wasn’t even used in the classroom.

果真如此吗?伦敦商学院(London Business School)的弗里克•韦穆伦(Freek Vermeulen)近日在英国《金融时报》撰文指出,商学院的研究成果不仅到不了管理者眼前,甚至在课堂上也得不到应用。

This leaves one common, final defence: what business schools are doing works. The growth in student numbers has been huge.


Except that it seems to be slowing. For the past two years, applications to two-year MBA programmes have fallen and those for one-year programmes were flat in 2010, even though numbers have traditionally risen during economic downturns. If the falling trend continues, business schools may have to look far harder at the relevance of what they are doing.