What Do Business People Think Research Rigor Is?

A common theme in this blog is the problem of the connection between practitioners and research rigor. It is hard not to notice that what academics do doesn’t seem to impact managers much. Indeed rigorous research often doesn’t seem to have any obvious connection to business issues. Perea and Brady tackled this issue in the Journal of Management Development. One of the fascinating questions they ask is whether business people actually know what rigorous research is.

Perea and Brady asked managers what they thought of academic research. They often seem to value academic research, great, but they didn’t really know what it is, not so great. The practitioners thought opinion pieces in professional journals were research. Worryingly for everyone: “The majority are not aware of the existence of academic journals related to their sector” (Perea and Brady, 2017, page 1057). It requires mental gymnastics of the highest order to argue that academics articles are having a great impact.

Academics don’t write for managers and managers don’t know that academics are writing anyhow. It isn’t ideal. I agree with their conclusion that bridging the academic practitioner gap isn’t going to be possible unless we tackle academic incentives. Academics have got to want their papers to be read, or at least to have a real-world impact, before managers can be expected to want to hear from academics.

Read: Eva Perea and Malcolm Brady (2017) Research Rigor and the gap between academic journals and business practitioners, Journal of Management Development, 36 (8), 1052-1062