The current system is falling short of fulfilling our collective potential. The goal for researchers and their institutions should include business and societal impact, not simply to publish in a small set of journals with limited readership. The results of research are an important input into the curriculum and are the basis for informing public policies and advising best practices. Responsible research feeds into responsible teaching and preparation of responsible managers, but our current ecosystem is reinforcing research that is narrow, outdated and insulated from the real world. We encourage increasing the diversity of topics, methods, disciplinary perspectives, assumptions, contexts, and dissemination methods. Diversity should be a central part of our research vision, with societal impact as a central goal of responsible research. The research ecosystem has a web of interrelated players. Each has a role to play in encouraging and supporting efforts to move the current citation-based publication-oriented ecosystem to one that supports the principles associated with responsible research. Complementary and coordinated actions involving all players in the ecosystem are necessary to reach Vision 2030.
- Consequences of a “Do-nothing” Option
Doing nothing and letting things evolve on their natural course is certainly an option. This option describes how things have progressed over the past few decades. However, do we want to continue to invest in an activity with limited substantive returns? Business and management research is extremely costly. With increasing competition for resources, there will be increasing pressure to demonstrate the societal value of research to resource providers, or business schools will run the risk of losing legitimacy. Life in business schools will become more and more stressful as faculty researchers continue to compete to publish in prestigious journals. With talented faculty members finding such work to be both stressful and demeaning, business schools may begin to lose valuable educators to their non-university-based competitors. This talent exit has already begun, with scores of academics joining high tech start-ups and established technology and consulting firms, which offer the promise to change the world or provide a big payoff. Young talents aspiring to make a difference in the world and finding meaning in their life may not be attracted to business schools if the current research culture remains.
- The Changing Context of Business and Management Schools
The macro business environment is changing more rapidly than academic scholars seem to have realized. There are unprecedented technological changes: the ubiquity of e-commerce, increasing use of artificial intelligence and robotics to replace human decision-making and tasks in many fields including manufacturing, electronics, healthcare, and education. For the business school, there is at best stagnant enrollment, escalating tuition, declining budget support, increasing the call for accountability and transparency, rising use of MOOCs, the rapid expansion of non-research teaching faculty, along with global competition among over 14,000 business schools worldwide. This is precisely the time when we need to step back and reflect on the role of business schools in the society at large, and specifically the role and potential impact of research in the business schools. What can we do to ensure that we are using our resources and talents effectively to address the pressing problems confronting business and society in the twenty-first century? Engaging in responsible research in the manner described in this position paper is not only important for the epistemic and societal goals of science but more importantly for the flourishing of the businesses and society that business schools serve. Business schools hold a unique position to create a research-based path to a better future.
- A Call to Action: “Responsible Research for Better Business and a Better World”
At the dawn of the 21st century, the world is facing challenging tensions in all aspects of society: economic, political, technological, social, and environmental. In 2015, the United Nations pledged to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for the next fifteen years through implementing 17 sustainable goals by its 195 member states.1 In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering identified 14 grand challenges in the areas of education, artificial intelligence, healthcare, clean water, energy, urban infrastructure, cyberspace security, and more.2 Leaders in government, business, and civil societies have identified a myriad of similar challenges. Business and management research can do much more to contribute to meeting these challenges by discovering management processes and systems to improve collective work at the organizational and national levels. These could include the responsible use of financial resources, accounting methods for assessing societal impacts, innovative products and services to meet the needs of the base of the pyramid, sustainable marketing and supply chain, logistics to reach currently inaccessible regions, strategies for economic growth and significant innovation, attention to both wealth creation and wealth distribution, to name a few. Academic freedom is important but research is not value-free, and there are consequences of business school research not staking its claim to societally valuable work. Contributing to a better world is the ultimate goal of science. Science in business and management can live up to its obligation and realize its potential through engaging in responsible research that we humbly propose. We invite widespread debate and dialogue on the ideas discussed in this position paper.
- Consequences of a “Do-nothing” Option