Management and Organizational Science (MOS), a pillar of the Social, Behavioral and Economic field, is a young science. Nonetheless, it has moved rapidly from an initial focus purely on practice (previous to the reports by the Ford and Carnegie Foundations in the 1960s) to its current state where it relies on more of a “pure science” model (Khurana 2007)1. A key issue for such a young field is whether it is appropriately covering the full extent of its scholarly jurisdiction.
We addressed this question while responding to a call by the National Science Foundation to identify grand challenge questions in the Social, Economic and Behavioral Sciences (Cavarretta and Furr 2011)2, a paper we contribute to the RRBM initiative article collection.
We metaphorically explored the question by wondering: if the MOS field were medicine, could we afford scholarship to be limited only to the realm of pure science, for example, biochemistry, in the absence of clinical embeddedness?
Our white paper examines the current institutionalization of the MOS scholarly field. It draws a comparison with the medical field to identify a puzzling decoupling between practice and theory.
The medical analogy was chosen because of the similarity of the fundamental objectives of medicine and management/organization sciences 3 . Both disciplines deal with a well-defined and important human activity: in medicine, how to manage human health, for profit or not, versus, in MOS, how to manage human organizations, for profit or not. Both sciences are embodied into professional schools (medical schools vs. business schools) drawing from more abstract disciplines (for medicine, chemistry, biology, etc. versus for MOS, sociology, economy, psychology, etc.).
Both sciences are supposed to produce knowledge and protocols usable by practitioners of the aforementioned activity: for medicine, usable by physicians (or other variants of medical practice) in interaction with patients, versus, for MOS, useable by managers (and other variants of organizational roles) in interaction with organization/business problems.
This metaphorical exploration led to some potential solutions to make progress towards resolving the current decoupling in the field of MOS:
- fostering epistemological analyses to deepen the comparison with fields such as medicine and law;
- targeting clinically oriented problems; institutionalizing clinical training and requisites of scholars;
- mixing various sub-disciplines of management and practitioners; and fostering actual research collaboration from fields with similar practice affiliation.
Hopefully, the RRBM community can leverage this metaphor to address the relative immaturity of our field.
Author : Fabrice L. Cavarretta
ESSEC Business School