Business School for Dummies?

It may seem obvious, but the accrediting group AACSB is studying whether biz-school research should be relevant to the corporate world — and how to make it so.

Another recommendation — that “efforts to create incentives for greater diversity in institutional missions and faculty intellectual contributions” be encouraged — relates to the awareness that business schools often discourage work for such publications as the Harvard Business Review, so popular with corporate managers, in favor of peer-reviewed academic journals rarely seen by executives. “Widely read journals sometimes don’t get the respect among acadmic colleagues,” notes LeClair.

An article in Economist.com about the August AACSB draft noted, for example, that many schools seem driven by the need to cement their reputations, and that of their professors, by “being seen in the right journals.” And the more than 20,000 articles published by schools each year tends to be “highly quantitative, hypothesis-driven and esoteric.”

The other five recommendations are geared to finding ways to build bridges between academics and professional associations “such as the Academy of Management”; creating awards to recognize high-impact faculty research; and encouraging “best practices for creating linkages between academic research and practice” — a concept, incidentally, that could have been taken right out of HBR.

So with the seven months of groundwork laid, what will AACSB do next?

The need to take a long-term view of change, with so many academics on both sides of the research issue, has the AACSB planning pilot studies, benchmarking exercises around the world, and partnerships with other organizations to help produce guidelines for change. “Most business schools are part of bigger institutions, and they have their own processes that relate to journal articles, for example,” says LeClair. For schools with little background in pragmatic research, it could also be a costly transition.

“Please don’t laugh at us academics,” says LeClair with a resonant laugh of his own. “But we’re going to set up another task force.”

Coming Thursday: Where B-School Research Excels: Why finance research is the main exception to the rule that business-school studies aren’t relevant.

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