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Panel: Is Management Research Appropriately Impacting Practitioners, Teaching, and New Theory Development?

19th CEEMAN Annual Conference
Georgia - Tbilisi | 2011
Thank you for allowing me to express my views of this interesting yet never-ending story. I did a survey with the MBA students in two different classes at my school - Change Management and Leadership. I will share with you the thoughts of the customers that we are producing our research for. Finally, I will also let you know what I think of this topic. 

At the Central European University, there is a strong belief that it is a research university. Some departments have only PhD programs. They do not even teach master programs. There are subjects that are driven by research, such as Medieval History or International Human Rights. 

The Business School is a separate entity. We have big difficulties because we live on tuition fees and we have to convince the market that what we are doing is relevant. Therefore, we often have discussions on what kind of research would be relevant and would produce an impact. It is a sensitive issue that reminds me of some endless debates. The school was founded 22 years ago for teaching what was the norm in the United States and the developed world. Then, creation of regional knowledge became relevant. Recently, my colleagues and I have been trying to position the school in a niche in the global market. As a result, we are looking for new fields of specialization and research. 

I have been through the Anglo-Saxon PhD machinery myself. Then, I discovered that the Western knowledge in the field of organizational behavior, society, and leadership did not work very well in Eastern Europe. What should I do then as a researcher? How do I get closer to the local reality? I will tell you a little bit about what I found out. 

The minds of the students that I surveyed were quite far away from the business research that we see in academic journals. Perhaps they have not been exposed to it sufficiently. They ask whether my colleagues and I do this research to satisfy our own academic fantasies or because we want to help them become better managers. It should not be like that. The utility of what we are doing should be obvious to the students. 

Another comment was that sharing so-called best practices with the students is a good thing but certainly not enough anymore. This was a strong message. They respect what we give them and trust it but they do not consider it enough to put it in their toolboxes. 

I asked them what it would take for that to happen. They told me that we should create a climate without fear so that they can take onboard what they need. I asked them how fear could be eliminated. I found out that it has to do with different individual learning styles. They acknowledged that some people were learning from academic sources, whereas others preferred imitation. They wanted to imitate each other. 

I was also told that my colleagues and I were trying to tell the students about the positive sides of life or about how things should be but it is ultimately up to the students to go out in the real world and find real solutions to real problems. At the very least, they are happy to hear how things should be, although that is not exactly my goal. I see my role as someone who uses theory to describe reality as closely as possible, whereas the students are the real problem-solvers in the real world. They need the equipment that we can provide to them. 

The students think that once they go out, they will use the theory to build roads. They think that job is easy. The difficult task is to maintain the roads, keeping the positive elements in the new solutions. 

They asked me whether research impact could be measured. Of course, it can. There are publications on that. 

Concerning the important characteristics of a manager, they mentioned self-awareness. The students told us that we needed to create moments of self-awareness and self-recognition. This is music to my ears because I teach Organizational Behavior and Leadership and I strongly agree with the students. 

I have witnessed a repetition of mainstream Anglo-Saxon theories that have been translated into various other languages. When I started my PhD research, it was quite difficult to get copies of books and a lot of photocopying was needed. But now the digital revolution has rendered that process easy and free of charge. It has become very easy for a researcher in this part of the world to copy-paste a questionnaire and do a comparative study. Apparently, this is not the best way to improve our research activities. 

I think that if we want real improvement, we need to get the feel of the company. Only then will our research be perceived as practically useful. I think that this can be done by filling the local gaps. We need to create small units of research. By this I mean case studies and projects. I am a little skeptical about grand theories and think that our real goal is to fill gaps. I use blogging for my courses and allow the students to produce new theories. 

Companies are much more likely to accept cases written in the local context than any grand theory supported by numbers and statistics. 

I also believe in the importance of process. I am not a dry theorist. I like structure but I think that the effectiveness of this process of giving back to the external environment lies in the process itself. I subscribe to the statement that we heard yesterday that the real issue is the students’ behavior and how they can transform it. 

When I teach on executive MBA or in-company programs, one of the first things that I say is that they need to change the existing socialist or Prussian mentality: you do a degree, you write a paper, and you will be a successful manager. They need a different mentality and that is relevant for the way that we are doing research. They have to acknowledge that they are already individuals with a lot of knowledge. They come together and do things together; as a result, they will have greater experience. This is what will give them more solutions in the toolbox. 

I wanted to give you my perspective of an academic who is in an environment driven by hardcore research. That is fine as long as the research is applicable in a business context.
19th CEEMAN Annual Conference: Management Education in a Changing World: Are We Ready for the Challenge?
September 2011
Published from:
October 2011
Zoltán Buzády, Panel: Is Management Research Appropriately Impacting Practitioners, Teaching, and New Theory Development?,
Accessed: June 24 2019,
Available at: http://ceeman.lecturehub.com/lectures/650/2011_ceemanac_tbilisi_buzady_mraipt
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