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British Journal of Management, Vol.

12, Special Issue, S3S26 (2001)

Bridging the Relevance Gap:

Aligning Stakeholders in the
Future of Management Research
Ken Starkey and Paula Madan*
Nottingham University Business School, Jubilee Campus, Nottingham NG8 1BB, UK and
*Electrolux Home Products Corporation N.V., Cullignalaan 2D, BE-1831 Diegem, Belgium
This report examines the relevance gap in management research. Its focus is the nature
of knowledge created by research at the interface between business and academia in
the context of major changes likely to affect the nature of demand for such knowledge.
Management research has been accused of a lack of relevance to managerial practice
and of too narrow a discipline base. The report examines the conditions giving rise to this
criticism, in the UK and elsewhere, and identifies an important strategic need to increase
the stakeholding of users in various aspects of the research and knowledge creation and
dissemination process. The report concludes with recommendations concerning new
forms of research partnership and research training that will address the relevance gap.
However, bridging this gap does not only require changes in the academic mind-set.
Managers and firms too need to rethink their involvement in the research process.

Introduction: the challenge of relevance

Todays business world places a premium upon
knowledge as a source of competitive advantage,
creating the need, at the individual, firm and policy
level, to pay special attention to the development
of the knowledge stocks of organizations, managers, professionals and employees in order to
prepare them to cope successfully with the demands of the old and new economies. This creates
the need for institutional, cultural and organizational shifts at the interface between business and
universities, geared to understanding the changing needs of individuals and firms and providing
new forms of organization to facilitate the swift
and effective flow of knowledge and people to
their most productive use.
The process necessary to achieve such a change
is likely to be a demanding one as universities and
business remain very different institutions, in terms
of the ways in which they generate and manage
knowledge and in terms of their differing motivations and rationales for participating in and using
2001 British Academy of Management

research. Closing the relevance gap requires that

the different stakeholders involved in management
research creatively address issues of research content, research process and research dissemination.
The issue of relevance raises fundamental
questions about the nature and social role of the
university and the expectations of business of
university research and education. Business is
increasingly concerned with relevance, while business and management researchers in universities
cling to a different view of knowledge. Business
and management researchers stand accused of a
lack of relevance to managerial practice and of too
narrow a discipline base. The IndustryAcademic
Links report (HEFCE, 1998) detailed some of the
current problems in creating a successful knowledge flow between academics and practitioners:
users believe that research can benefit them
but do not regard many research topics as
focusing upon key issues of relevance;
some managers do not feel that research contributes directly to their managerial role. Their

perceived need is for prescriptive statements
about best practices and actionable advice
rather than reflexive analysis;
user communities lack awareness of the results
of research. Management researchers also
lack systematic and effective methods of
disseminating their findings to many of these
The issues here are encapsulated in a dialogue
that took place at the American Academy of
Management Annual Conference in 1999 between
Stanfords James March and Citigroups John
Reed. March (2000) criticized what he called
the misguided search for relevance rather than
knowledge. He argued that the pursuit of academic research which contributed to knowledge
was more important. March has had as much
impact on our thinking about the nature of
organization and on the evolution of management
as a discipline as any scholar and he holds chairs
in international management, political science,
sociology and education at Stanford University!
The key role of the university, according to his
perspective, is not in trying to identify factors
affecting organizational performance, or in trying
to develop managerial technology. It is in raising
fundamental issues and advancing knowledge about
fundamental processes affecting management.
March continues:
What in management research is important for
management practice? If we look historically . . . it
is not the passing fads of management gimmicks.
It is not the numerous studies attempting to relate
performance to one thing or another. It is the basic
ideas that shape the discourse about management
ideas about conflict of interest, problems with
information and incentives, bounded rationality,
diffusion of legitimate forms, loose coupling,
liability of newness, dynamic traps of adaptation,
absorptive capacity and the like . . . the primary
usefulness of management research lies in the
development of fundamental ideas that might
shape managerial thinking, not in the solution of
immediate managerial problems.

The philosophy of Marchs approach is echoed

by John Reed (2000) of Citigroup, himself an extremely eminent and eloquent practising manager. He describes why he values the opportunity
for discussing research: I look forward to the
opportunity to get out of the day-to-day, to sit
back and try to understand what is going on in the

K. Starkey and P. Madan

research community. It allows me some breathing
room and gives me a sense of what it is that I have
been spending the last 34 years doing. For him,
the crucial focus for management research does
concern its integration with practice and it is
aimed at a particular business need: We now are
at a point where understanding who humans are,
how they respond to opportunities, and what they
dream about is essential to business practice.
This form of research is strategic because it
provides a significant potential input into what
John Reed describes as the task of improving the
opportunity space for our enterprise.
This dialogue between eminent researcher and
eminent practitioner encapsulates the tensions
that exist in the nature of the relationship between
business and academia and the key issues that need
to be considered in the discussion of relevance
and knowledge creation. This is the context in
which the relevance gap in management research
exists. In the main body of our report we discuss
how we might navigate our way through this
complicated landscape in a way that makes more
relevant research possible. In this report we give
a perspective from inside higher education (HE)
in the UK and we are, at least implicitly, critical of
some management research philosophy and practice. However, we certainly do not believe that
the problems lie only in HE. Users of research
also have to educate themselves about the potential benefits of closer research relationships with
academics. A key goal of these relationships, from
our perspective, is the development of forms
of knowledge that help managers become better
reflective practitioners. Managers and academics
need to understand the wisdom of Kurt Lewins
comment that There is nothing as practical as a
good theory and appreciate that the way to improve practice is through critical reflection upon
the often unexamined mental models that inform
our actions. Managers and academics need to
engage each other in a dialogue about the nature
of knowledge and to educate each other to their
needs in the joint development of a mutually
beneficial research process.

Knowledge modes forces for change

Knowledge modes
In their seminal work, The New Production of
Knowledge, Michael Gibbons and colleagues

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research


argue that we are seeing a fundamental shift in

the ways in which knowledge is being produced,
affecting not only what knowledge is produced
but also how it is produced. Gibbons et al. (1994)
trace the development of this new form of
knowledge what they call Mode 2 knowledge
(M2K) in the hard sciences, physics, chemistry
and biology. Mode 1 knowledge [M1K] is what we
traditionally conceive of as the scientific approach
to knowledge creation and is what universities
have historically been concerned with disciplinary, primarily cognitive, in the sense of more
concerned with theory than practice, with how the
world works considered at a theoretical level.
M2K is less concerned with discipline base
indeed it can be described as transdisciplinary
and is crucially concerned with knowledge as it
works in practice in the context of application.
M2K aims, in brief, at relevance to practice. In
the M1K approach it is conventional to speak
of science and scientists, while the aspirations
of M2K to relevance to practice make it more
relevant to speak of knowledge and practitioners.
In summary:

the very role of the university becomes problematic (Brown and Duguid, 2000).

in Mode 1 problems are set and solved in a context governed by the largely academic interests of
a specific community. By contrast, Mode 2 knowledge is carried out in a context of application.
Mode 1 is disciplinary while Mode 2 is transdisciplinary. Mode 1 is characterised by homogeneity,
mode 2 by heterogeneity. Organisationally, Mode
1 is hierarchical and tends to preserve its form,
while Mode 2 is more heterarchical and transient.
Each employs a different type of quality control.
In comparison with Mode 1, Mode 2 is more
socially accountable and reflexive. It includes a
wider, more temporary and heterogeneous set of
practitioners, collaborating on a problem defined
in a specific and localised context. (Gibbons et al.,
1994, p. 3)

These all reflect a need to re-examine the role of

the academic and of university research itself
in the knowledge production and diffusion process.
Stakeholders. Academics have historically been
prime agents in the generation of knowledge
through research and its dissemination through
publication of results and through teaching. Universities are concerned with the communication
and accreditation of knowledge, through their
educational role. Among the pressures making
relevance more relevant are questions of institutional mission. What is the business of business
and management schools? Is their primary purpose research and publication of research results?
Is it developing our understanding of human
behaviour in contexts important to business and
society? Some authors, such as Argyris and Schon
(1974), argue that the heart of education lies in
changing behaviour to make it more effective,
and this is the underlying principle behind many
of the discussions currently taking place in the
UK. If one accepts that research should have as
a major concern changing behaviour and this
fits with the M2K approach then it raises important questions about what kind of research is
best suited to do this, and how it is best disseminated.

Arguably, the Mode 1 approach to research and

knowledge production is no longer sustainable.
Universities are the last bastions of M1K in a
world where greater accountability and the speed
of change in relevant knowledge encourage an
M2K approach. Public policy is increasingly geared
to national competitiveness and the generation
of relevant knowledge. Technological change has
opened up vast new reservoirs of information
and opportunities for knowledge creation that
the old repositories of knowledge, libraries and
universities, will struggle to contain. As a result

Forces for change

There is a growing concern among management
academics that Mode 1 knowledge is losing touch
with higher educations stakeholders. We perceive
four main pressures for change bearing down on
the university management researcher:
1 The demand for more relevant knowledge
from increasingly critical and sophisticated
stakeholders in higher education, both public
and private sector.
2 Increasing competition among universities for
students and for lucrative post-experience education and training coupled with increasingly
demanding consumers.
3 Critical reflection among academics themselves
about their role in an increasingly demanding
and complex world.
4 Radical innovations in information and communication technologies.


K. Starkey and P. Madan

If business schools research mission, and thus

their mandate to create knowledge, is increasingly
out of touch with the aspirations of stakeholders
and fund-providers because it is judged guilty of a
relevance gap, then it raises critical issues of role
justification and, ultimately, long-term survival.
What will be the business schools educational
mission in the future if its research mission is seen
as increasingly irrelevant? Huff (2000, p. 290) sees
moves by US states, such as Colorado, to stress a
teaching mission, as one possible future scenario:
It is easy for administrators or legislators to
equate education with student contact hours. It is
harder to calculate the educational and social
benefits of abstract research. Thus, some schools
are pressured to do less research and to pay more
attention to instruction.

Under this scenario, universities primary mission

will be to maximize teaching effectiveness and
perhaps their only unique competence to manage
accreditation, while relevant research increasingly
becomes the preserve of companies themselves
and of management consultancy firms. Knowledge
production has to be justified as a source of local
or national competitive advantage and as a source
of public good.
Increasing competition and more demanding
consumers. This factor interacts with the other
forces for change, although knowledge here is
seen as a source of firm competitive advantage
and needs to be considered in the context of business strategy.
Firms are interested in the application of knowledge rather than knowledge for its own sake.
What makes knowledge valuable to organizations
is ultimately the ability to make better decisions
and action taken on the basis of knowledge. If
knowledge doesnt improve decision making, then
whats the point? (Davenport and Prusak, 1998).
From this perspective we can view knowledge in
terms of a knowledge chain, akin to the value
chain in business, as shown in Figure 1.





Figure 1. The knowledge chain

Guiding principles are: that knowledge should

inform action; and that action becomes knowable
if we understand better the underlying principles
that link cause and effect.
Managers tend to access university business
research primarily through the medium of teaching, with some knowledge transfer via other media,
primarily the written word, although it has to be
remembered that the evidence suggests that,
on the whole, managers are not great readers of
academic material, especially if not involved in an
academic course of study. (Here we recall the
words of the film-maker, Sam Goldwyn: I read
part of it all the way through.) Firms recruit
undergraduates and MBAs who have been educated by those doing the research, thus providing
an opportunity for firms to internalize research
knowledge, assuming research is integrated into
this teaching, should they so desire. Firms are
also exposed to research faculty on in-company
executive education and, less often, consulting
Porras (2000) suggests that in the next twenty
years the environmental demands placed on
business schools will change radically and that the
most critical changes will take place in the executive education market, the demand for which
will accelerate dramatically. The evidence from
the USA is that the market for business education
will shift from an undergraduate and MBA focus
to a concern with the education and development
needs of those who already have Masters-level
management education. Currently in the USA
there are over 1.8 million MBAs. By the year 2020
it is predicted that there will be over 3 million.
Unless business schools respond to the challenges
of developing knowledge relevant to this changing customer base they run the risk of obsolescence,
to be replaced by new providers, perhaps management consulting firms or the burgeoning corporate university movement, that is perceived,
by some clients, as better able to fill the relevance
gap (Wind and Nueno, 1998).
When executives look for professional updating
and new skill development their needs are likely
to differ from those of MBAs who are looking, in
the main, for functional knowledge. Experienced
executives are more interested in concepts and
ideas that can help them make sense of and deal
with the problems they face in their day-to-day
work. They are also concerned with how to think
about an increasingly complex and dynamic future,

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research


which does not conform very closely to the

perspectives that inform the average MBA
syllabus. They are looking for the concepts behind
best practice and are, therefore, more concerned
with theory than the normal MBA student.

number of business fads without any academic

work that permits business people to assess
whether these fads are worthwhile or not (Wind
and Nueno, 1998, pp. 910).
When is university research at its best?

MBAs are looking primarily for best practices so

that when they leave school and get a job they can
hit the street running. Executives are experienced enough to understand that best practices
come and go and that the only thing that really
lasts is the conceptual underpinnings to current
best practice. This is what they really need and
look for. (Porras, 2000, p. 3)

University research . . . is at its most effective

when it conducts research that the private sector is
unable or unwilling to pursue. (Much early
Internet research falls into this category.) . . .
Conversely, it is at its weakest when it merely
duplicates research going on elsewhere. (Brown
and Duguid, 2000, p. 236)

An MBA teaches that a conceptual base for

management exists but the flux of management
practice in a continually changing environment
leads to the expectation that knowledge needs to
be periodically updated. This requires a knowledge base that is continually being replenished.
What the academic has to offer in this context is a
balance of theory and practice but the correct
balance of these from a practitioner perspective
is one that conforms more to M2K than M1K.
From the pure world [of the university researcher
in the social sciences] would come the use of
rigorous analytical research methodologies and a
drive for theory to guide the research. From the
applied side would come topics that are of real
interest to managers, ones that they need insights
on so that they can more effectively guide their
organizations. The key role of the business school
researcher is to develop new insights. In the words
of Michael Porter, Consultants can bring the
laggards up to best practice but scholars should
be determining the next best practice (Wind and
Nueno, 1998, p. 5).
In the absence of theory grounded in sound
academic research we have seen the proliferation
of pop management books, filling the business
shelves in bookshops and airports. In the view of
Colin Crook, former Senior Technology Officer
at Citicorp and Citibank, this proliferation has
occurred to fill a vacuum caused by lack of an
adequate response by universities to the thirst for
relevant knowledge. However this new literature
does not fill the gap either because popular theories,
on the whole, lack rigour and an objective perspective. Facts are confused, data are missing,
the integrity of the position is simply not there.
What is emerging are transitory insights which
are not valid for very long, along with an incredible

Of course, this raises major issues about the role

of the university. If we look at this from the perspective of generic needs of learners for conditions that will foster a good learning experience,
perhaps the most important thing learners need
from higher education institutions is access to
authentic communities of learning, interpretation,
exploration, and knowledge creation (Brown
and Duguid, 2000, p. 232). If universities cannot
provide this, in new and attractive, higher valueadded ways, then other providers are ready to
move into the resulting vacuum.
Management consultancies, particularly, are
identifying increasing opportunities in extending
their services into executive education, sometimes
with the collaboration of academics, particularly
in the area of action learning aligned with issues
of business strategy, a niche currently being examined by McKinsey. Other consultancies such as
Marakon and PA Consulting offer similar programmes. Marakon offers an executive education
service with Concours, an international consultancy.
In the words of John Cooper, managing director
of the European Division of Concours, their competitive edge over business schools is that they
can draw together disparate groups of education
providers in ways that business schools cannot,
and a distinctive orientation towards relevance
and practice: We can bring together business
leaders, a wide range of academics and consultants . . . We offer a taste of theory and practice
(Financial Times, 23 May, 2000). Marakon also
sees itself offering something distinctive, including an integrated interdisciplinary perspective
that business schools cannot replicate. We touch
on many disciplines taught at business schools but
we provide a customised course in a practical
environment, is how this is described by Scott
Gillis, Marakons managing partner.

Critical reflection among academics. Whether
management knowledge can ever conform to a
natural science model is debatable (Cannella and
Paetzold, 1994). Management in action is complex, cause and effect relationships difficult to
establish and the predictive validity of theory low.
Skilful management practice involves intuition as
well as rational analysis and is as much of an art
as a science, perhaps more so. This suggests that
researchers need to engage more with the complexities of practice but this itself is problematic
because we do not have, as yet, a systematic
way of demonstrating or measuring the impact
research has on practice. Tranfield and Starkey
(1998), in a paper which reflects research policy
debates in the British Academy of Management,
examine the fragmented nature of the management community, spread across different disciplinary bases and embracing differing epistemological
positions. They argue that the key defining characteristic of management research should be its
applied nature and that its central concern should
be the general (engineering) problem of design.
They conclude by suggesting that a focus upon the
Mode 2 agenda for knowledge production will
provide the basis for the legitimization of UK
management research among broad groups of
stakeholders, while arguing that the problems
addressed by management researchers should
grow out of the interaction between the world of
practice and the world of theory, rather than out
of either one alone (Tranfield and Starkey, 1998,
p. 353). They thus endorse a research policy based
upon the double hurdle of academic rigour and
managerial relevance, embedded in both the
social science canons of best practice and the
worlds of policy and practice.
UK management research has been increasingly influenced by US research standards and
norms. For example, this is reflected in what
seems an almost irresistible trend to apply a US
yardstick to the assessment of research quality,
in the tendency to view publication in leading
US management journals as synonymous with
research excellence. But American academics
themselves are questioning their own research
norms. For example, Don Hambrick (1994) made
a now famous presidential address to the American
Academy of Management with the challenging
title of What if the Academy actually mattered?,
the sub-text for which was What if we were

K. Starkey and P. Madan

In her own American Academy presidential
address in 1999, Anne Huff was of the opinion
that this question of relevance has itself become
increasingly relevant. Others are more challenging about the weaknesses of Mode 1 research.
Porter and McKibbin (1988) accuse business
schools of a number of failings:
Quantity has become more important than
The intended audience of most research is the
academic community rather than the dual
community of scholars and practitioners.
As a result there has been a proliferation of
arcane, trivial and irrelevant research.
Leavitt (1996) charges most researchers with
doing research for the wrong reasons of approval
and ambition rather than the right reasons of
excitement and challenge.
This faces academics with a dilemma: do they
cling to the values of academic fundamentalism
and the notion of pure research? Or do they
embrace a more practitioner-focused perspective
and face the danger of conceptual and theoretical
drift due to the influence of political and funding
pressures. Huff (2000, p. 293) captures the
dilemma succinctly: These observations are made
with reluctance. On the one hand, almost all of
my work has taken place in the Mode 1 tradition.
I do not think the end of that tradition is imminent, but I am not happy to remain in a Mode 1
professional school of decreasing interest and
value to the organizations we serve. Conveying
information produced by others or facilitating
students producing their own knowledge does
not require a PhD. Becoming a marginal player
in Mode 2 efforts feels like poorly paid
Innovation in information and communication
technologies. If we can conceptualize knowledge
in terms of a knowledge chain, this suggests that
the flow of knowledge through this chain of
creation and dissemination is an important issue.
We find it useful to think of the flow of knowledge
in the following way:
Experts apply their expertise to knowledge

Experts apply theories that are developed,

reinforced or refuted (academics are key

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

players in theory development and knowledge

Intermediaries search among the knowledge

generated by experts for ideas and facts suitable
for dissemination and use.

Learning takes place through the process of

dissemination and communication.

Managers apply this learning in decisionmaking and action (or choose inaction).

Some commentators predict radical changes in

the flow of knowledge that will reflect the major
changes currently taking place in the world of
information and communication technologies. Some
of these, Peter Drucker among them, predict the
marginalization and even the imminent death of
universities as we know them, as we move into a
radically different information age.
Certainly, information is far more easily available most obviously via the World Wide Web
in a world. But this creates two related
information overload;
and how to sift the increasing volume of information to generate better relevant knowledge.
Technology has been seen by some as the answer
with the development of increasingly expert systems and sophisticated software agents tailored
to individual and organizational needs. IT-based
learning offers an unparalleled access to new information and opportunities for self-pacing learning, differentiated according to individual, group
and organizational need (Tomorrow Project, 2000).
But an emphasis upon electronic mediation alone
ignores the social aspects of learning. IT highlights the importance of knowledge mediation
and of the role of knowledge mediators, a role
traditionally at the heart of the research universitys practice.

Knowledge development and knowledge

Knowledge generation and dissemination
How do companies access information and develop
and share knowledge? This is an area of huge
current concern in both research and practice, as


seen in the rapidly growing volume of literature

on the learning organization and knowledge management. It seems to us that there are three major
areas for discussion here:
How are practitioners to be made aware that
such relevant research does exist? At present there
are no clear models of dissemination for research.
Here we are thinking of the case of a firm that
requires a view of what constitutes most relevant
knowledge in a field. Where do they go for this
knowledge? There are practitioner-oriented publications, such as Financial Times and Harvard
Business Review and these frequently provide a
first port of call. However, they provide neither a
systematic perspective of what is available nor
one of its inherent value. Frequently the work
reported in such publications is management
consultancy-based and while it may have a strong
knowledge base, its value is sometimes difficult to
judge and the point of publication is often a form
of self-marketing.
A recent example demonstrates the possibly
problematic nature of this form of publication in
the case of the consultancy firm that was found
by Business Week (August 7, 1998) to have
systematically manipulated The New York Times
Books Bestseller list by itself buying a large
quantity of a book written by two of its consultants to push the book up the bestseller list
and thus to gain publicity and business for the
firm involved. Thousands of copies of the book
in question were discovered gathering dust in a
trailer park.
This suggests the need for intermediary forms
of organization that can act as honest knowledge
brokers, archiving relevant research and advising
companies on how to access the most relevant
knowledge stocks. Such organizations might be
based in or linked to a university business library,
or they might be stand-alone higher education
enterprises, spin-offs from HE institutions but
still linked to them, for example, in a science park,
in joint ventures between an HE body/group
and a firm (for example, a telco or an IT firm), or
between an HE unit and a body representing
employers and practitioners.
How is more relevant research to be generated?
This is now discussed in terms of Mode 2 research
with managers and organizations more closely
involved in the framing of research. This depends
upon academics sensitive to the needs of practitioners and skilled in developing these kinds of

research relationship and on firms who are convinced of the value of this kind of research.
How is such research to be disseminated? In the
Mode 2 model, access takes place as an integral
part of the joint involvement of researchers and
reflective practitioners in the research process.
However, this form of research will often/normally
tend to take place in closed networks. For example,
The Financial Services Research Forum at the
University of Nottingham has 16 member financialservices companies who negotiate a research
programme with the academics involved. Currently,
we are researching strategy, marketing and education issues in financial services. However, the
feedback of the research is to the companies and
the knowledge generated is the property of the
firms involved, although it is also used to inform
academic papers. Mode 2 research does not,
therefore, necessarily create knowledge as a
public good, if the companies involved see it only
as contributing to their competitive advantage.
And, of course, a primary motivation for getting
involved in such research networks in the first
place is to commission research that might
contribute to competitive advantage.
Double challenge of relevance
In its strategy collaborate to compete, the UK
Government recognizes the need to create a
world-class research base that is able to translate
its knowledge production into commercial success for the UK. It suggests that the establishment
of networks which link universities with the users
of research, including business and industry,
charities, government and the general public, will
lead to its practical application, encouraging a
broader input to the establishment of the research
agenda and to the development of a genuine
knowledge community.
The IndustryAcademic Links report (HEFCE,
1998) highlights some of the government measures to promote higher education institutions
(HEIs)firms linkages: for example, the concept
of ring-fencing industryacademic links in areas
of research deemed to be of particular relevance
to industry. Manifestations of this can be seen
through participation by UK HEIs and industry
in the European Unions (EU) Framework Programmes. A broader effort to drive academic
research towards support for competitiveness can
be observed through the Department of Trade

K. Starkey and P. Madan

and Industry Foresight Programme, redefinition
of the Research Councils missions and the creation
of the University Challenge Fund, which directly
addresses the development of the academic
industry relationship.
Key studies focusing on the process of knowledge production have also drawn attention to
these existing links and to the emergence of new
types of relationships (Gibbons et al., 1994). They
have chartered the developing relationship between
HEIs, industry and government in terms of a
triple helix which takes into account the expanding role of the knowledge sector in relation
to the political and economic infrastructure of
society (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1996). The
necessary cultural shift comes in terms of being
able to understand the needs of the firms and
provide an interface that allows the swift and
effective flow of knowledge and people to their
most productive use.
Gibbons et al. call this the shift from Mode 1 to
Mode 2 in Knowledge Production. Traditional
knowledge production systems (Mode 1) were
based on a clear demarcation between the public
and private sectors. Universities were independent, discipline-based providers of basic education
and skills to students. They carried out research,
which they believed was in the long-term public
interest of adding to the body of knowledge
within a particular discipline. Much of this knowledge was produced with the intention that it
should be used by other academics. Quality was
scrutinized and controlled within well-defined
frameworks such as peer review of research proposals and refereed journal articles. Consultants
and other organizations provided knowledge to
private organizations and government.
Within the emerging context of Mode 2, distinctions between public and private knowledge
production have become blurred. Universities
are involved in more consultancy and industry
has become a significant participant in scientific
research and training. Knowledge production
has shifted towards interdisciplinary research in
the context of application, problem-solving and
greater collaboration. As Gibbons et al. (1994)
emphasize, the Mode 2 knowledge-production
system brings together the supply side of knowledge, with the demand side, with universities
being part of the former and businesses part of
the latter. In management research, as Tranfield
and Starkey (1998) suggest, such a system would

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

depend for its effectiveness on a rapid interplay
between management theory and practice, with
academics and managers committed to learning
from one another, a virtuous circle of academics
learning from managers, codifying information
into blueprints for managerial practice, and managers learning from academics, developing and
applying practically-derived theories. One of the
outcomes of such an approach will be that, as the
kind and quality of outputs become more varied,
they become more difficult to measure.
Whilst Mode 2 brings with it new practices for
academics and industrialists, universities and
firms remain very different institutions in terms
of the ways in which they generate and manage
knowledge. A clear distinction between the knowledge production of universities and firms can
be observed in several aspects. University knowledge is based on a wide range of disciplines and
the existence of few interdisciplinary centres of
excellence. Industry knowledge requires a different combination of specialized and generalist
knowledge which is used in a wide range of projects, problems are not discipline-based and there
is a need to create and dismantle interdisciplinary
teams quickly. For firms the very notion of learning can be problematic if it means challenging
accepted modes of practice. In universities, the
development of path-breaking new knowledge
takes a long time, is produced for the public good
and the emphasis on new learning, albeit in particular paradigms, is strong. In industry, problems
need to be solved immediately, knowledge is
consumed for private profit and the learning
is weak. Knowledge produced by universities is
usually rigorously measured and managed and is
of high quality, whereas in industry the quality of
information received may vary widely, and firms
are bombarded with information which is difficult
to assess.
Moreover, motivations of individual researchers
and practitioners differ, as does the rationale for
participating in research by universities and firms.
For example, researchers at universities are often
driven to continue their work because it provides
a sense of challenge and they like to work on
problems of their own choice and which interest
them, making fundamental discoveries abouthow
people and things work. In comparison, practitioners working in industry often have to solve
problems not of their own choosing but out
of necessity, and work towards solutions that


permit pragmatic muddling through and with the

bottom-line profitability of their companies a
source of control and discipline (Derrington, 1999).
There are, of course, excellent examples of
industryuniversity research collaboration but
these are perhaps more prevalent in the sciences
than in the social sciences. The Industry
Academic Links report (HEFCE, 1998) provides
a comprehensive analysis of the motivations and
barriers to the establishment of consultancy and
research links between academe and industry.
The study collected information about the academic years 199596 and 199697 and included all
universities and higher education colleges in the
UK. In its findings the report points out that, in
relation to motivations, higher education institutions (HEIs) rated access to industrial funding
as the main motivating factor. The next most
important factor was that the collaboration with
industry provided an exploitation outlet for
consultancy and research capabilities in the real
world as well as providing an outlet for research
results. Positive examples of collaboration highlighted the existence of mutual trust, good
personal relationships, the benefit of a long-term
relationship and mutual benefit from the work.
The successful links also had in common flexibility, rapid response and timely delivery together
with project-management skills.
The report also examined barriers to HE
business links, among which the most important
factor noted by HEIs was differences in the
research objectives between the academics and
potential industry sponsors. There was also a lack
of incentives for academics to pursue consultancy
and such quasi-research was often not perceived, by academics, as interesting for academics
to work on. Moreover, working with industry on
research projects had no influence on institutional
baseline funding and lacked influence in academic
promotions. Finally, HEIs were not being seen
as reliable partners for research by industry.
The latter was a frequently cited problem in
managing research and consultancy links. This
was manifested in various ways, most commonly
in terms of adherence to deadlines, deficiencies
in response time caused by HEI procedures,
reporting deficiencies and lack of professional
contracts. From the perspective of the HE
research providers, there is a perceived problem
that commissioners of research are not prepared
to bear the full costs of research and that, as a

result, research projects full costs are borne by
the providers of the research service (The Higher,
19 May 2000).
This notion that managers cannot derive
practical benefit from the knowledge generated
by academic research has been a topic of
continued interest, often appearing under the
title of rigour versus relevance (e.g. Benbasat
and Zmud, 1999; Davenport and Markus, 1999;
Mowday, 1997). There is, however, a considerable
amount of research which has found that practising managers intuitively draw upon complex
theoretical ideas in their day-to-day lives, even
though these may not be formal management theories
(Watson, 1994). As Watson argues, managers are
essentially practical theorists.
In the new, more broadly social production of
knowledge there is constant pressure to balance
involvement and distance with user interests and
to face the challenges for management research
of the double hurdles of scholarly quality and
relevance (Pettigrew, 1997). Management research is thus facing a double challenge: it must be
of high academic quality and of high relevance to
users. Relevant research will need to provide
analyses, insight and advice on problems or issues
of concern to user communities; balance the inherent longevity of the research process with the
need for rapid change in business and society and
build on close liaison with users, with its results
being communicated to users through accessible
media and in a language that they can understand.
Authors who strive to craft relevant articles for
practitioners need to focus on the concerns of practice, provide real value to professionals and apply
a pragmatic rather than academic tone. Ideally,
they should also describe how the ideas discussed
or actions suggested would be implemented in
practice, allowing for contextual differences that
are important to different readership communities.
Academics need to consider carefully the
accessibility of their work and their style of
writing (Van Maanen, 1995). This is not a problem
peculiar to management. Accounting researchers,
too, have considered how to make their work
more relevant to practice and have concluded that
they need to make it more accessible. Accounting
practitioners do not understand contemporary
academic accounting research;
Because they do not understand the mathematics
and statistics that characterise most contemporary

K. Starkey and P. Madan

research, many articles published in academic
research journals today might as well be written in
Greek. Until the next generation of practitioners
get research training, ways will need to be found
for researchers to communicate with the current
generation of practitioners. (Leisenring and Todd,
1994, p. 74)

Efforts suggested to improve the communication

of research results include more comprehensible
abstracts at the beginning of articles or, more
radical, more attention being given to professional adaptation sections in journals.
Relationships between accounting and finance
academics and the business community are
relatively strong (Schmotter, 1998). In other management areas, such as organizations, the links are
more tenuous, although much of the popular
work of authors such as Tom Peters has its origins
in models developed in models of academia. In
Peters case, the 7-S model of organization that
informs the analysis of In Search of Excellence
(Peters and Waterman, 1982) arose out of
collaboration with Richard Pascale and between
McKinsey and Stanfords business faculty.
The US Academy of Management journals,
such as the Academy of Management Review, now
place more emphasis on the relevance of research
for practice in conclusions to articles. The Academy
also has a special journal for practitioners, the
Academy of Management Executive, although this
does suggest some kind of two-tier knowledge
system with a domain exclusive to academics
reserved for the Review. This raises the question
of what forms of writing might bridge the gap
between the domains of theory and practice
rather than reinforce it.
One can see this gap writ large in the area of
strategic management. The Strategic Management
Journal (SMJ), the leading academic journal in
the field, has pioneered articles on and developed
what is now emerging as a dominant paradigm in
strategy, the resource-based view of the firm. This
perspective had its origins in the pioneering work
of Edith Penrose and has been developed in
strategy in pioneering SMJ articles by Wernerfelt,
and Prahalad and Bettis. But SMJ has become
increasingly technical and divorced from practice.
Indeed, many of its articles, with their emphasis
on the minutiae of strategy content, are difficult,
even for academics in the field of strategy, to
understand. Some pioneers in the field criticize
the way in which the journal has been colonized

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

by mathematics at the expense of relevance, and
bemoan the fact that SMJ seems to be treading
the same developmental path as the Journal of
Finance, soon to be virtually inaccessible except
to an lite group of researchers.
The strategy adopted by leading strategy
researchers with notable exceptions such as
Henry Mintzberg, who has mounted a heroic
rearguard action against this specialization trend
and the dominance of technique at the expense
of relevance has been to write their technical
articles for the academic journals while writing
more popular and accessible articles for practitioner journals, primarily the Harvard Business
Review (HBR), or in books. Thus the leading
strategy gurus of the moment, Gary Hamel and
C. K. Prahalad grew to prominence with key
articles on strategic intent and core competence
in HBR, ideas which have their origins in the
theory of the resource-based view of the firm. In
organization theory, Gareth Morgan developed
the theory of the importance of metaphor in
organizational life in academic articles and an
influential book. He then reworked the book
in an Executive Edition specifically tailored for
the practising manager (Morgan, 1998).
Development of knowledge networks
The conduct of research in this context of
application as well as its distributed nature means
that contemporary science cannot remain easily
within the confines of university departments or
academic centres as currently defined. Gibbons
et al. (1994) suggest that this is already leading, in
some areas, to the emergence of a host of new
institutional arrangements linking government,
industry, universities and private consultancy
groups in different ways. The formation of these
knowledge networks will ultimately provide an
alignment of theory and practice, also aligning
the needs of researchers and practitioners. The
essence of the Mode 2 approach to research advocated by Gibbons and colleagues is that there is a
need to increase the stakeholding that users have at
various stages of the research process. The scope of
the engagement should be determined by knowledge networks involving practitioners from the
beginning of the process. These networks are then
responsible for the creation of a user strategy and
dissemination of research findings takes place as an
integral part of the actual research process.


The Science Policy Research Unit (1995) points

out that university-based scientists have lost their
monopoly supplier position as knowledge workers.
The data points to, amongst other things, the crucial
role of networking in the new social production of
knowledge. Being part of a network, and thus in
a position to be able to effectively exploit the
knowledge that circulates in a network, has
become possibly as valuable as playing the role of
a new knowledge producer who works autonomously. There is a clear recognition that knowledge derives not just from individual thought
but from collective processes of networking,
negotiation, and interpersonal communication
and influence (Dodgson, 1993).
A key theme of recent debates among management researchers has been the need for academics
to build partnerships between themselves and
user communities as a stepping stone to meeting
the double challenge of scholarly quality and relevance (Economic and Social Research Council,
1994). The formation of knowledge networks
would ultimately provide an alignment of theory
and practice, based upon a closer integration
of researcher and practitioner needs. From his
experience of the network form, Pettigrew (1997,
p. 294) suggests that partnership with users does
not need to entail co-optation by users. What the
best academic research offers is a critical examination of, and a consideration of, how to transcend
current beliefs and assumptions but to make this
possible academics need to develop the capacity to
break out of their own limiting scholarly routines.
Some existing industryacademic links are
characterized by new types of knowledge networks.
These have resulted from four main sources: first,
informal contacts and spin-outs from university
departments; second, contract and collaborative
research performed by universities on behalf of
the industry; third, as a result of property-led initiatives in the form of science parks; and fourth,
via the commercial exploitation of university
research through the management and licensing
of intellectual property rights.
There already exist examples of new forms of
organization dedicated to closing the relevance
gap. Whartons Forum on Electronic Commerce
and the MSI (Marketing Science Institute) forum
of partnership interaction provide interesting examples of effective knowledge networks established
with this intention. The Wharton Forum draws
together executives and academic researchers

to examine emerging developments in electronic
commerce. The work offers insights for industry
participants and helps keep researchers focused
on critical industry issues:
MSI (Marketing Science Institute) forum of
partnership interaction delivers relevance with
rigor by drawing together researchers in the
field and senior executives. As Prof. Philip Kotler
describes it, the MSI is a mutual education
society. The MSI joins 2,000 executives in 60
global companies with 2,000 academic researchers
in marketing, organizational behaviour, information systems and other fields. It establishes a
research agenda and then provides funding for
research projects related to that agenda. Every
two years, research priorities are identified through
a series of discussions around the world, culminating in a ballot of members. These urgent needs
of business are then communicated to researchers
along with offers of funding to pursue them.
Research results are published and disseminated
quickly to members through print publications
and a web site. (Wind and Nueno, 1998)

The success of the above network forms offers

a valuable model of how to create more useful
knowledge outcomes by actively involving
practitioners and their representatives, which will
involve the establishment of a range of similar
types of networks. The existence of such networks
demonstrates one possible form of academic
practitioner interface. It also throws into stark
relief the limitations of (the majority of) academic
institutions, where conditions for the development of these forms of knowledge production do
not yet exist. To create these conditions a series
of changes/issues need to be initiated/considered
by leaders of academic institutions, government
institutions and business organizations.

Research training
The academic landscape
Commentators are currently predicting seismic
changes in the business world, even a new economic era (Hitt, 1998). Although they argue
about the detail, analysts do seem to agree that we
are entering a new competitive landscape, driven
by the forces of globalization and technological
revolution and that, to survive in this new landscape, firms must strive to develop their core
competencies (Hamel and Prahalad, 1995) while

K. Starkey and P. Madan

also cultivating the strategic flexibility necessary
to adapt to these challenging and unpredictable
times. In this context, superior management skills
require new ways (non-linear) of learning and
thinking and an openness to new managerial mindsets geared to innovation in thought and action.
The new market requirements clearly affect the
demand for the types of knowledge required to
manage in this dynamic environment, influencing
both the content of what business schools teach
and the process of how managers are taught. If
change is increasingly the norm in business then
we should also expect change to have a growing
impact upon the production of knowledge, upon
the type of research conducted and, particularly,
upon the nature of the research process itself.
Solving the complex problems likely to impact
upon twenty-first century organizations will
require out-of-the box thinking concerning research problems and innovative forms of research
As the external environment of business
schools changes, the demands placed on business
schools will evolve to be very different from the
ones currently faced. At their inception, business
schools flourished as the agents of the codification of management knowledge and its embodiment in curricula for business courses, primarily
the MBA. We might well come to look upon the
1980s as the high point of business-school education. Then, organizations looked to university
business schools as the main suppliers of what
they wanted to consume in management and
executive education. Universities were the key
players in this market as the source of much of the
corporations intellectual capital in the form of
MBA and executive management education
courses. Through the 1990s, however, we have
seen a growing criticism of business education.
Business schools have been criticized for weaknesses in research, primarily a lack of relevance,
and for outmoded curricula that do not speak to
the changing needs of business.
The following titles are powerful indicators of
what was judged to be going wrong:
Where the schools arent doing their homework: Critics say they churn out MBAs lacking
leadership skills and operations know-how
(Business Week, 1988).
Business Schools: Striving to meet Customer
Demand; the article starts with the statement

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

that Business Schools have long been criticized
for not addressing the needs of todays global
competitive business environment (Management Review, 1992).
The Trouble with MBAs addresses the
question Who needs managers who have just
spent two years with such an out-of-date
crowd? (Fortune, 1991).
A host of management writers have reinforced
these kinds of criticism. For example, Davis and
Botkin (1996, pp. 9091) suggest that business
schools have not kept pace with the dramatic
change of corporate organizations and their
Students still come to classes to learn, the classes
are still sixty, seventy-five or ninety minutes long,
and courses are still offered in semesters, trimesters, or quarters. Instructors still stand in front
of the room and students sit in rows that, at most,
have been bent from straight lines into a horseshoe shape for case discussions. Typical classroom
technology is still hardly beyond what it was three
and four decades ago. Computers are used
extensively, but so are pencils. Indeed, the process
and products of business school education have
changed as little as the process and products of
any kind of school education, whereas business
itself has gone through revolutions.

As a reaction to the criticisms of business schools

and a growing recognition of the potential importance of corporate education, over 1400 organizations in America have internalized education
activities, mainly by developing self-managing
corporate universities. Large enterprises have
emerged from small beginnings. Motorola University, for example, began with a $2 million budget
and three staff members. In 1998 it administered
a $120 million budget and operated its own
Center for Continuing Education at Motorolas
headquarters. The university also runs satellite
campuses in 14 cities in the United States,
Europe, Asia and Latin America. McDonalds
Hamburger University began in the basement of
an outlet and by 1998 it was providing training
programmes in 91 countries. One of the most
successful of this new breed of organization is
General Electrics Crotonville, a key measure of
whose success is GEs ability to develop its own
echelon of successful top managers in-house
(Tichy and Sherman, 1993).


What is under fire is the traditional model of

education and business, and management education is squarely in the firing line:
Everything that is wrong with training can be
stated in four words: Its just like school . . . School
isnt really about learning; its about short-term
memorisation of meaningless information that
never comes up later in life. The school model was
never intended to help people acquire practical
skills. It is intended to satisfy observers that
knowledge is being acquired (for short periods of
time). (Schank, 1982)

Leading corporate universities are challenging

what they see as outmoded models of education.
Corporations such as Hewlett-Packard started by
abolishing classroom-style education. Other companies have reshaped their corporate universities
into virtual universities (clicks rather than mortar).
Federal Express, for example, spends 5% of its
payroll annually on educating its 40 000 couriers
and service agents. Every six months, using interactive videodisks (IVDs), employees receive six
hours of training.
This shift away from classroom-based training
towards computer-based training has also been
anticipated in the responses to a US survey,
entitled Workforce Education: Corporate Training and Learning at Americas Companies,
published in 1988 by the Annenberg Center for
Communication at the University of Southern
California and conducted with 202 senior managers responsible for corporate education and
training in companies with annual revenue greater
than $1 billion. According to the survey respondents, classroom training is expected to decrease
by 16%, accounting for only 40% of all hours
spent in training, and computer-mediated training
is expected to double, from 16% to 33% of
available hours. The survey also highlighted as a
trend that, as technology becomes more advanced
and accessible, companies expect to see more outside developers offering courses in multimediabased training (MBT) distance learning formats.
The findings suggest that the respondents
would be more inclined to partner with an outside
training provider if the provider offered course in
an MBT training format. Some outside developers are already offering this kind of course.
For example, Duke Universitys Fuqua School of
Business offers an on-line MBA through its
Global Executive MBA programme (GEMBA).

GEMBA students spend 30 hours a week on-line,
attending CD-ROM video lectures and downloading supplemental programmes and interactive
study aids. Distance learning is also widely available for MBAs, across a range of more industryspecific subjects. The University of Ulster, for
example, provides a postgraduate Certificate in
Management for Shorts, the Aircraft Company.
The course consists of one and two-day workshops
and half-day meetings over 12 to 18 months,
with work-based learning focused on company
requirements. Multimedia-based and distance
learning training is thus capturing the attention of
many corporate managers, for its speed and longterm savings. And new forms of distance technology media facilitate access to a global network
of research sites, although we lack any clear idea
as yet of how to map this environment and best
profit from it.
Apart from having industrial membership
on their course advisory boards, the main trend
among those offering masters courses aimed at
industry has been towards modularization and
part-time registration. The Executive MBA, wherein courses are designed around the core MBA
syllabus, with some tailoring to the needs of
corporate clients, is something of a growth market.
Warwick Business School, for example, has a very
successful MBA collaboration with Andersen
Consulting. A successful example of tailoring a
course to the needs of more than one company
is a consortium MBA offered at Heriot-Watt
University to employees of the Bank of Scotland,
Hewlett Packard, ScottishPower and the NHS.
The MBA takes two to three years part-time,
offered in five-day modules with 20 people each
year. There have been a number of such developments. As intellectual capital becomes more
important to corporate (and political) agendas,
we may well find that corporations are more
willing to get involved in academia.
Business executives may thus become more of
a driving force for educational reform in business
schools. They have advanced notice of the knowledge, skills and abilities that marketable students
must offer to employees. The educational priorities
of the business community can thus accelerate
advancements in universities, allowing executives
to become instigators of innovation in education.
However, for changes to happen, the process
must evolve as a cooperative activity, geared to
the needs of both partners.

K. Starkey and P. Madan

According to the former US Academy of
Management President, Anne Huff:
As business schools and their stakeholders begin
to work more closely, each must inform the
other, and expect their own views to change.
Transformation of current practices requires that
outsiders learn more about education and research
in university settings, just as faculty and business
school administrators must learn more about the
needs and current experience of the communities
they serve, Successful reforms call for ongoing
give and take, in which new practices are mutually
generated, tested and revised.

One way forward may be the joint appointment

of staff by business organizations and business
schools. There is a long history of firms funding
endowed professorships in universities. In an age
that places increased emphasis upon shareholder
value, organizations will be looking more carefully
at their returns from this kind of investment. In
the USA we now have examples of educational
appointments made jointly by commercial companies and business schools. For example, Darden
business school at the University of Darden has
jointly appointed a professor with United Technologies (UTC) who is both a professor of business administration at Darden and vice-president
and chief learning officer at UTC (Financial
Times, 23 May 2000).
Business education reform
A key function of a university business school is
the creation and dissemination of knowledge
through publication and teaching. However, universities stand accused of an unreflective approach
to their own practices. Ashton (1995) applies
organizational learning concepts to UK business
schools and their university context, and identifies weaknesses such as poor information and
communication systems and a general lack of
organizational flexibility. Given the exigencies
of the global business environment and the new
emphasis in organizations and societies upon the
importance of the knowledge economy, senior
executives have been increasingly critical of graduate
and post-graduate business education with regard
to students preparation in terms of communication
skills, critical thinking skills (Brookfield, 1987) and
more general developmental issues such as levels
of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1995).

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

Business schools also need to respond to intense
pressures from their own competitive environments. Core programmes such as the MBA are
now being offered by an increasing number of
schools, making the MBA a generic qualification
and almost a commodity brand with, on the
whole, little differentiation in terms of content,
philosophy or customization to particular contexts. The application of new technology by nontraditional universities also has the potential to
redefine some segments of the higher education
industry. The University of Phoenix is a leader
in this area. It is Internet-based, has over 56 000
students enrolled and revenues in excess of $283
In this period of transition to a knowledgebased society based upon what Handy (1995)
argues is a three I economy of information,
intelligence and ideas universities, and perhaps
business schools most of all, are faced with a need
to rethink their role in preparing the professionals
required by this new economy. Issues of course
delivery become as important as issues of content
in helping managers develop new skills. To do
this business schools will need to break away
from traditional, compartmentalized learning
and teaching. Novel problems arise, giving rise
to a debate about how to develop the critical
reflection, strategic vision and flexible and
adaptable mindsets required by the manager
of today and the leader of the future. We briefly
examine below some of the challenges facing
traditional business education mindsets in relation
to the MBA.
1. The delivery of updated course content. To
what extent is the rethinking of curricula
linked to new perspectives on knowledge?
One way forward is to extend the traditional
syllabus. The Open University Business
School has included in its MBA curriculum a
course on knowledge management. The course
took three years to develop and is based
on five years of research funded by ESRC,
Design Council and others, undertaken in
close partnership with industry. The learning
model fits current thinking about knowledge
created in practice. Students use state-ofthe-art technologies and then reflect on the
process of communication as one of knowledge sharing. Topics covered include: communication, the cost of knowledge, managing


knowledge, extra-organizational knowledge

processes, intellectual capital, intellectual
property rights, brands as an application of
knowledge management, innovation, knowledge technologies and knowledge management
in practice.
2. Integrating knowledge across the curriculum.
Here the emphasis is upon the development of
outcome-based curricula, using, but in a novel
way, case-study methodology. By designing
case studies that intersect the entire curriculum,
with faculty members approaching the same
case from the perspective of different individual specialities, students are encouraged to
think creatively and integratively, to analyse
data from a variety of perspectives and to
synthesize new problem-oriented responses.
Rather than the traditional methodology of
depending on a given case to teach a specific
concept or identify a given problem, it is
important that students develop their own
judgement as to what combination of knowledge is best suited to interpret a particular case
and what are the implications for managerial
3. Cognitive and emotional intelligence. Curriculum
development can also be linked to alternative
teaching methods, such as the reflecting team
(Griffith, 1999). The latter places students and
clients in situations which might catalyze the
development of more sophisticated models
of cognitive and emotional intelligence. It also
allows students not only to learn about content but also about processes, and to critically
reflect upon both. This fits with an important
trend in management development. When it
comes to improving organizational effectiveness, managers, scholars and practitioners
are beginning to emphasize the importance of
managers emotional intelligence (Cooper,
1997; Harrison, 1997; Goleman, 1995). If the
task of business schools is to help in developing the managers of the future, then they need
to provide an environment where students
pursue the experiential learning that can
then develop any or all of the five key basic
dimensions of this form of intelligence:
(1) self-awareness, (2) self-regulation, (3) motivation, (4) empathy and (5) social skills.
But perhaps the main area and engine of change
will lie outside MBA activity. Answering the

question, What do Business Schools need to look
like in the Future?, Porras (2000), suggests that
The critical difference will occur in executive
education and that the explosion in numbers
of those graduating with an MBA will create
a thirst for continuing education as part of a
lifelong learning process. The impact of this
dramatic increase in business-educated managers
will be felt mainly, as Porras suggests, in the need
for business schools to respond effectively to the
new demands of an increasingly sophisticated
user-group. As a result, business school faculties
will need to develop new research and teaching
approaches. The emphasis on lifelong learning
activities will mean that a different type of
research is required to drive the teaching needed
by executives involved in lifelong learning at business schools. Also a different kind of academic
will need to be developed, whose research and
teaching interests differ from those of current
faculty, and who will be able to conduct pure
research with a problem solving focus as well as
applied research with an analytical focus call it
bridging research, research that equally combines
the pure and applied approaches.
Porrass views of a future shift in educational
demands, combined with the need to change
research and teaching practices, reflect a growing
sense of concern among executives and some
scholars who sense that, in todays age of increasingly rapid change, modes of education and
training, and the research that informs these, will
need to find new ways of genuinely augmenting
individual and organizational knowledge.
As corporate education aims to become an integral part of the companys everyday functioning
in providing the groundwork for more effective
knowledge management (both generation and
dissemination), corporations will need to provide
ample opportunities for individuals to share what
they have learned, and faculties will need to move
away from the traditional education model that
privileges knowledge creation as the preserve of
academic experts and assumes a one-way flow of
knowledge from such experts to students. Organizations are experimenting with a new paradigm
of the learning organization, an organization that
is continually expanding its capacity to create its
future through its learning (Senge, 1990, p. 14).
Future education programmes in management, be
they for MBAs, executive MBAs, graduate training, post-experience training and development

K. Starkey and P. Madan

and even research training will need to be
researched, designed and provided with this kind
of organization in mind.
The challenge of interdisciplinarity
There is an emerging view that researchers
addressing the complex problems of the modern
world need to collaborate more frequently to
draw upon the knowledge, skills and techniques
of a range of disciplines. An ideal often referred
to in this connection is interdisciplinarity. Gordon
Conway, Vice-Chancellor of the University of
Sussex, when chairing an international panel to
produce a vision and strategy for feeding the
world in the twenty-first century, captured the
essence of interdisciplinarity as follows.
Interdisciplinarity is a radically different approach
that combines two or more disciplines to produce
an outcome that is more than the simple sum of
the parts. At its best, and most creative, interdisciplinarity produces transcendent insights that
were previously not perceived by the individual
disciplines working alone . . . In research the
result is a discovery at the frontiers of world
knowledge; for an individual student, it is a set of
insights of greater significance to their personal
and intellectual development . . . The world around
us is becoming increasingly complex and competitive, and our success [i.e. the future success of
universities] will be determined, in large measure,
by our interdisciplinary skills, The argument is
First, many of the practical challenges of the future
are inherently interdisciplinary, and we will fail if
they are tackled piecemeal. They range from
manufacturing systems in engineering, which require the integration of a number of engineering
and management disciplines, to the tackling of
poverty and the problems of the environment that
require insights drawn from across the social and
natural sciences.
Second, because so much is unpredictable, we need
greater flexibility among individuals and institutions
. . . To realise this goal students, while benefiting
from the rigour of disciplinary study, also need to
acquire transferable intellectual skills defined
by Professor Donald Winch as a Knowledge of
underlying intellectual principles that are capable
of being applied outside their original point of
encounter, an ability to analyse complex issues
involving both facts and values, and the capacity

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

to draw on disparate sources of information to
solve practical problems.
And third, in an increasingly multicultural world,
we need insights derived from across the humanities
and social sciences that will enable us to live
productively and harmoniously in a society where
different religions and cultural practices and
beliefs are constantly impinging on one another.
(Professor Gordon Conway, address to University
Court, 1995)

As a mode of research, interdisciplinarity extends

the boundaries of academic knowledge, enabling
complex practical problems to be solved and
foments the creation of networks of experts.
However, the organizational structure of most
institutions of higher education has historically
favoured a more monodisciplinary research culture. The reasons for this seem to lie in the prime
responsibilities of higher education for training
highly-qualified specialists in established research
areas. The pursuit of interdisciplinary collaboration is, therefore, a challenging and problematic
issue. Choices of both topic and mode of research
are often personal choices made by individual
researchers rather than strategically oriented by
the demands of new modes of knowledge. These
individual decisions are influenced by factors related to personal benefit, such as career progression which, for academics, is heavily influenced by
publication in what are essentially single-discipline
journals. Other factors, such as the method of
funding and assessment also have a major weight
on individual decisions and, as the Interdisciplinary Research report produced by the Scottish
Higher Education Funding Council (1997) suggests,
the competitive Research Assessment Exercise
(RAE) may be having a negative biasing effect
against interdisciplinary research. However, other
initiatives, such as the Foresight Programme,
are encouraging the crossing of disciplinary
boundaries to achieve novel and relevant insights.
In the words of John Sizer, Chief Executive of
the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council,
such crossings can challenge and be challenged
by the structures in which the researchers operate. Adapting their organisations and structures
to support the vigour and flexibility of developing
interdisciplinary links is one of the most difficult
challenges facing research institutions.
Individual universities have pioneered interdisciplinary research initiatives, either on their own


or in collaboration. For example, departments of

economics, management and pharmacology at the
Universities of St Andrews and Dundee, have
collaborated in the establishment of the Pharmacoeconomics Research Centre (PERC).
The objective of Pharmacoeconomics is to provide a menu of choice for the decision-makers and
to rationalise the utilisation of scarce healthcare
resources. From this single point of view, the
subject matter of Pharmacoeconomics research is
no different from other branches of economics.
However Pharmacoeconomics is an interdisciplinary area which requires the expertise of heath
economists and medical practitioners, as well as
colleagues from other sciences. It therefore incorporates a range of disciplines, and lies on the
boundary of medical and social sciences. PERC is
uniquely situated at the interface of academia,
industry and government, producing vigorous
research, and assisting policy makers at local,
national and international levels. (HEFCE, 1998,
p. 60)

The UK research funding councils are also

addressing the issue of interdisciplinarity and
its implications for new forms of knowledge.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research
Council (EPSRC) is seeking to promote groundbreaking interdisciplinary research, for example,
at the overlap between disciplines such as chemistry and materials and process engineering, and
between engineering production management
and research into the management of change
processes. In the centre of each discipline, the
existence of disciplinary specialists means that
they can take a primary role in initiating projects.
Work may be needed in the overlapping territory,
but there may be no research community there.
EPSRC would set up a managed programme to
bring such a research community into being if
necessary (HEFCE, 1998).
One should not underestimate the challenge
of interdisciplinarity which is a very difficult,
if not perilous, enterprise (Kristeva, 1998,
pp. 56). The perils relate to both organizational
politics and the interdisciplinary research process itself. Interdisciplinarity provokes anxiety in
those who feel the integrity of their discipline is
being called into question, and in those who feel
they may be putting careers on the line in pursuit
of new knowledge paradigms. The latter issue is
particularly problematic for those in the early
stages of their careers and, later, as careers


K. Starkey and P. Madan

progress, it may be too late for leopards to change

their spots.
Kristeva (1998, pp. 67) reflects on her own
experience of pioneering work at the University
of Paris VII in establishing LInstitut du Vivant/
The Insititute of the Living, where the intellectual
goal was to approach the human being in its
complexities across the disciplines:

to the limits required by particular problem definition. From this perspective, it is the problem
that defines requisite knowledge not the discipline.
And in this way management research can legitimately aspire to the status of a discipline in its
own right.
Gibbons et al. (1994, p. 27) discuss this issue in
terms of transdisciplinarity:

Interdisciplinarity is always a site where expressions of resistance are latent. Many academics are
locked within the specificity of their field; that is a
fact. Even if they demonstrate or manifest a desire
to work with other disciplines, more often than
not it turns out that, in fact, the work undertaken
fails to break new ground. Thus, the first obstacle
is often linked to individual competencies coupled
with a tendency to jealously protect ones own
domain. Specialists are often too protective of
their own prerogatives, do not actually work
with other colleagues, and therefore do not teach
their students to construct a diagonal axis in their
methodology. As for dangerous aspects, you will
find that some people think their specialisation is
interdisciplinarity itself, which is tantamount to
saying that they have a limited amount of knowledge of various domains, and only fragmentary
competencies! This gives interdisciplinarity a very
caricatural image, and altogether reduces its scope
as a project.

Transdisciplinarity is the privileged form of

knowledge production in Mode 2. It corresponds
to a movement beyond disciplinary structures in
the constitution of the intellectual agenda, in the
manner in which resources are deployed, and
in the ways in which research is organised, results
communicated and the outcome evaluated . . . In
the production of transdisciplinary knowledge, the
intellectual agenda is not set within a particular
discipline, nor is it fixed by merely juxtaposing
professional interests of particular specialists in
some loose fashion leaving to others the task of
integration at a later stage. Integration is not
provided by disciplinary structures in that regard
the knowledge process is not interdisciplinary, it
cuts across disciplines but is envisaged and provided from the outset in the context of usage, or
application . . . Working in an application context
creates pressures to draw upon a diverse array
of knowledge resources and to configure them
according to the problem in hand.

The latter is a crucial point. It suggests that when

we define management research as essentially
interdisciplinary we are doomed to problems of
legitimacy vis vis other disciplines. Perhaps, then,
the quest for interdisciplinarity per se in management research is doomed to failure because
to characterize such research as interdisciplinary
suggests that it is, at best, only a pale shadow of
the best that can be achieved in the other disciplines that contribute to its interdisciplinary
focus. There are at least three implications here.
First, truly interdisciplinary research that transcends disciplinary origins can only come from
a team effort. Second, to develop an individual
interdisciplinary researcher requires far more time
than in single disciplines. The third possibility
is that the notion of interdisciplinarity provides
the wrong focus. If we are seeking new forms of
knowledge perhaps it is better to set out from the
starting point of problem definition, the problem
in practice (the Mode 2 route) and construct and
develop individuals and teams of researchers up

Enhancing knowledge production capacity
We suggest seven primary areas of change for
consideration and debate.
1. Restructuring of academic institutions to
improve knowledge exchange and dissemination.
An important element in knowledge exchange is
the ability of users to absorb the knowledge being
transferred. This depends on their educational
background and experience and the nature of the
networks and institutions and media with which
they have regular contact. If management scholars
are to be enabled to influence and even to shape
the world of management they need to understand how they can influence the creation of a
better management knowledge industry and how
they can play a more important role in it than
they do currently.
Better-educated knowledge consumers demand
better management knowledge. Researchers can

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

intervene in the knowledge chain in a variety of
ways. Through education it is a core academic
role to educate students to be more discerning in
their consumption of management knowledge on
management degree programmes, undergraduate
and postgraduate. Academics are also involved
in educating other key actors in the knowledge
industry, for example, those who act as internal
change agents in organizations and others such as
management consultants who are hired by companies to effect change.
To enhance the dissemination of results, a
variety of channels need to be used. For example,
scholars could be sponsored in order to increase
contacts with knowledge consumers other than
students. Formal positions for academia could be
created to develop knowledge brokers management scholars able to translate scholarly rhetoric
into rhetoric fit for public consumption. Other
possibilities involve forming alliances with massmedia editors and other management-fashion
setters. Entrepreneurs and managers in small
businesses present a particular challenge and here
the better dissemination of research results may
be obtained via the use of intermediaries such as
consultants, small business advisers, Chambers
of Commerce, trade associations, government
sponsored bodies such as TECs and public
awareness initiatives such as the DTIs Managing
in the Nineties.
2. Creation of problem/topic on-going research
forums and networks. Business schools need to
reshape their departments to counter the inertia
of functional structures and to create solid links
to industry practice. Departments might need to
be reshuffled and ongoing research forums and
networks need to be established on a school-wide
basis in order to galvanize knowledge-sharing,
learning and change among academics and practitioners. Cross-disciplinary work that could occur
among academics does not because researchers
in one functional area are unaware of current
developments in other areas. Although these
networks and forums may be informal, they need
to be installed and nurtured by the organization.
This requires firm leadership in business schools.
3. Creation of a new system of incentives and
new roles. For scholars to be willing to develop
more demanding knowledge-production processes,
the creation of a new incentive structure is a very
important driver. Ways to align incentives with
research relevance could be achieved by pro-


viding funding and tying promotions and career

tracks to impact and relevance and by organizing
and rewarding projects where researchers and
users are co-producers. Combining knowledge
production with use will demand cognitive and
social skills of a high order from the management
research community. One might also consider
the more formal incorporation of practitioner perspectives into business schools through the creation
of boundary-spanning roles that more closely
align academia and business, for example in the
form of US- or French-style Adjunct Professor roles,
filled by managers who are themselves reflective
4. Creation of new measures of academic impact.
We lack any convincing way of assessing in
some credible, systematic manner the impact that
research has on practice. A credible measure of
relevance is needed to provide a counterweight to
pressure to use purely academic criteria to evaluate academic performance. The IndustryAcademic
Links survey (HEFCE, 1998) highlighted that a
number of senior academics felt that the current
Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), used to
measure research productivity and allocate research
funding using a 5-point rating system, acts as a
distinct disincentive to maintaining and strengthening industryacademic links because of its
lack of incentives for pursuing applied research.
A practical issue raised in the report was the
continued lack of suitable indicators of research
excellence, apart from publications, which could
cope adequately with capturing the academic
merit of activities closely linked with industry, but
which had few outputs associated with publications. To unravel the problem, the Scottish Higher
Education Funding Council (1997, 2000) proposed the widening of the definition of excellence
in research and new forms of measure. They also
suggest a test for the relevance of research with
the inclusion of a positive weighting for externallygenerated research income in the main RAE
5. Establishment of cross-disciplinary, impactfocused and time-relevant associations and journals.
Two measures suggest themselves here: create
organizations (MSI provides one possible model
for emulation) that bring together academic
researchers and executives to examine broad,
cross-disciplinary challenges facing businesses; and
create new journals, with the necessary rigour
to achieve academic respect, that address issues

that are cross-disciplinary and reflect the major
concerns of practitioners.
6. Increase knowledge pace and flow. There is
also a need to increase the pace of academic
research and its dissemination. By the time most
academic research flows through the review and
publication process the phenomenon it examines
may no longer exist. It is not uncommon for top
journals to require a two-year editorial process
between submission and publication. Academia
must find ways of tightening its own product
development cycles, without sacrificing rigour, to
ensure it offers perspectives relevant to the realtime challenges of business.
7. Creation of an independent Management
Research Forum/Council? The aim of such a body
would be to generate debate about priorities
in management research and methodologies for
user strategy proposals and to encourage new
centres of excellence and sustain current ones. We
remain uncertain about the viability of a standalone management research council but do feel
there is a need to address, at the very least, the
ring-fencing of research funding dedicated to
management research, given what many perceive as
its current under-funding. To develop more flexible
and versatile forms of relevant knowledge the
following issues would need to be addressed:
the interdisciplinary dynamics shaping the
boundaries and development of the management field;
the optimal method for interfacing theoretical
and practical concerns how theoretical and
operational needs are to be aligned;
the best strategies for the communication and
distribution of knowledge according to contexts
organized according to different institutional
logics of action;
new ways of evaluating knowledge applicable
to the short-term needs of practice and the
longer-term needs of theory development.
Expanding priorities in the mainstream funding
of research. The potential ability of research
to meet the needs of society on a long-term basis
has not been a major specific objective within
the RAE. As the SHEFCE Knowledge Age
consultation paper highlights, there may in future
be a need to prioritize the mainstream funding of
research to make it both more timely and more
long-reaching. It is important to ensure that there
is appropriate balance of funding between high

K. Starkey and P. Madan

quality, relevant research and research whose
potential future relevance can only be dimly
perceived at present.
A common theme running through these suggestions is that of the importance of the bridging role and the task of intermediation in the
creation and dissemination of knowledge. Discussion of new modes of knowledge production,
interdisciplinarity and relevance tend to focus
upon the role of the academic in knowledge
creation through research. The other side of the
coin of knowledge creation is knowledge dissemination. It is our contention that academics
need seriously to reconsider their role in the
knowledge chain both as creators of knowledge
and as disseminators.
Academics have a key role to play as knowledge
brokers, both in terms of the kind of networks of
communication and discussion of research in
which they operate and, crucially, as teachers/
educators, a role that, in the discussion of research effectiveness, has tended to be somewhat
devalued. Teaching is perhaps the main dissemination route for research, assuming, of course,
that teaching is informed by research. Teaching in
research-led universities must be responsive to
the latest developments in both theory and practice. In knowledge-oriented firms we are seeing
the development of expert consultant roles, the
main function of which is to work as full-time
collators and disseminators of knowledge for
a network (Dixon, 2000; Starkey, Barnatt and
Tempest, 2000). We suggest that academics as
teachers and in their other roles as links between
various knowledge networks, should embrace as
a critical task the knowledge collation and dissemination role.
The theory of knowledge brokering is being
used to explain business innovation. Hargadon
(1998) analyses firms that act as knowledge
brokers. These typically function as consultants or
as groups within a large organization that, rather
than producing breakthrough knowledge themselves, innovate by creating and disseminating
knowledge about how to combine existing technologies in ways that result in dramatic synergy. As
and when universities take this role as seriously
as the research that creates knowledge, they will
also have to consider new forms of network partnership, for example with consultancies, thinktanks and even media companies that provide
potential access to radically different modes of

Aligning Stakeholders in the Future of Management Research

dissemination, and the creation of new forms of
knowledge about how to manage knowledge.
Experimenting with new forms of management
education: a vehicle for fundamental change
It is a contention of this report that changes
currently underway in their external environment
will require that business schools engage in a
fundamental rethinking of existing structures and
processes. As we approach the end of the report
we present an example of a management education initiative that seems to us to provide food
for thought about where such a rethink might
lead and how more relevant knowledge might be
FENIX is a Swedish research and development
organization that integrates knowledge creation
through academic research and business creation
through innovative management. The organization itself is a collaboration between Stockholm
School of Economics, Chalmers University of
Technology, The Institute for Management Innovation and Technology, Astra Zeneca, Telia,
Ericsson and Volvo, founded in 1997 with the goal
of overcoming traditional dichotomies between
academia and industry through the development
of knowledge that is of practical relevance. It is
funded by a mix of capital from research
foundations, companies and universities. Although
based in Sweden, it draws on the skills of an
international visiting faculty. Its mission is to find
and create new system opportunities at the
interface between universities and companies in
their social context.
FENIX has two main areas of activity: research
and education. The research is based upon an
action-research paradigm and involves practical
interventions in organizations. Research is concentrated upon creating knowledge in cooperation
with the companies that serve as research sites.
It has research groups in areas such as strategic
knowledge, academyindustry linkages, managing
innovation and consulting in knowledge management and development. The organization runs a
Masters course in Business Creation and, most
relevant to this report, an Executive PhD programme, drawing doctoral students from the four
partner companies. The PhD candidates, therefore,
have a company role and a researcher role. As
part of their doctoral study, the executive students
have to write papers (four in total) for academic


publication and attend conferences such as

EGOS in Europe and the American Academy of
Management Annual Conference. The knowledge gained during the doctoral programme is
put into practice in the participants companies
through, for example, reverse mentoring and it
is a guiding principle of the students development as doctoral candidates that participants
reinterpret their roles in the company in order to
ensure that the results from the research and the
other aspects of the programme (taught courses,
research skills, thesis preparation etc) are continuously being recycled into the organizations
The ultimate goal of the Executive PhD
programme with its focus upon the management
and organization of business and knowledge
development is to provide an education for
tomorrows leaders of industry. The participants
complete the programme in four years while
working half time within their host organizations.
It is the ambition of the programme that the
results produced by participants in their research
will provide the foundation for improvement and
renewal processes in participating organizations.
The programme is:
more academic and reflective in its orientation
than existing management education programmes
and more focused on practically applicable
knowledge than traditional research education.
[It] provides an interdisciplinary environment for
industry and the academic world in order to
achieve research results that provide knowledge,
which is both scientifically valuable in itself
and at the same time practically useful. (FENIX,

FENIX thus intends to contribute in a fundamental way, both practically and philosophically,
in pioneering a new innovative approach to
executive education, to a renewal of research
education programmes by producing executive
doctorates that satisfy the needs of industry.
The demands of the programme are comparable
to the demands imposed by traditional research
programmes. However, it is a key focus of the
programme that knowledge creation is both
relevant and timely. Executive doctorates should
continuously bring into and use their knowledge
in their own company [and] the base organisation
should not need to wait years for a return on its

Parting thoughts
The goals of the FENIX Executive PhD programme can be summarized as follows:
On completion of the programme, participants
will be able to function as leaders for complex
and innovative businesses.
Executive doctoral candidates will function
as a link between the academic world and
industrial life. They will be able to transform
and understand the logic of both systems.
The results achieved through research in the
programme will influence renewal processes
in partner companies and in participating academic environments.
These seem to us exemplary aspirations for management researchers and for managers themselves. We are entering a period during which it
would be dangerous to assume that the market for
management knowledge will not change markedly.
It is vital for scholars to reflect upon these changes,
because their very role in this market is at stake.
Managers also need to reflect critically upon their
own knowledge base, its origins and how it is best
In a knowledge economy, management knowledge becomes an increasingly sought-after and
lucrative commodity, commanding a premium price
for those who can collect or create and deliver
knowledge in innovative and effective ways. Consequently, this is an increasingly attractive market
to enter and barriers to entry are not as strong as
incumbents, primarily the universities, think. One
convincing scenario for the future is of a broad
variety of management knowledge suppliers flooding the management knowledge market. These
new suppliers will include:
both a broader variety of consultants, practitioners, in-company universities, business media
organisations, consultant journals, business schools,
as well as new and as yet unknown knowledge
entrepreneurs . . . competing increasingly effectively to create and disseminate knowledge to an
ever-growing number of management knowledge
consumers . . . [disseminating] knowledge through
a growing and broader array of channels and
modalities, many of which are being opened up by
the unprecedented opportunities for knowledge
transfer created by the current incarnation of the
World Wide Web and what it might evolve into.
(Abrahamson and Eisenman, 2001)

K. Starkey and P. Madan

Recent research indicates that management
scholars already lag behind rather than lead other
knowledge entrepreneurs, both in when they
introduce new knowledge (Abrahamson and
Fairchild, 1999) and in what knowledge they
introduce (Barley, Meyer and Gash, 1988).
Unfortunately, knowledge entrepreneurship is
too often associated with fads and fashions, some
of which such as the fetish of downsizing are
patently destructive in their consequences (Sennett,
1998). This is a time when careful, impactful,
value-driven scholarship capable of advancing
and balancing the interests of all organizational
stakeholders needs to be at a premium
(Abrahamson and Eisenman, 2001). A key task
for academics and managers is to maximize
interactions in which they can discuss and pursue
common interests. Academics need to convince
practitioners that they can help in building both
the knowledge base and the learning capacity of
the organization. Practitioners need to be more
reflexive about their own learning and the effects
(potential and actual) of their existing knowledge
base and mindsets.
The philosophy of pragmatism teaches that
learning is less than half complete if it does not
enhance our capacity to take action. The sixteenthcentury philosopher Montaigne distinguished
between two categories of knowledge learning
and wisdom. In the category of learning, he placed
subjects such as logic, etymology, grammar, Latin
and Greek. Learning would now encompass other
forms of disciplinary knowledge. In the category
of wisdom, Montaigne placed a far broader, more
elusive and more valuable kind of knowledge,
everything that could help a person to live well,
by which Montaigne meant, help them to live
happily and morally (De Botton, 2000, p. 153).
We began this report with a debate between an
eminent researcher and an eminent practitioner,
James March and John Reed. Let us finish with
another of Marchs wise observations about what
managers might hope to learn from business
schools (Schmotter, 1998) to deepen an intellectual understanding of the relation between
activities in business and the major issues of
human existence.

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