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MH - Building a focus on application of the research

  • 1.  MH - Building a focus on application of the research

    Posted 08-10-2020 12:17
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    I am interested in understanding why there is a lack of interest in the Division. It is because of its contribution to the growth of business and management. In my experience, the doctoral students are either unaware of management history and a research division or are not interested because they are not aware of the benefits. 

    In business, we make decisions under uncertainty and risk. The uncertainty and risk because management does not have control over the environment. The uncertainty and risk are the is the result of the external environment. If we could answer the two questions, we will be able to make management history division and attractive Division for management researchers.

    1. How do we make the past successful management theories, concepts, events, and practices useful for managers to decide today in business and management
    2. Is management history a foundational, practical, core knowledge for managers?

    Your valuable input will help the MH division in building the focus on future business and management needs.


    Mohammed Ahmed
    Webster U
    Merritt Island
    (321) 459-0077

  • 2.  RE: MH - Building a focus on application of the research

    Posted 08-12-2020 07:47
    Edited by Joseph Gladstone 08-13-2020 14:02
    After completing my proof read, I suggest you make yourself comfortable. This, as expected, got away from me. -Joe
    I concur with Mohammed that there is a lack of interest in the MH Division. Why the lack of interest, he asks? Good question. In this response I am going to share my two-cents about why doctoral students and early career scholars are either unaware of management history as a research division or are not interested in our work because they are not aware of the benefits.

    While I do agree with Mohammed's very general question, I don't think asking how we make past successful management theories, concepts, events, and practices useful decision-making resources for today's managers; and asking if management history is seen as a foundational, practical, core knowledge for managers are the correct questions to ask.  Of course, Mohammed, correct me if I misinterpreted your questions. But I will continue based on my understanding of them.

    Both questions overlook the institutional culture of management scholarship taught at the PhD level and sustained during tenure chases. I do agree that Mohammed addresses this institutional culture when he says that we don't have control over our environment.

    If we as a the MH Division adopt a STR Division perspective to think about Mohammed's statement that we cannot control the [academic {my thinking}] environment, then we can attempt to influence it. If influence doesn't work, we adjust to work around barriers the environment creates for us.

    Before I go further: two caveats. First, while I teach history in my courses (my students actually have to read and demonstrate understanding in Bowen before they can cite him as an exemplar in business and society), it's been some time since I've done actual scholarship in the area. Second, ever since going on the market as a I neared earning my management PhD in 2012, I have never been offered a faculty position in a business school because of my scholarship. Fortunately for me, I managed public health programs before I changed careers, so teaching health administration in a health sciences school has been paying the bills; although it has kept me from advancing my management history scholarship since I spend every year trying to land in a business school.

    There is rationale behind sharing the caveats above. I will now, as briefly as possible (but as my personal history reveals, regularly fail quite miserably in doing), share my thoughts about why MH isn't attracting a great deal of interest in the Academy. Key word: thoughts.

    I share two broad observations in this commentary. Both are related to institutionalism, because that's what we are up against. My first observation states how we as a profession of scholars are preparing our new scholars (and faculty) to value epistemology. The second is a withering critique about a dark path business schools are going down today. Neither observation is rank ordered, they are simply organized for narrative flow.

    Forgive me in advance if my writing voice sounds disgruntled. It's challenging for me to write in a detached neutral tone, especially given my statement about never landing a business faculty position. Also, many critique my writing as unstructured. It is. You will discover that I generally write in a style reflecting what's on my mind in the moment (Native American communication is about expressing experience. Okay. Dewey says that, too).

    Our first institutional challenge we face is how we as a profession of scholars prepare our new scholars (and faculty) to value epistemology. We don't expose them to a lot of broad, truly innovative thinking. In classic Kerr's Folly (Rewarding A while hoping for B [1975-1995]), our doctoral programs appear to punish our students when they come up with novel ideas, or think in novel ways outside of epistemological standards defined by "the academy". More about this in the second section of this commentary, but as a preview: an A-hit is an A.

    As we prepare our future faculty, we require them as students to complete lengthy literature reviews when they design their dissertations. But in conversations with advanced doctoral students, I get the impression that many students place greater value on their ability to recite existing science rather than appreciate that it informs their understanding of phenomena observed at-hand. I admit bias at this point when I state that history scholars excel in this appreciative skill (perhaps cognitive hard-wiring).

    Most PhD programs teach and enforce an institutional value that statistical validity trumps all other justifications for truth. Absolute validity exists through structural equation modeling (I admit I just wrote SEM simply 'cause I hear students casually drop the acronym as if to hint they are members of an exclusive club). I get the impression that PhD programs condition students that other forms of data, such as historical data, and their interpretations are simply conjecture. I suspect that such teaching is rooted in an institutionalized A is an A mentality.

    While doing some impromptu research in journal rankings to compose this commentary, it appears that academia places history in the domain of liberal arts, which has been getting short thrift in the modern world. Universities are pushing the STEM sciences. Given the Scopus ranking for Ca-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and the impression that it leads to high-paying jobs in "the real world", STEM is in high demand.

    Other than major-specific specially-revised courses teaching writing skills, I no longer see undergraduates exposed to the broad diverse intellectual experience I was forced to endure to earn my baccalaureate. Something I didn't appreciate until about a decade after I graduated, making me happy that I "endured" it prior to my brain being fully developed to find value in diverse liberal arts.

    So, institutionally, in this era, society essentially discourages college students from investing time to study history. As far as I know, other than perhaps a section about the historical evolution of business schools presented in a management education seminar, and historical methods presented as part of a qual methods class (shout out to my doctoral alma for requiring both), no business doctoral program offers historical research and methods as a routine part of their training. That's a problem for us as a division.

    In retrospect as I compose this commentary, our two institutional problems can be ranked. I will now discuss what I see the worse challenge. Especially since it directly contributes to preventing management history education and research in doctoral programs. 

    I agree with Mohammed that management history "[contributes] to the growth of business and management." Ironically, how we in AOM contribute to the growth of management isn't applicable for today's managers. Pfeffer and Fong's exemplary 2002 paper critiquing business schools' disconnect from real-world management practice demonstrate this. They stated in aught-two that information today's managers find useful comes from popular press readers written by non-management scholars. I have seen this in entrepreneurship and leadership outreach activities done by business schools today. These workshops targeted at communities and student "innovation" activities appear to be led by MBA-only executives-in-residences rather than by management professors. (I have an aside that while many business schools websites proclaim having innovative scholarship, when I compare them to each other, they simply pass on the same information as other business schools; an observation from many job-talk campus visits. But details about that are for another diatribe).

    As a division, we are not competing for scholars who teach truly innovative lessons to practicing managers, we are competing for scholars who produce knowledge that is discussed only among members within this academy. Economically speaking, it's supply-and-demand. The supply side cannot satisfy our demand. 

    Extending both Kerr's and Pfeffer & Fong's observations into today, business schools have gotten much worse about narrowing their definitions of worthwhile scholarship as they compete among each other to be seen as premier [or as a CMS-type would read: "exclusive"] institutions.

    I you have not yet done so, you must read Aguinis, Cummings, Ramani, and Cummings' (hereafter, Aguinis et al.) recently published "An A Is An A": The New Bottom Line for Valuing Academic Research. It was published this summer in Academy of Management Perspectives (2020; 34, [1], 135–154)(to use the word "ironic" more than once, they got this published in an A-journal). While Pfeffer and Fong almost two decades ago pointed out the disconnect between business schools' scholarship and the practical needs of real-world managers, Aguinis et al. point out what I think is a reason for, if not the root of, our division's inability to attract contributors: An A is an A, and we are not in the minds of those setting the bar height for A-level scholarship. In this case, A-level scholarship being defined by the "quality" of the journal a faculty member is routinely published in.

    In case you missed that last sentence, "faculty member" and "routinely". Singular. Frequent. Aguinis et al. explicitly point out what my annual job search reveals: a common statement in many position announcements saying that the candidate must demonstrate an ability to regularly publish in top-tier journals. This requirement is becoming commonplace even in smaller unknown b-schools.

    A quick look at Journal of Management History's (JMH) website shows it has a Scopus score of 1.4. When I went to the Scopus site to see where that figure falls among other management journals, JMH didn't even come up in the filtered results for such journals. Of course, the top-dogs, such as AOM Annals, JOM, AMJ, etc., carry Scopus scores ranging from the mid-teens to low 20's. 
    If it came up in the filters, JMH's score would have placed it way down the list. Around number 800 among similarly-ranked management journals. 

    Now, if you want real prestige, write about cancer. That'll get you places. Ca-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians has a Scopus score of 435.4. I shared that not simply to be cynical. But in Native American teaching tradition. In that tradition, I'll let you mull over the value of that figure compared to even our top management journals.

    Aguinis et al. point out the danger of the An A is an A mentality: it discourages novel, innovative scholarship. I add not just innovative, also inventive (as Rogers distinguishes the two terms). Based off their paper, my experience working with doctoral students, and speaking with tenure-track peers, plus some influence from Kerr's Folly (1975-1995), what business schools and the Academy in general gets out of this institutionalized definition of valuable scholarship are doctoral students and tenure track assistants doing research and writing manuscripts to unknown reviewers only for an A-hit that will someday guarantee them tenure.

    Of course, it's assumed that tenure will supposedly free them to do "what they really wanted to do with their scholarship." However, I assume that after a decade exposed exclusively to training to think in and write in dominant quantitative voices (doctoral studies plus tenure chase), newly tenured scholars will have become deeply conditioned and entrenched to both explore, understand and report reality only within a narrowly-defined quantitative style. Think of it as learning to drive only an automatic. Finding a third pedal on the floor and a shift stick leads to confusion and frustration.

    And if you missed my metaphor – my point exactly.

    I bring us back to Mohammed's observations and questions leading this commentary so that I can wrap things up. 
    How we prepare our management scholars to do historical scholarship, both in doctoral programs and tenure chases, appears not to be generally done in business schools. It actually appears to be devalued and discouraged. Because of this, our academic institutions do not expose neophyte management scholars about historical research's epistemology, methodological rigor, and value to management science that our division's members embrace and contribute. I've seen this more than once. Usually around February each year.

    If you have chaired AOM paper reviews for our division, you might have seen me reject a paper with this statement: "Just because you put 'history' in your paper's title, doesn't make it a history paper." And if you were one with that statement, yeah, that was likely me that advised you to send your paper to a more appropriate division. Reading colleague's feedback to the same papers, I think I'm the only one who defends our division's scholarship in that brusque manner.

    I am preaching to the choir when I defend my curt rejection statement. History research is time-consuming work. In theses I read, most "historical" sections simply state the history of research related to the author's question. The historical section in my dissertation project included an exploration of pre-white encounter trade in North America, and white-tribal trading experiences as written by La Vérendrye and Hudson Bay traders. Researching these two histories required archeological visits to Southwestern trade routes and reading published journals by La Vérendrye and assorted Hudson Bay post managers, sometimes double-checking translated La Vérendrye reports back to classic, very old French. Not being strong in French, let alone early 18th-century French, that took time. The purpose of that work was to demonstrate a long history of commerce in North America before "discovery" by the West, and to reveal a sense of the value of trade among Native Americans. A pleasant surprise that came out of my Hudson Bay readings was one 
    18th century trader warning his colleagues to not short-change Native American women, who knew the value of their goods and came to fight hard for fair deals the trader got away with when they shortchanged their husbands the prior day.

    I conclude this commentary here. Mohammed wrote that "[in his] experience, the doctoral students are either unaware of management history and a research division or are not interested because they are not aware of the benefits." 

    That is correct on both points. 

    What I suggest we do.

    First, to speak directly about the subject line of Mohammed's post, we have to either accept that as long as Kerr, Pfeffer & Fong, and Aguinis et al. speak the truth about institutionally ingrained academic bias in business schools, we will remain a small division. Especially since doctoral students and tenure track faculty are not graded on broad intellectual chops, but only their ability to write to and navigate through A-journal reviewers. Getting around that mentality will require at least four horsemen.

    Second. Not all business schools and doctoral programs force their charges to write exclusively to A-hits. We need to figure out who those schools are. Given my and Aguinis et al.'s observations, that number appears to be dwindling. On the bright side, smaller numbers mean less work for us. We need to reach out to those schools and inform their doctoral students and TT faculty who are unaware of management history as a form of scholarship, that it is a very interesting, and (in classic Rogerian sense) innovative way to explore phenomena. Management research brings deeper understanding about the subject they explore, and strengthens predictive ability for other research work they may be doing. 

    And our work is simply fun! I got to hike around ancient trade routes for my research. Not just routes as lines on maps. I actually saw the old paths in the ground. You just don't experience that in a web-based survey. Likewise with digging through old books in a forgotten corner of a library. So cool. And writing in management style is very intellectually and creatively liberating. As I attest in this very manuscript.

    As for a being attractive as a division, I defer to my marketing colleagues to design campaigns advertising the benefits we offer. I, for one, appreciate our smaller intimate AOM socials where the munchies are not cleaned out within three minutes, there's always a spare drink ticket, and I don't have to shout over a crowd to share my ideas and hear neat historical stories shared by my friends and colleagues.

    These last two things, getting hands dirty doing scholarship and listening to interesting historical stories reveal the way I think. An A is A mentality, I worry, takes vitality from young scholars wanting to learn how to explore things they find interesting. Overcoming A is an A is going to be very hard - unless we have four horsemen leading the way.

    These are my thoughts. I'm curious about yours in response to Mohammed's question.

    - Joseph Scott (Joe) Gladstone

    Joseph Gladstone
    Research Professor
    NABSWASAI - Native American Business Scholars Working Group
    West Haven

  • 3.  RE: MH - Building a focus on application of the research

    Posted 08-13-2020 12:19
    This is a noble effort Joe, well done!

    To add to what you have written - if we paid more attention to our own history we would appreciate that we have been locked in a Methodenstreit for decades.  Ours is no less damaging tthan the 19th century one was to German economics.  Ironically, we have been less damaged since, say, the 1959 Reports, because our scholarship has so little impact on business practice.  As you pointed out, it is about our institutional arrangements.  In spite of the increasingly fractured nature of US society (and elsewhere, for we have no monopoly on this) our two sides have not drifted much further apart than they were already in the 1980s.  But we do appreciate the politics of taking history seriously.

    In this sense those pleading for management history are a small committed group, camped out on the wrong side of the methodological tracks, struggling to keep their activities and identities alive - a bit like the Irish hedge schools (to mix my metaphors).  We await a fresh methodological dawn.  (Parenthetically I watched a marvelous First Nations event at Jacob's Pillow last night)

    Of course, hope springs eternal and it may be that the tectonic (methodological) plates are shifting.  Scott Galloway is arguing - with great vigor - that the impact of COVID on higher education is going to be like Buffett's comment about when the tide goes out, it is going to expose the non-viability of much of it.  I suspect he is right.

    But Galloway has paid less attention to our principal weakness, the one that actually marks us out from the rest of HE - that we have never been able to demonstrate any positive relationship between what we teach and managerial competence.  Indeed we have not dared research this (Mintzberg & Lampel being an exception).

    OK, business education's raison d'être is certification, it is about MBAs getting a job, not doing it better than the non-certificated.  But do we have to keep the bar so low?  Is our ambition no greater than tenure-seeking?  Easy for me to say, of course.

    Just so long as companies recruit on the basis of reputation/certification rather than demonstrable professional competence our secret is safe.  But COVID's impact on the economy, especially in the US, may well change this.

    Then too one of the consequences of 25 years of corporatizing and financializing the university is that many will now eliminate tenure, and thereby the fundamentals of our publishing game and the 'acceptable research methodologies' on which it stands.

    Maybe we shall soon be able to stop hiding in the hedges and show the work we do is actually genuinely interesting to those in the real world beyond our institutional bubble.  We know many of the wiser and more successful business people take a great interest in history; just as military students do.

    J Spender
    Kozminski University
    New York
    (917) 378-6250

  • 4.  RE: MH - Building a focus on application of the research

    Posted 08-13-2020 08:16
    I've been in and out of MH as a doctoral student (was a member in 2015 and 2016, left a while and returned in 2019/2020). MH has offered a great deal to me personally when it came to my class papers, and I did find that comments were constructive and very friendly. Then why did I exit MH for a while? Here are a couple of reasons. 1. There are simply too many divisions and IGs that we, as doctoral students, can pick; our work may be a better fit to other divisions and IGs. 2. There is an identity issue here. The question is, if I'm not a historian, how relevant MH is to me? Please don't get me wrong. I sincerely believe history matters in management, and history repeats itself again and again. But the question is, do I want to be a historian?

    Re. Mohammed question
    1. How to make past stuff useful? I suppose it can go through education and promotion, either through publication, case study, EMBA classes, or other channels.
    2. Is MH a core to managers? Absolutely. Do managers think so? Probably not. I suppose one thing we can do is to reframe business history as relevant, informative, and practical, through publications, media and beyond (I hate to say this, but institutionalization is probably the word. But I understand we have a million reasons to reject this.)

    Qian Li
    Doctoral Student
    Cass Business School,City, University of London