Organization and Management Research
‘Organization and management research is in danger of becoming irrelevant’
Table of Contents
Different researches undertaken by organizational management helps to gain knowledge in the management field (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011). Efficient management research is essential for any organization as it can indicate the success and the failure of that firm (Davis, 2014). The enormous extension in the field of management, over the previous few years, resulted in a great development in academic articles published (Davis, 2014). Despite all the good and valuable work being produced, this growth has been coupled with continuous debates that management research is becoming irrelevant in the present time (Davis, 2014). This paper is intended to focus on the various debates regarding the present downfall of management research and proposes alternative solutions to those problems (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011).
Despite the vast and painstaking success, organizational and management research has a serious deficiency of high-impact research in the management field. It is argued that the researchers are becoming irrelevant for the business organizations (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011). There is a large shared thought of a disturbing lack of original ideas and innovative contributions in the management studies (Alvesson, & Spicer, 2016). Research process enhances the knowledge and train people to question the set norms if they seem backdated. Organizational and management research process has a huge lack of interesting and influential studies (Davis, 2014). The problem is that there is no mark of challenging the underlying assumptions of established literature (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011). The gap-spotting research method is mostly used by the researchers and the institutions nowadays which are blocking the entry of creativity in the field of research (Neuman, 2014). Innovation and creativity are needed in this field, to question the previous beliefs of every individual and of course, the next task of the research process will be to provide essential theoretical and practical answer to every individual (Davis, 2014). The incremental consensus-confirming work is in the central attention rather than the consensus-challenging contributions which are really disappointing for the editors, other researchers and for the commentators (Quinlan, 2015).
Institutional conditions, professional norms within the management field and the researches identity constructions, these three points are closely interconnected and quite influential for the organization and management research process (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). These three factors are equally supporting and practicing adding-to-the literature form means to find out the probable gap in the research thereby filling it up with suitable examples and arguments rather than challenging the whole system and providing an interesting and innovative framework (Neuman, 2014). There is a constant pressure prevalent for the researchers in the path of achieving identity (Quinlan, 2015). Nowadays, researchers are more interested in publishing their works in the top listed journals accepting the gap-spotting method which decreases the quality of research process (Verma, 2014). New evolutionary research is important not only to challenge the set assumptions of other people blindly but also, it is necessary for clear, critical and new viewpoints in the organizational and management research (Quinlan, 2015).
Theory and literature studies are important in everything that we do; they act as a way of guiding us to perform better in our respective fields (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011). They are essential for organizational behavior, practicing organizational psychology and at the time of studying (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). However, recently, the field of organization and management research has lost its essence and has become attracted to the interesting puzzles and shiny objects (Donaldson, Qiu, & Luo, 2013). There has been no advancement in the management theory; it is more concerned with the entertainment value present in the present articles and theories, rather than focusing on their real-world value and scientific rigor (Donaldson, Qiu, & Luo, 2013). The theories should be accurate and have value for them to be applied in the real-world practices (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011).
Previously the theories that were developed, especially in the late 70s and 80s, they were completely focused and aimed at improving the existing practices of the organizations (Birkinshaw et al. 2014). The authors used to derive hypotheses from theoretical propositions, which were then tested before being formed into a theory (Sandberg, & Alvesson, 2011). This helped in identifying the underlying relationships like whom do they apply to, and why and where. The theories of that time effectively addressed the what, how, why, when and where of the organizational phenomenon (Birkinshaw et al. 2014). The theoretical contributions were gauged on various parameters like what is new, how will it effect, and why now (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014).
Currently, this has process has almost vanished (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). The researchers are more interested in getting a high quantity of articles published rather than focusing on the quality of the research or theories. This is because, the number of articles being published each year has increased significantly, and there is high competition among the authors to get their research papers published in leading journals (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). Several new business schools have been established all around the world and the existing ones have expanded significantly, because of this there has been a major increase in the number of articles for organization and management research (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). Furthermore, governments have introduced various assessment formulas like ERA and REF/RAE in Australia and the UK respectively (Birkinshaw et al. 2014). These assessment guidelines have been formulated by the government to govern the universities. Thus, because of this, it has become a performance indicator for the top business schools, as the more articles they are able to get published in the high-end journals, their ranking and status will be improved (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). This has led to the universities forcing the professors and scientists to get a high number of articles published every year and because of this, they cannot research properly and produce articles which lack good research and theory (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014).
Additionally, even though there is a high increase in the number of articles being published, none of them have interesting and innovative theories, and are highly monotonous (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). Since there has been an increase in the quantity of management articles, the authors have become competitive and due to this the quality of the articles has improved (Karlsson, 2016). However, this has not motivated the authors in publishing new and improved theories (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014).
Research is done so that the knowledge of the particular field is enhanced and new and innovative theories are discovered, which help in making the existing practices better. Nevertheless, the research that is being done currently lacks innovative and interesting theories and ideologies (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). The authors have been publishing the same theories repetitively and gap spotting is becoming extremely popular. These articles are highly quantitative and contain figures from the past years, which make them irrelevant and tough to understand (Karlsson, 2016). Furthermore, they are just based on hypotheses and do not always turn out to be accurate. Since these organization and management research papers lack relevant theories and innovative ideas; the existing as well as upcoming managers have stopped reading them (Farnsworth, Keeble-Ramsay, & Kemble, 2014). These research papers do not have much relevance with the real-time management world and the managers cannot relate to them (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). Thus, these papers are not solving the actual purpose and because of this there is a debate on whether these research papers are relevant for the business organizations or not (Karlsson, 2016).
The research is done by the authors on the same topic repetitively. In one instance, there were two articles found on the Harvard Business Review, which was written by well-educated authors having good knowledge about academic management research (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). These articles were written by Bennis & O’Toole (2005) and Behrman & Levin (1984) and had a gap of 21 years. However, the content of both these articles were same and they addressed the same issues (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). This is a proof of the same research is being repeated time and again. This means that the issues have not changed at all, and the same issues are plaguing the management world even now (Johnston, 2014). Therefore, the researchers should not waste their resources for providing solutions for the same research repetitively and the previous research papers and theories can be used by the existing managers as a guide (Karlsson, 2016). Or the solutions for the problems faced by the manager and how they can improve themselves have not been found by the researchers until now (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014).
Even though several problems are plaguing organization and management research, and many people have been complaining about the system which is prevalent (Suddaby, Hardy, & Huy, 2011). There have hardly been any proper complaints by these people regarding the system. This is because; many people are getting benefitted from the prevailing system and are dominating the field, so that it does not get changed. The other segments of people are continuing to support this system voluntarily (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). Only few people are there who actually want this system to be changed. The benefactors of this system include the deans of the colleges and the status of the universities, publication houses, as well as the authors writing the existing articles (Karlsson, 2016). The deans of the colleges are highly benefitted because of this existing system, as according to the government regulations, the colleges can improve their ranking if higher number of articles are published in leading journals, which have been specified by them (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). So, they ensure that various articles from their college get published in these journals; thus, increasing their ranking and improving the image of the university. The publication houses are getting benefitted because there has been an increase in the research articles being submitted to them, which in turn is improving their brand name. This is also beneficial for the researchers, as writing these articles and getting them published in prestigious journals enhances their career (Donaldson, Qiu, & Luo, 2013).
This has resulted in the biggest problem present in management research, which is gap spotting. Scientific enquiries involving questioning the underlying assumptions of the existing research and deal with consensus challenging theories; however, gap spotting involves consensus seeking, which is the complete opposite (Karlsson, 2016). This has become extremely popular and the authors identify or construct gaps in the studies that have been done previously. This is known as ‘extending the literature’, and the researchers use the previous research studies to extend them by critically or positively referring to them, and base their own study and theories on these works. The contemporary authors and researchers use this as an excuse in most of the cases, so that they can get their articles featured in leading journals (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). This also has its benefits, as some articles actually need to be improved and challenged, but this has become a trend and the organization and management research is becoming irrelevant due to this (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012).
Gap spotting happens because of various reasons and a major reason is the professional norms that have been dictated by the editors, journals and reviewers (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). These journals have started this trend of gap spotting and constantly encourage the norm of ‘adding-to-the literature’. Since the authors want to get their articles published in these journals, they have to follow the guidelines and rules dictated by them (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). They follow a strict review system and to get an article published, an author has to get various changes done. Sometimes because of this, several parts have to be deleted and various meaningless additions are done, due to which the meaning of the article gets completely changed (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014). Furthermore, all these changes have to be done within the word count stipulated by them and the researchers have to listen to innumerable demands (Karlsson, 2016). This has become a significant problem, as sometimes because of this, people who have written good journals having relevant theories and discoveries, do not get their work featured (McKeown, & Petitta, 2014).
The near omnipresent condition to constantly publish in the top rank journals has proved that most of the researchers have lost track and the main aim of the management studies, namely, to generate original knowledge that matters to the organization and community. (Quinlan, 2015). Therefore, the most noteworthy point here is that, in order to get back the management studies on the previous track, there is a need to shift the interest of the researchers from the recent paper production to the production of more innovative and significant ideas that can bring change in both organizational procedure and theories (Alvesson, & Sandberg, 2012). Using problematization and empirical material as methods for challenging previous assumptions will be beneficial to get new ways in the organizational and management research process (Neuman, 2014).
Karlsson, C. (Ed.). (2016). Research Methods for Operations Management. Routledge.
Neuman, W. (2014). Social research methods (1st ed.). Boston [u.a.]: Pearson.
Quinlan, C. (2015). Business research methods (1st ed.). Andover: Cengage Learning EMEA.
Verma, R. (2014). Management research (1st ed.). New Delhi: Anmol Publications.
Alvesson, M., & Sandberg, J. (2012). Has Management Studies Lost Its Way? Ideas for More Imaginative and Innovative Research. Journal Of Management Studies, 50(1), 128-152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01070.x
Alvesson, M., & Spicer, A. (2016). (Un)Conditional surrender? Why do professionals willingly comply with managerialism. Journal Of Organizational Change Management, 29(1), 29-45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/jocm-11-2015-0221
Behrman, J. N., & Levin, R. I. (1984). Are business schools doing their job. Harvard Business Review, 62(1), 140.
Bennis, W. G., & O’Toole, J. (2005). How business schools lost their way. Harvard business review, 83(5), 96-104.
Birkinshaw, J., Healey, M. P., Suddaby, R., & Weber, K. (2014). Debating the future of management research. Journal of Management Studies, 51(1), 38-55.
Davis, G. (2014). Celebrating Organization Theory: The After-Party. Journal Of Management Studies, 52(2), 309-319. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joms.12094
Donaldson, L., Qiu, J., & Luo, B. N. (2013). For rigour in organizational management theory research. Journal of Management Studies, 50(1), 153-172.
Farnsworth, T., Keeble-Ramsay, D., & Kemble, R. (2014, June). Problematizing’Repeat Studies’ in Management Sciences. In European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies (p. 144). Academic Conferences International Limited.
Johnston, A. (2014). Rigour in research: theory in the research approach. European Business Review, 26(3), 206-217.
McKeown, T., & Petitta, L. (2014). Management studies in context: International, interconnected, yet still unique. Journal of Management & Organization, 20(05), 567-571.
Sandberg, J., & Alvesson, M. (2011). Ways of constructing research questions: gap-spotting or problematization?. Organization, 18(1), 23-44. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1350508410372151
Suddaby, R., Hardy, C., & Huy, Q. N. (2011). Introduction to special topic forum: where are the new theories of organization?.