A question has been flourishing in the ResearchGate network for some time. It concerns how management researchers can make managers read and use their research in solving business problems.
Several researchers have provided answers of various kinds; with few exceptions, all answers provided are from researchers.
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- ResearchGate is a social network for researchers. Since the question concerns managers – managers should be given a chance to answer. I therefore encourage you, the manager, to leave your comment in the comment section below.
- The question posed is all about the purpose of ManageMagazine: making research useful for practitioners, managers and leaders around the globe. We believe research must be useful, solve problems, be in tune with the needs of the practitioner and it must be written in an accessible style. So, becoming more knowledgeable about how research can better serve managers will help not just ManageMagazine, but also all other stakeholders such as researchers, journals and publishing houses in making positive changes to research communication, presentations, and publications.
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Please keep in mind that the answers provided below are not representative of the researcher in general and his or her opinion on the matter – they are merely the answers given by specific individuals.
I encourage all researchers who do not feel represented by the comments to also leave your opinion in the dedicated comment field below the article.
The question posed reads like this:
How can management researchers make managers read and use their research work in solving business problems?
It has been observed that managers have a general aversion to reading research-based management books, which if read, could have made them understand more comprehensively the causality of the malaise in their department or organization.
They many times make mistakes in understanding the dynamics of the complex problems they face in their organization. For example, this often happens in managing group conflict and employee-relations issues.
Whose duty is it, you think, to make them read the management research-based books and use that knowledge in correctly understanding the problems? How can this be ensured that they make use of the existing research for which so much money is being spent globally?
(There are many answers as they are presented in their entirety. Read som of them to get a feel for the comments and leave your thoughts and reactions in the commentary field below)
If the main task of a research work is to be read by managers and not by colleagues at that scientific discipline where the author works, then there should be a few things:
- a very small and attractive abstract
- a visualization that tells the story by figures
- a strong example from reality
Then manager will use his/her time to read, otherwise, just the half of abstract.
You raise a question that expresses the relationship between the experts in the field of theory and practice, science and commerce. Scientist spends his whole life in search of truth.
Management activities are aimed at making a profit in the implementation of relations “buying and selling”. If the manager is constantly starts to read a lengthy statement of scientific hypotheses, the manager will “die of boredom” or lose his job.
On the other hand, it is the implementation of breakthrough hypotheses scientists in practice there are great opportunities for profit in business. Therefore, in the commercial area should be a group of professionals who have to study carefully the possibility of commercial discoveries scientists. On the other hand, in research institutions must be unique specialists, which should reflect the commercial component of the discoveries scientists.
Yes, some managers who are forced into trying a new method devote little time or resources to the method and then claim that it was not the correct approach when it fails.
I think it depends a lot on either the personality of the manager, or the learning culture of the organization the manager resides in.
I am personally a full-time manager, but find it infinitely useful to be dipping myself with research environment. Getting information from the research world to implement in the practical side and hopefully contributing back via feedback from implementations. But then, it is just me.
I think perhaps it sounds too “forceful” in the statement “could have made them understand more comprehensively”. I believed a lot of managers are ‘fighting fires” in their own field. Just forgot to take a step back.
What we can do is to maybe write an article about this in a trade periodical such as HBR, etc. so that hopefully managers read it and start thinking about continuing education – thus finally realizing that there are such treasures waiting for them to uncover.
From personal experience – managers in corporate life are extremely stressed, and constantly focus on results. Therefore, the time allocated to reading is limited.
Maybe with the research results presented in a brief abstract and executive summary, there should be:
- an implementation proposal, with projected time scale/resourcing/etc. as appropriate, and
- an accompanying presentation, which will be used to motivate and communicate.
I realize it sounds like spoon-feeding, but it may be a useful approach for those working in a stressed environment – and give researchers a chance to test and evaluate implementation.
Reading is a must for good managers. The knowledge is an asset that could not be ignored. Through reading, the managers would be equipped with knowledge that would help him to make a good decision.
One way could be to publish case-based research papers similar to those in Harvard Business Review. Managers can easily relate to these studies more than theory-based papers.
The problem comes from management schools. They should teach students the importance of reading basic research papers that is the source of books. After they leave school voilà to reading. It is a matter of culture.
However, not all managers went through management schools though.
In my view, the statement “managers have a general aversion to reading research-based management books, which if read, could have made them understand more comprehensively the causality of the malaise in their department or organization” seems hasty generalization.
When it comes to practice, the practitioners are well conversant with regard to solving real business problems than the so-called researchers who tend to be more of theoreticians. This holds true because “practice makes a man perfect”.
Something can be said smartly in theory but when it comes to implementation you may encounter painstaking challenges due to the inability of theory or research output to detail every bit of unfolding anomalies that naturally happen in practice.
There is marked difference between theory and practice. That is why we usually hear many companies lamenting for their poor performance on account of their failure to implement the plan despite a well-designed plan. The plan may be written in a very sound manner and everyone may acclaim it but when it comes to implementation, you experience many things not addressed and your decision guide may become futile to handle such issues.
Managers are dealing with complexities that cannot be expressed in hard and dried ways and this arises the need to apply hunches and experiences beyond written rules. A researcher can forward a recommendation that resembles the one proposed by assembly of rats to scape attack “tying a bell in the neck of a cat”…. In the end, I want to emphasize the importance of reading for everyone be they managers or other practitioners, but reading alone is not a sine qua all.
Any communication is designed to appeal to a particular segment. We write articles for academic journals, that can best be appreciated by researchers and academicians.
If we want our writing to appeal to practitioners, we must write in the language, style, and in the context that appeals to practicing mangers, in the publications that they read.
It happens in other fields too: Popular science magazines, blogs and television features reach out to a greater number of youngsters, and no doubt inspire many of them for a career in the sciences. A Richard Feynman was exceptional. A Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist, he could reach out to undergraduate students with his famous “The Feynman Lectures in Physics”.
In general, it is rather difficult to bridge the two levels. However, I think that is the only way. We should share the insights and perspectives gained through our research, in business magazines read by practitioners, and in a style that would appeal to them.
I think that the manager depends on what he learned in his school and his life experience and what is added by the courses of continuing education. So, if any researcher want to affect managers decision, he has to influence the curriculum of courses and this is not too difficult, especially now, where these courses are run by high quality lecturers who see the urge theories and researches in their field. I think the communication with them helps in this context.
I’ve never seen managers who read research results. They use consulting advices and results. But due to analytics software, managers are doing research but not reading research for decisions.
Enriching Policy with Research, available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254583216_Enriching_Policy_with_Research, relates to this question and may be of interest.
The article agrees that research in science, technologies, and ideas can make a difference if they identify what tools, methods, and approaches no longer work; test new ways of doing things; and link knowledge of that in ways that inform policy and practice.
However, researchers routinely miss opportunities to turn their inquiries into lasting change. The cause of this is the weak rapport between their investigations and recommendations and the real world of policy making.
The factors that define courses of action fall into three overlapping areas: (i) the political context, (ii) the evidence, and (iii) the links between policy and research communities, within a fourth set of factors: external influences.
One cannot just transport research to the policy sphere. In a world shaped by complexity, policy makers have to deal with the pros and cons of policy decisions daily. So, across the four dimensions, the article makes practical suggestions about what researchers need to know, what they need to do, and how they can do it if they are to influence policy and practice.
A practicing manager has their own preferences and experience always associated with a given situation. While a researcher would bring in a third eye view to situation under study, which is always better. However, the constraint is, the timing at which the bridging happens, and how the priority is.
Science knows how to solve business problems and offers science-based solutions. But the practice appears harsh opponent of the theory and violates the theoretical laws.
The volume of research greatly exceeds its application in practice. Researchers must pay greater attention to the production of their research findings in a flexible range of formats in recognition of the varied needs of consumers.
Linking Research to Practice, available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266478316_Linking_Research_to_Practice, examines this matter in some detail.
I agree with No. 2 – present a clear message in the simplest and most attractive means possible. As much as possible present the message in monetary terms. Our work involves influencing policy decisions with evidence and we increasingly find that policy makers do not have time to read or do not treasure reading so will likely not read research articles, books, even one pager policy briefs.
The following points are my personal opinion based on my experience. Here, I am providing the expectations of the management and research teams. At the end, I have provided the simple management tool that can be useful to achieve this.
Many managements look for results with the following conditions:
1) zero expenditure
2) no additional manpower
3) no additional equipment or instrument requirement
4) minimum implementation time
5) minimum maintenance
6) minimum wastage
7) maximum profit
If the research promises the above points; managers shall read and use the research work in solving business problems. In order to have a plan for a successful procedure for solve a problem; the management should support the research team or staff involved with the following minimum support:
- a) seed money to conduct the initial investigations
- b) minimum staff support to meet the work load
- c) basic equipment and instruments to perform the initial tests
- d) little free time to conduct the initial tests, analyze the data and draw results
- e) plan methods to implement the results
- f) support the research team, with what ever is needed, to implement
The simple and best management tool that can be useful to achieve above points is the QUALITY CIRCLES. The important points of quality circles are given below:
- i) working is simple
- ii) as the work force is involved it leads to success in most cases
iii) training is not expensive
- iv) running cost is less
- v) results are very effective
It is not only managers’ problem… look at schools, for example. Do many teachers read professional literature and update themselves? Same with many physicians, engineers, …. etc.
Dear X. I agree that most professional/teachers/managers do not read and update; but there are some who do read. There could possibly be systemic changes to partly coerce and to partly motivate them to read. If they read and update the product of their efforts it would be more relevant and customer-centric. That is the whole issue.
I think training programs, seminars, conferences and experts lectures may induce them to read recent literature. Unless they read these they cannot advance.
Managers are averse to reading research-based books. I agree with Mr Mehta that attending conferences & seminars should be made compulsory, where managers listen to lectures (aided by ppts ) on these topics by researchers & gain the relevant concepts.
There is also an opportunity to discuss these topics to clarify doubts. It is probable that as age advances, listening to lectures is more comfortable than reading books, as lectures are given by experts making the concepts simple.
It would be interesting if the management maintains a good library & makes managers read, by asking them to give lectures to colleagues & junior staff members regularly by sparing time for such activities.
My opinion is similar to previous colleagues. Most of it is about communication strategy. Simple infographics, half to one page summaries, clear cut problems and solutions, presentations in conferences, seminars, etc. or even social media like LinkedIn would be more effective in reaching out to managers. If the summaries, infographics are interesting enough, I’m sure people will find ways to find the book.
You could also have someone designated to put attractive posters with the qualities described by X on bulletin boards or anywhere they could be viewed easily. If employees see these they too can tell managers about them.
Sometimes change comes, because your employees are instigating it. They might even request a seminar or conference on these topics of particular importance.
Yes, managers are situated in the workplace and so are preoccupied with practical activities. Perhaps, an applied research approach might be better suited to managers who are looking for answers to workplace challenges, which is what applied research attempts to do.
Managers may be more inclined to read such applied research that speaks to addressing specific managerial problems in the workplace.
Normally, managers have the attitude: BOSS is always correct.
So it will be very hard to make a boss to listen to the subordinates.
Unfortunately, compulsory attendance of seminars often creates the opposite effect in some people and they are then resentful and resistant of suggested management improvements.
By supplying them with reading materials on new methods of management, cuing them to future discussions of the material, and then discussing with them in a setting that comforts them and makes them seem to be in control will win them over faster than coercion.
Research has found that three factors drive performance: the work climate; the ways teams act together and things are done; and the engagement, commitment, and satisfaction of employees.
Source – Mckinsey, Unlocking the potential of frontline managers
Continuing education of managers is a MUST. If they do not realize the necessity for reading the research articles and implement it in practice, then we do speak about bad managers. Those managers should promote education within organization. Otherwise, such managers should be changed by better one.
I do agree that managers are busy people, but it is not an excuse dear X!
No. 2 has good points, but one must look at the psyche of the manager type. A lot of managers feel that they were promoted into managerial positions because of their skills either in managing people or managing projects. If this is their attitude, then they often see their position as self-affirming. In that case, anything that tries to tell them how to do or improve their job likely would be ignored.
Along with X’s suggestions, any reading material should immediately appeal to the sensibility or curiosity of the manager on the front cover. Scandalous tabloids use visual and grammatical cues to make the consumer want to read the story even while they tell themselves that it is rubbish. The “hook” reels in the reader.
Another suggestion is for the CEO or upper management who commissioned or recommended the research-based management book/pamphlet inform the managers that there will be an open discussion on the contents. Upper management can then assign someone to devise questions/topics to test the managers in one-on-one sessions, or in departmental or group meetings to see if they read the material.
32 (This comment is made by the person who posed the initial questions)
Dear 31 (above), I do agree with the view you expressed that the top management plays a salutatory role in making it imperative for managers for updating their knowledge. This is indeed so true. In fact, the culture of an organization is largely determined by the values espoused by the top and its attitude towards its customers and its employees.
The top management can write knowledge updates as one of the KRAs (Key Result Areas) of all managers, which will compel them to read the latest knowledge.
I have shared this with a number of practitioners in HR seminars; but I often find little understanding of the basic issues involved on their part.
I must contradict you – I have colleagues in industry who really are up-to-date on research, because they have contacts with academia. (And vice-versa, academicians are aware of industry’s problems and wishes.)
The connections between the two types of organizations are many, and growing, thanks partly to the creation of adjunct professorships, and industrial PhD students who are employed by industry, have two supervisors (one academic, one industrial), take courses at the university, and work academically on an industrial problem.
Management researchers help to solve the problems to with suggested guideline for solving problems. Researchers are useful team for the management but prior to researchers management should have & useful team in the form of management committee.
Member of management team have a special expertise of their areas & they are also acquainted with the working areas of the other programming plan of the company & in this line if management teams & researchers should join together in solving the problems of the management which may certainly give the better result of the working area & also may help to move to the expansion project of the business.
This is my personal opinion.
I worked at a company that had a high employee dissatisfaction and turnover rate. They brought in a management consultant who spent three weeks watching how the company worked (2 office locations, 80 employees).
He interviewed employees and managers in private to understand concerns, problems, and strengths. A month after analyzing both offices he informed the owner of the company and top management of where the problems were and what steps were needed to correct them.
His recommendations were ignored and the company has continued to have a high attrition rate to this day.
I see the problem from a human communication perspective. As other colleagues have already pointed in this thread, managers are not scientists -and they are extremely busy people.
The communication problem resides in make them see in a clear and brief way how the results of your research are useful for their work.
I imagine that the standard scientific paper or book is not the type of message that a typical manager reads. So you need a specific communication strategy, in which the main practical applications of your research are clear, brief and easy to understand.
If you think that you don’t have those communication skills, a specialized journalist –someone who writes for a management magazine or business section of a newspaper, for example – should be helpful.
I think the administrators who manage the work of certain research groups, should be in addition to managers, researchers.
I do not imagine a manager or administrator of research that is not aware or at least aware of reports executives who manage team leaders working to better locate the knowledge they have recently created.
Besides the must be of such managers is to assist in the publication ideal type of work performed. Also not forget that the most important of his work is to contribute to such knowledge are of interest and immediate application (or as quickly as possible), in order to benefit people who require some newfound technology or innovated, or instrument, vaccine or drug created to treat, prevent or cure certain diseases of individual patients.
Pay attention not only on the positive, but the negative effects of the rapid development of knowledge, because the process of avalanche and opening on all sides the flow of information, create new values, but also, paradoxically, leads to the growth of ignorance.
The amount of new knowledge, which bombards us, is difficult to comprehend. It has long been a number of indicators such as the number of publications, the scientists used to assess the pace of development of science. Already it was noticed that since the eighteenth century, the number of scientific publications increased exponentially, doubling every 15 years.
[…] The result is that part of the newly created knowledge can not be consumed and is becoming lost only resource library serving the development of formal research careers. While another part is rapidly becoming obsolete. Confronting the dynamics of the development of science with the development of human intellectual ability, even supported by modern means of information processing, it must be said that it grows more slowly, which – to master the necessary knowledge – leads to a deepening of specialization and research, reducing overall erudition.
As a result of the exponential increase in the amount of scientific knowledge and with it, the information content and complexity of the artificial environment we are facing a serious crisis.
We can define our ‘degree of understanding’, as the ratio of the information that the human intellect is able to store and use, to all the available information, and the ‘degree of ignorance’, as the analogous ratio covering the remaining knowledge that we are not able to use. “This phenomenon there is even more that is also growing complexity of information, increasing not only the difficulty of understanding it, but use because the specialist is able to deal with one particular issue, but he lacks discernment general, which could lead to negative unforeseen consequences of the action taken. (Eg. Medical malpractice.)
Unstoppable, massive flood of information in our time fills all the empty spaces, which in turn can lead to the fact that the majority of us now has less time than before. This include information technology, the essence of which is the collection, storage, processing, transmission and use of any useful information, which also includes devices that allow better process and transmit information in more and more, with lower costs and increasingly shorter time, creates the danger of overwhelming excessive inflow of information and preventing the appearance of the paralysis efficient.
It all points to the need for knowledge management for its selection. An additional argument for the need for special management in this respect is to strive to prevent information loss and niepełnemu their use. The latter is referred to as “the viscosity of knowledge”, it is difficult to transfer out of the place in which it was developed which often leads to re-search for the known solutions.
Agreed with the points shared by Demetris. Finding many managers like to read or attracted by “salesy” / “marketing” oriented management books instead of research-based / academic oriented management books. Some of them commented research-based / academic oriented management books are too dried / academic / technical vs the “salesy” management books (similar experience you might recalled when we read the academic articles for the very first time).
Perhaps management researchers / writers / publishers can repackage their contents to make it easier to read by practicing managers. This is because practicing managers are too busy in their daily work & they need something they can absorb / learn fast & apply quickly in their work arena.
Moreover, it will be good for those management books to include many use cases that they can emulate quickly. Also will be good for those management books to include summarized empirical evidence in figures / graphics or in summarized values so that practicing managers can better appreciate them.
40. (This comment is made by the person who posed the initial questions)
Dear all. Thanks for your input. Indeed, some very interesting points have come up in the discussion so far. I appreciate the point made by A that managers are busy people and should get something easy to read and digest so as to be attracted to the research ideas. Indeed, that has begun happening in the area of management.
Especially, several American academics have come out with easy-to-read books for managers and others, which managers act upon as well. This is happening since 1982 when the book “In Search of Excellence” by two McKenzie Consulting researchers came out, with some 5 million copies sold so far and still selling. The book meets the three requirements that B lists for motivating the managers. In fact, late Professor CK Prahalad observed that managers who do not know theory are not successful.
One important point has been raised by C and D. They say that if managers read and apply research in solving business problems, they would lose their jobs. I am not sure, if that would be so. How do we compare that with research-based management development programs that are being conducted by some of the best business schools for managers, and for very high fees? Most of these programs are running with grand success, and top managers of leading organizations are being sent to attend these and learning from them.
Management researchers and managers do not operate separately. Many managers do employ researchers to help them make decisions. New (innovative) products arise from research, markets are determined through research, and political candidates employ survey agencies to determine their chances of winning the elections.
Perhaps not all research (especially that conducted independently or critically) is used by managers. But in these days, I believe managers have already uncovered the importance of research to management decision-making, and that makes R&D part of an organization.