Role of Research in Effective Teaching in Business Schools

Transcript of presentation at the Workshop for Deans and Directors of about a hundred B-Schools at IIM Bangalore on “Building Quality in B Schools: Opportunities & Challenges” Feb 1, 2013.

What is currently happening in business schools? Business school should teach students how to actually run a business – organize people, use technology, knowledge, factories, offices, etc. A manager or owner who runs a business will benefit from a more comprehensive business education. But many business schools compartmentalize business subjects and give specializations in the MBA. Students (and even faculty) with no real work experience memorize many business subjects, but cannot connect across these subjects to address real business issues and problems.

What goes as business school research? Business schools should research real business. But many business schools compartmentalize their research into specializations like they exist in engineering. They publish in specialist journals that are often unconnected to real business issues. The over emphasis in business schools on publishing in a few top business journals with low acceptance rates means that many faculty give up and do not make the effort to write and publish at all. Even case writing is often descriptions of well-known companies, rather than on companies and themes that are most useful for teaching purposes. Writing for practitioners too is often impractical!

What could be business school research? Business schools should research real business. They could get students to work on real life issues in local organizations to identify ways to address them. Then connect students and companies to faculty who can deal with these issues creatively and leverage on existing knowledge or create new knowledge. Then develop a detailed write-up in simple language on what was actually done there. Publish these write ups on their own website to start with – then move next version to journals. Get their alumni to read these website write ups.

Impact of such business school research? Business schools will get much desired visibility. Alumni are more likely to sponsor such research. Students will get to exercise minds on real issues. Students and faculty will build their own reputations. Faculty will get to deal with issues across functional areas. Faculty will learn to write in jargon free language. Faculty will see their work is now visible to managers. Practitioner journals like Interfaces are more likely to publish what worked in practice.

Impact of such research on teaching? Students will become more involved with faculty. Faculty will build better teaching reputations by using practical examples. More alumni will come in to do guest sessions. New faculty will get a head start in teaching through this route. Firms that are studied may even give faculty involved board level positions. Faculty will collaborate in teaching across functional areas. Faculty will communicate more confidently/effectively. Faculty may chose real new research issues for their PhD. Eventually the students through this process are better prepared for the job market.

Two initiatives in this line:

(a) Strategic Management Forum (http://www.smfi.org) started in 2004 offering six day faculty courses across all the top business schools in India. Faculty who do the foundation course and then five electives in areas of their choice get an SMF proficiency certificate. By 2013 over 663 faculty across schools had done the foundation and about half of them did it at IIM Bangalore. Many of these faculty members have started on cases and project based research of the type described here.

(b) Tejus is an IIMB website (http://tejas.iimb.ac.in/) that showcases the best student projects guided and cleared by IIMB faculty. Many projects are forward looking and actionable and have led to practitioner interactions and queries. Some projects have led to published top journal papers.

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