Building research communities in non-OECD countries: results from our workshop

Sorry for the delay in blogging about this great workshop on developing research communities… It was great, with insightful experts and an active audience wanting to learn and also share their experiences as academics and scholars working in the “developing world”. (I put quotes around that, because I know there are debates and definitions about developing and under developed… by developing I mean not members of the OECD.) (This blogpost is based on my notes of the workshop and my interpretation of my notes – if you would like to add your interpretation please put them in the comments – I could just end up agreeing with you)

The afternoon started out with discussions from our 5 panelists (Mary F. Sully de Luque; Thunderbird; Carl F. Fey; Nottingham U. Business School China; Akbar Zaheer; U. of Minnesota; Jia Lin Xie; U. of Toronto; and Stephen Mezias; INSEAD Abu Dhabi) about the on-going development of research communities in China, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and India.


The discussion started with Dr. Xie on the development of the IACMR (International Association of Chinese Management Research) which began in August 2000 at the AOM Meeting in Toronto – and has grown to 6,000 members and includes well ranked scholarly journals, partner business schools and a marked increase in the volume and quality of management research from China.

They began with a focus on training and teaching, especially in the fields of research methods, research ethics and developing research papers. The first attendees of these courses at the turn of the century are now becoming Deans and Associate Deans and supporting their young faculty and PhD students to attend advanced training in methodology and international conferences. Developing robust local research capacity takes decades, but when the steps are well thought out and resources invested – scholarly advancements and innovation are more than just a possibility.

Latin America

Dr. Sully de Luque began her introduction by saying that the term Latin America can mislead people into thinking it is a homogenous entity – however, there are many cultures, countries in different phases of development, regions, languages and histories which need to be understood to really grasp the region and the dynamic changes which are taking place. In general though, the quality of education is increasing and there is a shift from simply teaching and consulting in universities and business schools to a focus on research to ensure that their institutions of higher learning can be accredited by organisations such as EQUIS and the AACSB. (Footnote, the College of Business at Zayed University is in the accreditation process for the AACSB).

She spoke about the challenges and the “musts” for research to happen – relationships between scholars need to be developed, data and information needs to be available and shared among scholars and practitioners and scholars, and academics based in the west need to partner with local academics to promote and encourage further exchange and robust research. Scholars, especially those working in non-OECD countries often feel like they are on an island, but through collaboration we can focus on our strengths and wonderful research can take place.

Middle East

Dr. Mezias is the Academic Director for the Abu Dhabi campus of INSEAD. He gave a general overview of where management research is going – from West and North to East and South. Management research is following practise – trade, economic growth and “business” is moving to the East and the South from OECD countries, and research follows practice (OK, there is a scholarly debate on this issue, but as I agree with Dr. Mezias you can look up the debate on your own J).

However, it is not just BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries which are the focus of this shift – it is Africa and the Middle East as well. A reassuring thing for me was when he said that there were opportunities for young scholars in these regions (this is a constant worry for almost all young professors educated in North America and Europe – did we harm our careers by taking a non-traditional path?). He mentioned several directions he sees business going (and thus management research).

·         The base of the pyramid – there is a shift in interest by MNCs (Multi-National Corporations) to the 4 billion consumers who have largely been ignored by corporations. While there is an emerging body of research of these people moving into the middle class (especially in BRIC nations) much more research needs to be done to find market based solutions to critical poverty (e.g. small scale entrepreneurship, micro-financing, etc.)

·         EMMNC – Emerging Markets MNCs are little understood, but gaining ground. An example of course is Tata and its purchase of Jaguar and Range Rover – instead of being less innovative, they are becoming more innovative with a change in ownership… why?

·         Dubai/UAE – becoming a hub and important logistics center to the world through East –South trade (tied to the huge increase in trade amongst non-OECD countries)

·         China beats Africa – China is doing things differently and understand structures (and the time and investment needed to build solid ones)


Dr. Fey worked in Russia for 13 years and spoke about the importance of building a critical mass of scholars to create a group that is dynamic and viable (e.g. sustainable). As with Latin America, management professors and scholars are moving from large teaching loads and a focus on consulting to a focus on research. However, unlike some other regions the management research community in Russia is still in the early stages. It has grown from informal research seminar series to more formalized groups gathering to present and discuss research. In 2013 there will be a regional meeting of the AIB (Academy of International Business) and with a focus on international ranking and accreditation there is a demand for high quality research. There are many other initiatives going on including a research group that meets at the annual AOM Meetings.


Dr. Zaheer spoke of the founding and development of the ISB (Indian School of Business) – a project spearheaded by McKinsey and Company with the collaboration of Wharton, the Kellogg School of Management, and the London Business School – only 13 years after its founding they are ranked in the Top 20 MBAs in the Financial Times.

Of course, this took an enormous investment of resources in local capacity building (human and over US $1 billion) and a commitment to excellence. At first, there was little understanding of the years that it takes from research idea (and needed funds) to the final published paper – and that high quality research requires resources and time and access to high quality data (e.g. support from local business community and government for data).  The largest investments were made with faculty – sending them to international workshops, conferences, seminars, etc. Inserting them into the international research community and giving them opportunities to learn and develop the connections and skills needed to publish in top journals. Incentives were changed for faculty as well, to reward research and generously reward research published in top journals.

Next were the panels discussions and inclusion of the audience. The first question from the audience was “What is a research eco-system?” Of course the easy answer is everything that supports research, but scholars are rarely satisfied with easy answers when the “devil is in the details”. The following is a list of aspects that make up an eco-system:

·         Local culture (university culture)

·         University administration

·         The values of the university (e.g. the incentive and reward system)

·         Resources (library, time, students, research funding, etc.)

·         Infrastructure (physical, technology, granting processes, etc.)

·         Types of business and organizations in countries/regions
o   Industrial environment

·         Government support for scholarly activity and research at different levels (local to Federal to Regional)

Next came the biggest challenges to overcome to develop a local research community producing high quality, high impact research. In the Middle East it is a lot about finding each other, learning about each other’s research creating opportunities for interactions to form networks. In Russia it was the shift from rewarding teaching and putting value on that to rewarding and valuing research (results are never automatic). Finding the time for faculty to do all that is now required (a common theme heard from all the panelists). In China it was a shift to learning and creating knowledge with and from each other – not just learning from the West. It was also being relevant for Chinese management research and relevant to the world – making a contribution in both “ponds”. In Latin America a big challenge was also building trust with local researchers and organizations for knowledge exchange and collaboration. Another huge challenge was the lack of understanding about the time, money and resources needed to do high impact research (for both practice and research community).

There are not just challenges of course, there are rewards. There is an increasing interest in research coming from non-OECD countries and the challenge and thrill of being at the forefront of new research fields and building new theory. There is also the interesting research questions and problems that surround us in these dynamic places.

There were other interesting discussions, and the organizing committee of the workshop will be writing a paper on the themes and find commonalities and insight from this experience. A discussion later on in the conference with the President of the AOM Africa group also involved similar themes – and similar challenges and rewards. Also, a similar feeling of optimism and “academic adventure”.  

If we are academics working in non-traditional regions maybe we have to be optimists to survive and thrive J


Research and Teaching Collaborations with Colleagues in Underrepresented Nations: a blogpost

So yesterday was a big day. After our PDW (will blog about later today) I attended a session organized by Dr. Charles Wankel and his colleagues. It was held in a ballroom because there were lots of us!
As the title of the blog post suggests, it was a workshop to get people who are attending the Academy from nations and countries that are not represented at the AOM to as great a degree as Americans and American universities. You can find a full list of participants here (I am not on the list, but I attended anyways).

First, I think we have to define what the Academy of Management means for the global management research community – well, in short the association defines the “global research community”, in that, if your research is published at the Academy or in one of the Academy’s journals there is a big stamp of approval on it. You might not be aware, but the peer review process, even in Management Sciences, is vital – and if active Academy members agree that your research is valid and robust and interesting (at least after a few rounds of corrections) – then the rest of the world can “trust” that it is valid, robust and interesting.

So, the Academy and the Annual Meeting are important – but, it has been dominated by North America… but that is changing to add diversity of topics, diversity of findings and diversity of attendees J
Enough background, the session started with over 200 participants – we all were directed to tables with people we might not know (OK, I might have gone to a table with some people I know and it ended up with 5 of us from the UAE and 4 from Abu Dhabi). Dr. Charles introduced the session and then gave us (the participants at each table) our assignments – talk with one another, see what are commonalities and how you can research together and what are your outcomes – then come back and tell us all in a three minute summary. Well, that was how I interpreted the assignment, I am sure as good academics we all interpreted it in different ways!

My table was diverse and interesting and we represented many “underrepresented nations”. Here are a list of first names and countries we represent:

Alvaro – Mexico
Xu – China – Finland and UAE
Payal – India
Nadia – Greece and England (Manchester for the Abu Dhabi remote link)
Kathy – China, UAE (Dubai)
Florian – Germany, UAE (Abu Dhabi)
Fuazia – India and UAE (Abu Dhabi)
Me – Canada/Quebec and UAE (Abu Dhabi)

We started our discussions with a general introduction around the table and then we said well – what do we talk about. One of our members suggested we “figure out how to change the world”. Remember, we are academics and this is not as outlandish a topic as all that – but we agreed it might be a bit presumptuous and we only had a limited time – so we decided on another subject to guide our discussions.

Someone suggested: “What role can the AOM playing in bridging the gap between underrepresented countries and regions and the global research community?” (yes, I might have had a hand in this suggestions J).

So we started thinking and telling our stories. The first suggestion was to encourage/support/reward West and East/South collaborations as PDW, paper or symposium submissions. This would mean that there could be extra room in the schedule for groups that “fit” this criteria.

Then we really started talking about the “accepted” subjects or the “hot topics” which always seem to guide accepted research – well, these topics which are “hot” in the US or Western Europe are not necessarily important to the local or regional contexts of our universities. Maybe there could be a “stretch” of topics to include more industry specific or local context specific work…

In our local universities, as many of us switch from a teaching focus to a research and teaching focus – local context matters – we, as educators and scholars, need to “matter” to local companies and organizations. Our research needs to be more applied – there is VERY little (if any) funding for fundamental or basic research with practical results in maybe 10 or 20 or 40 years. These underrepresented nations are not underrepresented at the global level because we were not working – we were teaching a heavy course load and many academics use consulting to make ends meet in developing countries – no time for fundamental research.

We then talked about our role as scholars and the debate on whether research follows industry practice or is research meant to guide industry practice – and the tricky balancing act we play to balance being relevant with research.

One example was given from Estonia – Estonian companies have basically adopted Western style HR practices – transferred from Nordic companies (through FDI) and learned from Western trained professors and American textbooks – and it seems to have “worked” – e.g. there are accepted rules that even small companies follow that provide a structure and norms.

We then talked about the importance of bringing our research back into our classrooms – using case studies and practical local research results to bring the book theory to life in a local context (you can read the rest of my blogposts to see what I do in this regard).

Then we ran out of time – and each table presented. I presented for my table and tried to keep it short – there were many commonalities amongst the groups and it was interesting to see how we each interpreted our assignment. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon – thank you Dr. Charles for organizing this – I hope to attend another of your sessions next year.

Then I was off to the entrepreneurship social – which was held on the 50th floor of the Prudential Centre – and that is another post J


Closing the Gap: Developing Research Communities in Emerging Regions and Nations (Part 2)

Tomorrow is the day we have been planning for - for a long while… it started with a discussion, then a conference, then more discussions, then coffees and dinners and then an idea – why don’t we bring this to the AOM? (If you are looking for something to do tomorrow at the conference it is on Saturday, Aug 4 2012 12:30PM - 2:45PM at Boston Hynes Convention Center in Room 204)

So here we are, looking forward to a rewarding workshop with scholars from around the world to listen to the experience of senior academics from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) as well as the Middle East – to learn from each other on what are the best practices for building a research ecosystem in emerging market countries.

But our goal isn’t just to talk – it is to come up with ideas as a group of what we can do on an institutional and regional level to promote this development… also, the organizing team intend to write a paper on the “findings” of the workshop – how does it fit with what the “literature” says, where are the gaps, what roadmap do we suggest…

Of course the ultimate goal is to promote a community of scholars interested in developing this community and ecosystem in the Middle East (where less than 1% of published papers originate from).
So what are our panel of experts going to talk about? Well here are the ideas which will guide them and their discussions:

·         Defining excellence & gaps: What is “excellence” and is it the same as in the West?

·         Local perspective: What are the local challenges to building a research community?

·         Bridge between local and global: Once the research community is built, how do we connect the local with the global?

·         Legitimacy in the global research community: Is research from “new” research communities considered “legitimate”? How can we make it more “accepted”?

·         KPIs: Which KPIs should we use or target to measure our success?

·         Young scholar’s careers: How can scholars from emerging markets “make it” in the global community? Are there opportunities for “Western” educated scholars in these emerging scholarly communities? (Or is it a career killer?)

Then we are going to get feedback from the audience about the barriers or challenges to publishing research in top-tier journals… and ways that global academic institutions like the AOM can do to improve this situation….

Exciting – interesting – valuable!

Do not worry – I will let you know what happens!