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.
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.
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