In terms of pure quantity of research and debate, business schools have performed amazingly in promoting management as a distinctive activity. No other discipline has produced as much in such a short period. It is unclear yet how much of it will stand the test of time, but for sheer industry, the business school deserve credit. Not a day goes by without another wave of research papers, books, articles, and journals.
In these terms, schools have produced a generally accepted theoretical basis for management. When it comes to knowledge creation, however, they find themselves in difficulties. They are caught between the need for academic rigor and for real-world business relevance, which tend to pull in opposite directions. The desire to establish management as a credible discipline leads to research that panders to traditional academic criteria. The problem for business school researchers is that they seek the approval of their academic peers rather than the business community. In the United States this has led to the sort of grand ‘paper clip counting' exercises that meet demands for academic rigor but fail to add one iota to the real sum of human knowledge.
Business schools have too often allowed the constraints of the academic world to cloud their view of the real world. Business school researchers seek provable theories - rather than helpful theories. They have championed a prescriptive approach to management based on analysis and, more recently, on fashionable ideas that soon disappear into the ether. The ‘one best way' approach encourages researchers to mould the idiosyncrasies of managerial reality into their tightly defined models of behavior. Figures and statistics are fitted into linear equations and tidy models. Economists and other social scientists label this cure smoothing. Meanwhile, reality continually refuses to co-operate.
Central to this is the tension between relevance and rigor. In a perfect world, there would be no need to choose between the two. But in the business school world, the need to satisfy academic criteria and be published in journals often tilts the balance away from relevance. In other words, it is often easier to pursue quantifiable objectives than it is to add anything useful to the debate about management. To a large extent, the entire business school system works against useful, knowledge-creating research. Academics have five years in which to prove themselves if they are to make the academic grade. It seems long enough. But it can take two or even three years to get into a suitable journal. They therefore have around three years, probably less, to come up with an area of interest and carry out meaningful and original research. This is a demanding timescale. The temptation must be to slice up old data in new ways rather than pursue genuinely groundbreaking, innovative research.
It is a criticism also made by some business school insiders. "Academic journals tend to find more and more techniques for testing more and more obscure theories. They are asking trivial questions and answering them exactly. There has to be a backlash," says Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School. In large part, the problem goes back to a time when business schools were trying to establish themselves. Up until the 1960s, American business schools were dismissed as pseudo-academic institutions, including the universities of which they often formed a part, regarded them as a little more than vocational colleges. Since then, most of the leading schools have undergone major reassessments and introduced sweeping changes. However, it is questionable whether those changes have gone far enough.
15. What does the first paragraph suggest about the research generated by business schools?
A Its quality is variable.
B Its lasting value is uncertain.
C It has always been produced too quickly.
D It has had no influence on management.
16. In paragraph two, the writer argues that business school research___
A takes a negative view of the business community.
B as failed to give credibility to management as a discipline.
C is directed at the wrong audience.
D does not stand up to academic scrutiny.
17. In the third paragraph, the writer criticizes the theories of management produced by business schools for being___
18. In the fourth paragraph, the writer says that the business school system causes academics to___
A be satisfied with reinterpreting previous research.
B avoid complicated business issues.
C concentrate on very narrow fields of study.
D focus on topics no longer relevant to business needs.
19. What do we learn about business schools in the last paragraph?
A They are reluctant to admit to failings.
B They resent criticism of their academic journal.
C They used to be looked down on by other institutions.
D They are comfortable with the current situation.
20. What is the writer's purpose in this text?
A to express regret at the growth of business schools
B to point out a weakness in the approach of business schools
C to criticize business school for producing bad academics
D to forecast the eventual collapse of business schools