How Do You Make Heavy — Hitting Research Light Enough On Its Feet To Be Useful?
RBW: Why did you decide to start publishing concise, online translations of faculty research?
KR: Former Rice Business Dean William Glick, like our current dean, Peter Rodriguez, believed that academic thought leadership must provide the foundation for the education provided at the business school. Personally, I felt that while my faculty colleagues were regularly making major discoveries or adding to the common body of knowledge in business in impressive ways, it was largely a well-kept secret. Obviously, our students experience the benefits of learning from such thought leaders firsthand when they take their courses. But outside of that, our stakeholders — students, alumni, corporate partners, friends, etc. — were largely in the dark about faculty research.
RBW: What do you think is most often misunderstood about business school research?
KR: The idea of what academic research in business entails is itself often misunderstood. Sometimes I joke with people who look surprised when I say I’m doing accounting research, ‘Are you wondering what we can research when debits always equal credits?’ In reality, the type of research academics do is like creating a landscape to be viewed from a satellite. You won’t necessarily see the minute details of the plants — that is, the details a business professional may need to address in the real world. Instead, you’ll get a map or framework that can help you navigate new opportunities and practical problems. I’d view Business Wisdom as a success if it means that anyone can immediately understand the research focus of one of my colleagues — and why it’s relevant for shaping their business practices.
RBW: What's the difference between a Rice Business Wisdom piece and a reference to a journal article in a mainstream media story?
KR: The news media tends to focus on news that can elicit an immediate emotion, response or action. If I tried to follow the advice from every piece of health research I see discussed in media, I would be restocking my kitchen every other day and starting a new exercise regimen. Most times, the type of research we do doesn’t fit the bill for immediate gratification, although there are exceptions. The recent Houston Chronicle article by my colleagues Erik Dane and James Weston, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (p. 10), is a case in point. Business Wisdom was created as a vehicle to transmit the timeless discoveries that my colleagues make, but it is well complemented by articles like this one, in which the relevance of the school’s thought leadership becomes readily apparent.
K. Ramesh is the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Accounting at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.