This piece was originally posted on SAGE’s Management Ink Blog here and is re-posted here with the kind permission of Management Ink Editors.
[We’re pleased to welcome Megan W. Gerhardt who collaborated with Kenneth G. Brown and Anders Dysvik on their paper “A Bridge Over Troubled Water: A Former Military Officer, Corporate Executive, and Business School Dean Discusses the Research–Practice Divide” from Journal of Management Inquiry.]
Our article, “A Bridge Over Troubled Water: A Former Military Officer, Corporate Executive, and Business School Dean Discusses the Research–Practice Divide,” was inspired by the continuing dialogue in business schools regarding the rigor versus relevance debate. Is the goal of research to be useful to practicing managers, or scientifically rigorous enough to meet the expectations of our most prestigious academic journals—and why are these things often viewed as mutually exclusive?
While many have strong opinions on the research-practice gap, we were intrigued by the idea of interviewing someone who has traversed the worlds of both research and practice to learn his views on this timely topic. Earl Walker is a retired US Army Colonel, a former corporate executive, and also a university faculty member and former business school dean. Often our views on the research-practice gap are influenced by the side of the gap we are standing on—yet Professor Walker has been across this divide more than once. In our interview, we explore his views on this topic, and found his answers thought provoking. Professor Walker discusses the types of scholarship he has found personally most useful, as well as those he recommends to his students and colleagues, and also suggests the need for business school deans to expand their view of the utility of a broad range of scholarship.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of concern regarding the gap between academic research and the ongoing daily practice of running businesses. In this article, we interview an individual who successfully made the transition not only from practice to research, but from military service to corporate life and then to academics. Professor Earl Walker is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who commanded armor units in Vietnam, worked as a corporate executive, and then transitioned into academic teaching and later academic administration. Over the course of his academic career, he has served as the dean of three business schools. In the interview, Walker describes his perceptions of the practice–research gap, revealing that it is in some ways smaller and other ways larger than others believe it to be.
“A Bridge Over Troubled Water: A Former Military Officer, Corporate Executive, and Business School Dean Discusses the Research–Practice Divide” from Journal of Management Inquiry can be read for free by clicking here.
Megan W. Gerhardt, PhD, is an associate professor of management in the Farmer School of Business, a Naus Family Faculty Scholar, and director of the Buck Rodgers Business Leadership Program at Miami University. She received her doctorate at the University of Iowa. She serves as an associate editor of the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, and her research has appeared in a wide range of management and psychology journals. Her scholarship interests involve the impact of individual differences in motivation, leadership, and learning, with a specific emphasis on personality, gender, and generational differences in education and the workplace.
Kenneth G. Brown, PhD is a professor and Tippie research fellow at the Henry B. Tippie School of Business of the University of Iowa. He received his doctorate from Michigan State University. His primary research interests are in the areas of learning, motivation, and the science−practice interface. His research appears in a variety of top journals and edited volumes. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief ofAcademy of Management Learning and Education and on the editorial boards of a number of other journals.
Anders Dysvik is a professor of organizational behavior at the Department of Leadership and Organizational Behavior, BI Norwegian Business School. He received his PhD from BI Norwegian Business School. His work has been accepted for publication in journals such as Academy of Management Journal, The Leadership Quarterly, and Human Resource Management. He is the Norwegian representative to the Collaboration for Cross-Cultural Research on Contemporary Careers (5C). He conducts research within the fields of human resource management, organizational behavior, and leadership.