This book gathers original, empirical and conceptual papers that address the complex challenges of conducting responsible research in the business and management professions. It includes contributions related to, and reflecting on, the vision of the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) network, which proposes that business can help provide a better world if it is informed by responsible research. The responsible research agenda requires new methods of scholarly assessment that include criteria for measuring impact, systemic solutions and practitioner relevance. Theories greatly influence business and management practices, and as the late Sumantra Ghoshal warned, bad management theories are destroying good management practices. The authors of this book believe that good management theories can help to create new and better business practices.
Short synopses of the chapters
Part 1 Introduction
RRBM: A Vision of Responsible Research in Business and Management: Striving for Useful and Credible Knowledge
This position paper presents a vision of a future in which business schools and scholars worldwide have successfully transformed their research toward responsible science, producing useful and credible knowledge that addresses problems important to business and society. This
vision is based on the belief that business can be a means for a better world if it is informed by responsible research. The paper begins with a set of principles to support responsible research and proposes actions by different stakeholders to help realize this vision. It explains the impetus for the proposal by describing the current business research ecosystem, which encourages research oriented toward scholarly impact much more than societal relevance.
Changing the incentives and culture around publications are essential to promoting responsible research. Research is the foundation of business education and practice, yet business research has failed to live up to its promise in promoting better policies and best practices. If nothing is done, business research will lose its legitimacy at best; at worst, it will waste money, talent, and opportunity.
Part 2 Methodologies for Responsible Business Research
Tilman Bauer (Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland): Standards for Responsible Research – A Literature Review with a Twist
What exactly does it mean to conduct “responsible research”? How do the ‘principles’ of responsible research relate to generally accepted standards for high-quality business and management research? What are the characteristics of such research that make it ‘good,’ ‘rigorous,’ ‘credible,’ and ‘responsible?’ This paper shall be a literature review with a twist.
First, extant research methods and philosophy of science literature is reviewed for the purpose of identifying standards for high-quality business and management research. The emphasis here is to deduce standards that apply to all kinds of research – whether quantitative or qualitative, empirical or theoretical – and to juxtapose those standards with the principles of responsible research. For example, how do scientific due diligence, rigor, coherence, and construct clarity relate to a study’s potential to be of ‘service to society?’ Are there differences in the value of different types of research?
Second, on the basis of the literature review, this paper argues that theoretical research should receive a more prominent position within responsible research/scholarship. All forms of research aim at creating new knowledge based on some (empirical or non-empirical/logical/theoretical) evidence as well as on a deep understanding of reality and extant literature (prior theory). Indeed, the quality of all research depends (among other things) on the credibility and trustworthiness of the evidence. Yet, empirical research alone seems to be the eminent category of research in academia at business schools, as researchers are encouraged to arrive at novel findings through ‘collecting’ and ‘analyzing’ empirical ‘data.’
However, this way of understanding research is prone to limiting the extent to which a study can be revelatory or groundbreaking in terms of solving the world’s wicked problems. While empirical research certainly has its place, this paper argues that theoretical research has greater power to come up with groundbreaking ideas because empirical research, by definition, operates within the bounds of ideas that others have already, consciously or unconsciously, undergone in some form. After all, creating a better world through research requires pioneering approaches that transcend the limits of current practices. The paper concludes with a set of standards for such research in the field of business and management scholarship.
Benito L. Teehankee (De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines): Critical Realism and Responsible Business and Management Research
While the critical role of business and management in society has been increasingly highlighted by frequent business scandals with widening impacts in the past decades, most business and management scholars and researchers continue to prize detached rigor over engaged relevance.
A key motivator for the current detached approach to research in business and management is the prevailing, though often implicit, positivist philosophy of science (Bacharach, 1989; Johnson & Duberley, 2001). The chapter argues that critical realism (CR) as a philosophy of science provides an alternative ontology, epistemology, and axiology that can better ground responsible research (Tsang, 2016).
Whetten (1989) argued that good management theory must include plausible and convincing explanations for why data should relate to each other in the ways specified and why this should guide practice. To this end, discerning management researchers need to consider issues involving philosophy of science. The kinds of questions researchers ask, the suitability of different methodologies to investigate such questions and the evaluation of resulting research outputs all imply underlying philosophical assumptions (Johnson & Duberley, 2001).
CR (at least the variant discussed here) was founded as a philosophy of science in the 1970s by the British philosopher Roy Bhaskar (Bhaskar, 2008; Bhaskar, 1998). It has been relatively underrepresented in mainstream management research (Tsoukas, 1989) but has had some traction among British management researchers (Fleetwood & Ackroyd, 2004; Ackroyd & Fleetwood, 2003; Hesketh & Fleetwood, 2006). Recently, it has been gaining increasing but slow coverage among US scholars through the work of Tsang in philosophy of management research (Tsang, 2016) and entrepreneurship (Ramoglou & Tsang, 2016), Van de Ven (2007) in engaged scholarship and Rousseau (Rousseau, Manning, & Denyer, 2008) in evidence-based management.
CR differs most noticeably from the mainstream approach to research by moving beyond Humean event conjunctions as captured in statistical regressions, a central tool in positivist causal analysis , in order to focus instead on explanation: How do we deepen our explanations so that we really understand what is happening in management, organizations, and business in terms of underlying causal mechanisms?
CR ontologically presupposes, in scientific alignment with positivism, an objective reality that can exist outside of the observer. In terms of epistemology, the ability of man to know about reality is understood to be fallible due to his limitations for apprehending reality as such and the possibility of false beliefs.
CR’s axiology supports more socially engaged research (Van de Ven, 2007): How do we look at the role of our values in the research we do? Through the idea of explanatory critique (Bhaskar, 2009), CR favors moving from the status quo towards achieving personal and organizational transformation: How can we be change agents for social and ecological welfare as we do research?
Knut Ims (NHH Norwegian School of Economics, Bergen, Norway) and Laszlo Zsolnai (Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary): Holistic Problem Solving in Responsible Business Research
It is a serious failure of business researchers when they solve the wrong problem precisely. This means that their problem formulati
László Zsolnai is Professor and Director of the Business Ethics Center at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary. He is the Chairman of the Business Ethics Faculty Group of the CEMS - The Global Alliance in Management Education – and serves as President of the European SPES Institute in Leuven, Belgium.
Mike Thompson is the Leader of People Services at Anthesis, the global sustainability services group. He was formerly a Professor of Management Practice at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and is now a Visiting Professor at the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, China. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, BC, Canada. Mike is the Co-editor of The Macau Ricci Institute Journal.
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