Ernest Oboyle
August 18, 2016
Tom Snee

A recent survey by the University of Iowa and three other universities has found a significant number of shared interests between academic researchers and business managers—topics where scholarship could help inform business decisions.

However, the study also found that despite this overlap, managers still see a gap between scholarly work and the way they do their day-to-day jobs, a perception that has persisted for decades.

In the study, researchers at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business and three other universities interviewed and surveyed 828 academics about the topics they are most interested in researching and nearly 1,000 business and organizational managers about their biggest operational challenges. Their areas of common interest include:

  • Reducing or eliminating pay inequality
  • Reducing or eliminating workplace discrimination
  • Reducing or eliminating unethical business practices
  • Expanding opportunities for continuing education
  • Leveraging technological innovation to improve job availability and quality
  • Improving employee morale
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of businesses and products
  • Improving customer service

Ernest O'Boyle, associate professor of management and organizations at Tippie, said he and the rest of the research team hopes this common ground can help bridge the perceived gap between researchers and managers.

Among their suggestions for showing the relevance of scholarship to professional management:

  • A new online publication and social media outreach aimed specifically at professionals, providing them with practical management advice in short, plain-language articles
  • A greater willingness on the part of scholars to communicate the relevance of their work to management professionals
  • Measuring a faculty member's practical impact on business and society as a part of their evaluation

O'Boyle says the team has identified more than 160 businesses that have expressed an interest in working with academic institutions to implement the results of scholarly research.

The paper, “Management's Science-Practice Gap: A Grand Challenge for All Stakeholders,” was published online in the Academy of Management Journal. Co-authors include George Banks and Jaime Bochantin of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Christopher Whelpley of Virginia Commonwealth University, and Jeffrey Pollock and Bradley Kirkman of North Carolina State University.