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Management sciences: managers, researchers... or both?

Professor at the Arc School of Business in Neuchâtel

University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES-SO)

DBA from the Business Science Institute

Professor of Management Sciences

President and founder of the Business Science Institute

IAE Lyon, Jean-Moulin Lyon 3 University

*Member of the Business Science Institute faculty.


Article originally published on The Conversation France.

This article, based on a scientific paper, is published as part of the FNEGE-The Conversation France partnership around the États Généraux du Management held in Toulouse on May 26 and 27, 2016 on the theme "The Impact of Management Science Research". It was co-authored by Cédric Baudet (HES-SO), Michel Kalika (IAE-Lyon), Vincent Mottet (Business Science Institute) and Frédéric Favre (Business Science Intitute).

Managers do not read scientific articles in management. Worse, they don't even know that management research exists! This deliberately provocative assertion is based on the "barometer on the expectations of companies in terms of management research" of the Fondation Nationale pour l'Enseignement de la Gestion des Entreprises (FNEGE). What is the point of producing scientific knowledge in management if companies are unaware of its existence or do not benefit from it?

Whispers are heard in the academic world to denounce the minor impacts of management research, the inapplicability of its results or even its uselessness. Is it the fault of researchers' communication methods, which are far removed from those of companies? Is it the fault of research that is far removed from the concerns of practitioners? Is it the fault of the weak collaboration between researchers and practitioners during the implementation of research results?

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that organizations are necessary fields of study for the production of management knowledge. Could the transformation of managers into doctoral candidates be a way of bringing these two worlds, business and research, closer together?

Knowledge created by managers

Nonaka wrote in 1991 that knowledge can emerge from a researcher, a manager or a collaborator. Thus, knowledge production is not reserved for researchers. As proof, let's explore three researches conducted between 2012 and 2015 by managers in the framework of a doctorate in business administration (DBA).

The first manager wondered how to implement strategic environmental management for a cross-border territory. The knowledge created and transmitted by an action research identified potentials such as the reduction of pollutant emissions, traffic fluidity, improvement of biological indices and financial gains of up to hundreds of millions of euros through a change in organizational learning.

The second manager investigated whether the perception of adaptive performance of local managers is similar to that of their supervisor. Using intervention and quantitative research, it was found that women tend to evaluate themselves less well than men and that managers with tertiary education have better adaptive performance than those with less education. A lot of useful knowledge for developing the human resources of one's organization was created and is passed on in executive seminars.

The third manager explored how user participation influences success in the implementation of information systems. Beyond the theoretical knowledge created as an answer to this question in his DBA thesis, pragmatic advice for IS implementation was passed on by writing a chapter for managers in a collective work.

Advantages and limits of the position of a manager-researcher

The reflections of the manager-researcher on the day-to-day life of the company allow him to propose relevant research questions for the organizations. This proximity to the field gives them a significant advantage and facilitates access to data. The manager-researcher can thus conduct research "in and with" the organization rather than "on" the organizations. He will then opt for a transformative rather than contemplative approach.

While we have suggested that easy access to data is an advantage, it can also raise some difficulties. Indeed, the data available is often vast, unstructured and scintillating. In addition, the manager-researcher must know how to distance himself from the observed object that he knows very (too) well! To do this, he must confront his ideas with researchers through scientific communications.

For a manager-doctoral student, regular contact with his or her thesis supervisor is a welcome way to step back. Doctoral schools (PHD or DBA) are important places to acquire the theoretical skills necessary to conduct quality research, even if it is conducted in and for a company.

Why does a manager-researcher want to create knowledge?

The need for recognition seems to be a driving force behind the creation of knowledge by managers. This recognition can take different forms, such as the feeling of respect from one's family and friends in the face of the difficulties of reconciling a professional activity with research activities, or even respect for one's past achievements.

In addition to creating knowledge, the manager wishes to transmit it. Thus, the manager-researcher transmits knowledge within his organization. Moreover, by publishing academic papers, he submits to the rigorous process of transmission of scientific knowledge. We also note that the manager-researcher willingly accepts to transmit knowledge to business school students. Finally, the manager-researcher writes articles for the general public to disseminate the knowledge created and may also publish books. The transmission is then also a vector of recognition creation. This is a great way to complete the creation - transmission - recognition loop!

Management sciences are action sciences. The participation of companies is therefore fundamental to develop the impact of management research. Without wanting to replace the teacher-researcher whose contributions are no longer in question, the manager-researcher can participate in the creation and transmission of knowledge.

Of course, the modes of coordination between the world of business and research are still to be developed. One answer could be the appointment of manager-researchers to the position of associate researcher, provided that they have an adequate academic background. Wouldn't this finally be a recognition of the researchers by the practitioners and therefore also a step in the recognition of the practitioners by the researchers?

Article translated from French with


Read also...

Cédric Baudet's articles on The Conversation France.

Cédric Baudet's books & articles via

Michel Kalika's articles on The Conversation France.

Michel Kalika's books & articles via


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