Innovations That Inspire

Rice Business Wisdom

Recognition Year(s): 2019
School: Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University
Location: United States

Innovation Statement

Translating the most exciting research from Rice Business scholars into writing that is concise, compelling, and free of charge, Rice Business Wisdom shares Rice intellectual capital with ambitious employees and leaders of businesses, families, and communities.

Call to Action

When Rice Business Wisdom began three years ago, we wanted to meet three challenges:

  1. Share the most exciting research findings from our business scholars in a straightforward form, for maximum usefulness and accessibility to a variety of audiences from MBAs to non-specialists.
  2. Express Rice Business’ distinct values and view of business professionals’ role as contributors to society.
  3. Demonstrate the critical value of methodical, peer-reviewed evidence in decision-making—a process that includes protocols for challenging previous research and beliefs through the scientific method.

To achieve these goals, we created Rice Business Wisdom, a free, expertly written online magazine that has grown in three years to a weekly internet publication with five articles per week and a biannual print magazine.

To bridge the gap between the academy and the business of daily life, we quickly found, it was not enough to translate academic prose to colloquial speech. We needed to provide top-caliber storytelling, competitive with major newspapers and magazines; to show how our scholars’ research directly illuminates national conversations about business, power, ethics, and human relationships; and to engage the full spectrum of readers’ sensibilities. To achieve this, we include a constantly evolving variety of elements including Spanish-language translations, ethics analysis, humor from a Pulitzer-winning cartoonist, and feature stories on topics as diverse as executive pay, Mexican bureaucratic salaries, the role of gender in Chinese CEO succession, the psychology of family businesses, and second careers.

Innovation Description

In just three years, Rice Business Wisdom has gone from a repository of research summaries—a fairly conventional format—to a full-fledged general interest magazine. Rice Business Wisdom is now a weekly, five-story online publication with offerings that include an original research “translation,” original features citing faculty research, and a recurring research-based comic by Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Nick Anderson. While the publication is designed to be read on a phone, its production is meticulous. Each piece features the magazine’s signature cheeky headline, arresting image, and research takeaways. The features are reported according to top journalism standards by nationally published writers. The stories include narrative, opinion, Q&As on breaking news, videos, and service stories.

In what may be in a breakthrough in business publishing, Rice Business Wisdom’s weekly research “translations” shorten and recast peer-reviewed journal articles into colloquial language. These pieces are illuminated with examples from the news and brightened with witty language and anecdotes. The goal: to hone years’ worth of scholarship into incisive tools for everyday readers. The process takes up to six weeks. After translation by one of our national-level writers, each piece is revised by an editor to bring out its distinctive voice, reviewed by an additional in-house business editor for precision, vetted by professors themselves for accuracy, matched with a compelling photograph and headline, and then proofread and promoted in a weekly email tailored to reflect current national themes.

Innovation Impact

Over the course of three years, Rice Business Wisdom has had far-reaching impact:

  • Peer-reviewed business research cited in the publication has informed the national conversation in news, feature, and opinion articles in a range of major news outlets.
  • The publication has engaged an 8,514-person readership with weekly articles on business research, suited to a range of professional and personal needs.
  • The streamlined presentation of research ideas has amplified the use of peer-reviewed business scholarship on a range of national and international issues. Such research includes the work of professors James P. Weston and Eric Dane, who authored of a guide for survivors of Hurricane Harvey on how to assess flooded homes (with 2,236 page views on Rice Business Wisdom); professor Brent Smith, cited in an analysis of  leadership in a Hurricane Harvey flood shelter (with an average seven-minute engagement rate) and professor Scott Sonenshein, in Jennifer Latson’s New York Times piece on chronic illness and careers (144 reader comments)

Reference Links

Innovation Partners

Our innovation partnerships are informal relationships, based on mutual trust and shared rigorous scholarly and journalistic standards. In the past three years, Rice Business Wisdom has been proud to collaborate with the following media companies and individuals: The Houston Chronicle; InnovationMap Houston; English-to-Spanish translators Mayra Flamenco (Madrid) and Elena Vega (Houston); (Mexico City); magazine contributors Mary Lee Grant (political science professor, Kingsville), Gregory Beals (journalist, Barcelona), Tracy Barnett (journalist, Mexico City), Phillippe Diedrich (novelist and journalist, Sarasota), Claudia Feldman (journalist, Houston), Mitchell Shields (editor, Houston), Clifford Pugh (journalist, Houston), Nick Anderson (editorial cartoonist, Houston).