Making Business School Research Relevant

Dean and John E. Anderson Chair in Management of UCLA Anderson School of Management, Judy D. Olian, discusses how business research can move past academia and become relevant in practice.


Dan LeClair: [00:17] I would describe your attitude as passionate, but your attitude as optimistic. In a world where a lot of people are questioning the research that we do in business schools, I find this refreshing and helpful.

[00:28] Tell us a little bit about the source of that passion and about that optimism.

Judy Olian: [00:33] I'm increasingly passionate about the relevancy of what we do in business schools vis à vis the marketplace. I see that as both an opportunity, but also an imperative.

[00:47] What do I mean by relevancy in thought leadership?

[00:50] I gave a few examples of our faculty when were we in China. I talked about Professor Keith Chen on our strategy faculty, who was for two years the chief economist for Uber and developed the dynamic models for pricing, surge pricing, and demand pricing.

[01:18] That's an example of taking economic modeling and behavioral economics understanding and applying them to one of the most important concepts in the marketplace today, and that's a sharing economy.

[01:36] Another example is the work that was done by Professor Felipe Caro on the supply chain issues at Zara. What I think we need to do more of is build incentives and structures into our systems to make sure that translation in thought leadership happens and is brought into the classrooms.

[01:58] A couple of ways of doing that.

[02:00] One is the Marketing Science Institute model, the MSI model, where you have practitioners sit every year with researchers in marketing and identify the pain points in research that they want to see.

[02:17] A second is sabbaticals of faculty in industry, along the lines of what Professor Keith Chen did at Uber. That has totally enriched his research agenda. Obviously, it was a big benefit also to Uber, and has changed his thinking. That will fuel his research and his teaching.

[02:39] The third is really around the structures that we create in our own disciplinary structures. UCLA Anderson just created a Behavioral Decision Making group, the BDM group.

[02:53] It's comprised of people from all manners of disciplines who come from actually different areas; from management in organization, from marketing, from finance, from accounting, from strategy, from supply chain, from psychology, sociology, anthropology, across the university.

[03:13] We're indeed admitting doctoral students into the BDM area to benefit from this interdisciplinarity that we think much better mimics what's happening the marketplace, as opposed to stifling the research impact around our disciplinary structures.

LeClair: [03:32] The problems that your faculty are trying to solve are not just business ones but social problems, society problems as well. I also appreciate that you've offered some ideas about how we can make research even more relevant. Thank you for that, Judy.

Filmed February 2017 on site at AACSB's Deans Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.