Overcoming the Problem With Solving Business Problems

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Todd Bridgman of the Victoria University of Wellington, Colm McLaughlin of the University College Dublin, and Stephen Cummings of the Victoria University of Wellington. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Overcoming the Problem With Solving Business Problems: Using Theory Differently to Rejuvenate the Case Method for Turbulent Times,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Bridgman recounts the motivations and innovations of this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

Our interest came from our experiences as case writers and teachers. Early cases we developed were well received, so we attended case writing and teaching workshops to further our skills. This led to two realizations. First, we came to see that analysis of the cases largely took place in a theoretical vacuum. This seemed limiting, because we had always found theory useful for seeing situations from multiple perspectives. Second, theory, when it was applied to cases, was only given a narrow active role. It was only seen as useful if it was a ‘tool ’applied to fix or solve real-life ‘business problems’ which were generally seen in immediate financial profit and loss terms. This struck us as too narrow. Wasn’t there more to studying management than solving business problems? And doesn’t theory have more useful purposes than being a profit-maximization tool? These experiences got us interested in delving deeper into the history of the case method and the role of theory in utilizing cases in teaching.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

We’ve watched closely the global political-economy since the financial crisis hit a decade ago, and we see parallels with what happened in the United States following the financial crises of the 1920s and 1930s. Both periods of turbulence were followed by a deep questioning of the prevailing free-market capitalist model. We see today in Brexit, American politics, the rise of nationalism in Europe and elsewhere a fundamental challenge to a 30-year consensus around neoliberalism. This has implications for management education, because business schools that have been strongly aligned to the neoliberal worldview now risk being seen as out of step with this new political landscape. We were interested in looking back to the 1920s and 1930s to see how business schools like Harvard responded to the crisis, to give us insight on how schools might respond today. In HBS’ past we found the seeds of a critical, reflexive management education, which encourages students to question dominant assumptions and ideologies. The aim of the paper is to think about how we could adapt the case method to incorporate this kind of approach.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

It is widely accepted that we should learn from history, but what is less understood is how we are limited by the histories that we have. Our paper is innovative by exploring the case method’s forgotten past at HBS. In response to the crises of the 1920s and 1930s HBS’ leaders understood the need for a business education that didn’t just blindly support capitalism but seriously questioned its development for the good of humanity. But these events have been largely airbrushed from the school’s history because they challenge the neoliberal worldview that the modern HBS wished to promote in the last half of the 20th century. HBS has a more diverse and interesting past that is conveniently forgotten by supporters, and therefore unseen by the critics. Our paper will have impact if it stimulates new research on the case method and if it provides greater legitimacy for case writing and teaching that does more than train students to solve immediate ‘business problems’. We want to inspire a rejuvenated role for theory and a more reflective and thought-provoking case method that is a better fit for today’s challenging, multi-faceted times.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from the Journal of Management Education and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!




Case in Point: Changing a brand’s image to better connect with consumers

[The following post is re-blogged from SAGE Business Cases. Click here to view the original article.]Case and Point 3How can a brand reposition itself to make it both accessible and attractive to a modern generation?

Interested in developing a larger audience, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour replaced its stuffy and elitist ambiance by increasing its social media presence and allowing the use of cell phones at golf tournaments. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA,) on the other hand, continues to struggle with building its audience in the United States and finding and maintaining sponsors. These branding challenges are explored in a case study from SAGE Business Cases.

Your case focuses on marketing and sponsorship issues faced by the LPGA. Can you give a brief summary of some of the LPGA’s recent struggles?

It is our impression that the new commissioner has focused on international initiatives- tour locations, sponsors, media, etc.  Also, recently there has been more internationally diverse players and winners than just US and Korea.  The international focus is appealing for foreign companies and multinational companies looking to increase their awareness.

Your case study examined how athlete endorsement deals are beneficial for the endorsed athlete and for the sponsoring company. How important is it for a sports organization to have a marketable “celebrity superstar?” Is it possible for this to be facilitated or controlled by the organization itself, or does it depend on a single athlete’s natural talent and charisma?

Both. In terms of long term consistency, a league or tour needs to stand on its own. There are many examples of sport that vacillates depending on the presence of a celebrity superstar. The best situation is a combination where there are many stars who rejuvenate the sport on a continuous basis.

Your case touches on the LPGA’s English-only policy and its lack of emphasis on international players. How can approaching policy decisions through an international perspective benefit a sports organization?

The growth of sport is international. Whether it from a players or business perspective, long term viability has to cross national borders. This is especially true with our case where the presence of international players ushered in an international expansion.

Are similar marketing and sponsorship troubles faced by other women’s sports leagues/associations, such as the WNBA?

Many women’s leagues face many of the same issues. The WNBA has a bit of a different situation. It has a steadier financial situation due to its association with the NBA and the league has some international players. The LPGA has more of an international presence and financial need for it.

Can you share any tips for new instructors using this case in their course?

This case is relevant for sport management and international business courses. The authors recommend encouraging students to be creative with their ideas but use academic research to support their recommendations.

Learn more by reading the full case study The LPGA’s Battle for Success: A Discussion of Sponsorship in Relation to the Organizational Decisions of the LPGA from SAGE Business Cases, open to the public for a limited time. To learn more about SAGE Business Cases and to find out how to submit a case to the collection, please contact Rachel Taliaferro, Associate Editor: rachel.taliaferro@sagepub.com.

Are Private Schools Better Managed?

This post previously appeared on the NIESR blog.

In recent years governments of all hues have urged private schools to sponsor state schools to help raise education standards in state schools. In 2012 Lord Adonis, who had earlier been Labour’s Minister for Schools, argued that successful private schools, whose “DNA” incorporated “independence, excellence, innovation, social mission”, should sponsor state academy schools. Subsequent Coalition and Conservative governments have adopted the same policy with the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto aiming for at least 100 independent schools to sponsor an academy or start a free school.

The policy is not evidence-based. Instead it has been assumed that private schools’ successes are founded on superior management. There is no doubt that, even allowing for the normally affluent social background of private school pupils, these children on average perform well in exams, compared to their state-educated peers. Private schools also deliver a broad curriculum and provide a full sporting and cultural education beyond the class room. How do they do that? Most obviously, because they deploy hugely greater resources, and because the schools are able, through their pupil selection, to concentrate on a generally aspirational peer group. But neither of these advantages are supposed to be part of the sponsorship policy.

Rather, governments have presumed that private schools might convey the desired ethos of aspiration and excellence through improvements in management practices. In our article Do private Schools Manage Better, published in the February issue of the National Institute Economic Review, we present findings from the first large-scale study to test the proposition that cutting-edge human resource management (HRM) practices are more prevalent in private sector schools compared to state sector schools.

It is often presumed that the competition organizations face in the private sector drives up the quality of management, compared to that found in the public sector. Yet whether competition for pupils is that much fiercer among private schools, as compared with the competition among state schools, is a moot point. What is known is that autonomy from government is found sometimes to be beneficial. Private schools do have more autonomy than state schools – over pupil selection and the size of their budget – but otherwise British state schools have, by international standards, plenty of freedom to manage their budgets and their staff. Like state schools, private schools vary a lot. The private schools certainly have their quota of management problems – witness the many smaller schools that have been recently found wanting by Ofsted, criticised for “fundamental weaknesses in expertise”, their heads having no educational training.

Prior to our study there was one study finding no evidence that management practices in private schools in Britain are more advanced than in state schools. Their index of management practices, which was correlated with student performance, covered operations, monitoring, target-setting and people management practices. They applied this index in several countries. In the UK, where they had a small sample of 100 schools, they found no overall difference between the index score of the private schools and the score of the state schools they looked at.

Our study looked at 406 schools, including 79 that were private. We focused on 48 human resource management practices that are known to be associated in many industries with high levels of staff commitment and performance. They covered 8 domains: incentives, record-keeping, targets, teams, training “Total Quality Management”, Participation, and Selection. Although private schools were ahead of state schools in terms of record-keeping, on the whole it is the state schools who scored more highly across most domains, as well as in terms of our summary management score.

As expected, the variation in management practice between schools is considerable, so it is quite possible to imagine that well-managed schools might have something to pass on to less-well-managed schools.  But this might just as easily be a state school helping a poorly managed private school, as the other way round. At any rate, there seems to be no evidence in support of a general policy of private schools sponsoring state schools, if that sponsorship is focused on the sharing of management expertise.

There remains much to be learned about the good management of state schools, but we are not optimistic that anything of substance on a large scale is likely to be gained by bringing in private school managers.

Acknowledgement: Alex Bryson thanks the Nuffield Foundation (grant EDU/41926) for funding. Francis Green acknowledges support from the ESRC-funded LLAKES Centre for Research on Learning and Life Chances (grant ES/J019135/1). The views expressed are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the funders. All errors and omissions remain the sole responsibility of the authors.

Understanding How Business Influences Public Policy

congress-column-1018004_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors David Coen of University College London and Matia Vannoni of the Università Bocconi. They recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The Strategic Management of Government Affairs in Brussels,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Vannoni reflects on the motivations and innovations of this research:


What motivated you to pursue this research?

Business touches every aspect of regulation and as such, understanding how business influences public policy and how it organizes political affairs is important. While government affairs have been well studied in the US and concepts such as revolving doors are now the accepted norm, we decided to focus on government affairs in the EU and explore how a different political institutional structure and business culture may affect business political action and organization.

As such, we decided it was time someone started to unbox the company and look at what is going on inside. This project seeks to study the day to day functioning of government affairs inside firms, asking questions like: who works in government affairs in companies, where these managers come from (where they studied and where they worked previously), which role they have inside the firm and so on.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Traditional approaches in management, political science and economics help us understand many aspects of corporate political activity, but not how government affairs are organized within the firm. This project studies how the political institutional environment affects the firms’ micro strategic decisions, such as the size, political functions and staffing of government affairs.

The project is innovative in both its data collection and empirical focus. First, the paper seeks to build an original data set on EU business political organization. Previous studies have tended to focus on single case studies and have been US focused. In this project, for the first time, we create a sample of more than 300 companies from different countries and industries and, by relying on different sources, we map their EU corporate political activities and the organization of their government affairs. We gathered data on how much companies spend in lobbying activities, whether they use external consultancies, how many individuals they employ in their government affairs office, who these individuals are, what their functions are and so on. As such, this is the first study of this kind.

It terms of findings, we show that in Brussels we see less “revolving doors” between business and EU institutions, rather the process is more a “sliding door” mechanism, where influence is a function of expertize, credibility and reputation. As such, the staff in government affairs is more likely to be technical experts, with long run careers in the industry rather than former politicians and civil servants.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

The advice we give to new scholars who wish to study corporate political activity is to always try to create bridges between disciplines, both theoretically and empirically. For instance, this project bridges the gap between the political science literature on lobbying and the management literature on capabilities. Yet, this is not enough. Future research in this field should continue this cross-fertilization, by, for instance, looking at how the public management literature might help explain the interaction between business and society. At the empirical level we would encourage the collection of large-N data, increased comparative research and potentially the introduction of experiments, which are currently in vogue in public management.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Business & Society and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Monument photo attributed to ssalae. (CC)

Call for Papers: Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy

EEX_72ppiRGB_powerpointMake an impact on Entrepreneurship teaching and submit to Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy!

Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy (EEP) is USASBE’s peer-reviewed opportunity for entrepreneurship educators to both publish their scholarship and showcase their practice. EE&P aims to provide a forum for the dissemination of research, teaching cases, and learning innovations focused on educating the next generation of entrepreneurs.

For more details click here.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically to http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/eex.

You will need to create an account in order to submit your manuscript. The system will notify you once we receive the manuscript and have sent it out for review.

Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts through the journal homepage so you never miss the latest research.

Customer Value Management— a Sequential Process of Creating, Quantifying, and Capturing Value

Srishti 2We all talk about value. It is something that is mentioned on every website, on every company brochure and on every booth at trade shows. For some of us, value is financial or economic, while for others it is relationship-based or perceptual. Marketing and sales practitioners discuss value in the context of buyer–seller interactions. Strategy scholars focus on the extraction of value from the firm’s value resources (Bowman & Ambrosini, 2000). The bottom line is that we all define and understand value differently. This is why value is so difficult to comprehend, to operationalize and to improve.

One question that is still debated in various literature streams and widely discussed in firms’ practitioner circles is that ‘Is value created, captured, exchanged or appropriated?’ Scholars might be aware of these differences, but in the field of practice, it is another reality. Of course, the answer to the question is not that simple. Two critical factors influence it: How do you define value, and value for whom?

An article from the Journal of Creating Value aims to repeat, reinforce and rationalize the concept of customer value and to propose a process for managing customer value holistically and sustainably. It highlights the need for practitioners to manage customer value formally through the institutionalization. This article intends to clarify the difference between the three steps of customer value management. It posits that customer value management needs to be a formal process in organizations and that this process needs to be formally managed as well. In order to do so, organizations need to focus on the development of customer value management capabilities across the three stages of the Customer Value Management process: creation, quantification, and capture. The article concludes by stating that it cannot be just created, it is something that needs to be managed.

Register here to read full article!

Click here to read Customer Value Is Not Just Created, It Is Formally Managed for free from Journal of Creating Value

Make sure to sign up for e-alerts

Call for Papers: Compensation & Benefits Review

CBR_42_1_72ppiRGB_powerpointCompensation & Benefits Review (CBR) is the leading journal for senior executives and professionals who design, implement, evaluate and communicate compensation and benefits policies and programs. The journal supports human resources and compensation and benefits specialists with up-to-date analyses on salary and wage trends, labor markets, pay plans, incentive compensation, retirement programs, and health care benefits.


When you submit to CBR, you will get:

  • Rigorous peer review of your research
  • Easy online manuscript submission through SAGE Track
  • Article-level metrics (or Altmetric scores) provide indicators of online impact and reach

For more information click here.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically to http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cbr.

You will need to create an account in order to submit your manuscript. The system will notify you once we receive the manuscript and have sent it out for review.

Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts through the journal homepage so you never miss the latest research.