Can stories and case studies be used as tools for management inquiry?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Yiannis Gabriel of the University of  Bath, UK. Gabriel recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Case Studies as Narratives: Reflections Prompted by the Case of Victor, the Wild Child of Aveyron,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Gabriel reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgWhat motivated you to pursue this research? The accidental discovery of a book on Victor, the wolf-child found in the French region of Aveyron in 1798, prompted me to revisit the question of what makes us human, what constitutes a meaningful and fascinating case study and how case studies can be used as part of teaching and research agendas. This essay examines what attracts scientific interest to particular case study, whether that of a single unusual individual like Victor, a particular organization or a particular event, like the VW emissions scandal or the Brexit referendum, and discusses some of the strengths and limitations of the cases we use as researchers and also as teachers. I reflect on the similarities and differences between case studies and stories, arguing that they are governed by different rules of narration and different narrative contracts between authors and audiences. Both case studies and stories are capable of yielding considerable insights within the framework of a narrative methodology; in the hands of skilled instructors, they can be powerful instruments for disseminating knowledge.

The essay examines how an aberrant of atypical case, like that case of Victor, can lead us to generalizations about the typical and asks what exactly constitutes a case? It probes the etymology of the word case that indicates a singularity, an individual occurrence, an event or a phenomenon. But a case can also be a container, a box, a briefcase, a suitcase. Like a briefcase, a case-study contains material that may or may not have value. Discovering such a case immediately announces a mystery – what does it contain, who does it belong to, what does it reveal? The value of a case study, like the value of the contents of a briefcase, rely on the ability of a subject to recognize them. An innocent eye may be mistaken in discarding a case as junk when in fact its content is priceless material and may be exploited for historical or other research or indeed for financial or business gain. Recognizing the value of a case requires a particular skill which not all researchers possess – many will miss the deeper significance or value of a particular case until somebody proves capable of unearthing it. Recognizing the value of a case is akin to recognize the potential uses of any empirical material including statistical materials, historical documents or even random observations.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings? The most challenging part was the realization that the obscure case of Victor continues to be alive today. The case has not ended and there are meaningful questions whether Victor was indeed abandoned at birth by his parents (like other legendary feral children), or whether he was abandoned much later in life on account of some congenital condition, whether he was a noble savage or indeed a child-martyr. This led me to argue that case studies do not have clear-cut beginnings and ends and can be reopened whenever a new interpretation or new clues emerge, much like police or psychiatric cases.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field? Many scholars are turning to qualitative research methods in the social sciences, using cases studies as core elements of their research. While there are a few standard reference points for the use of case studies (including vignettes, illustrations etc.) I believe that there is a dearth of critical reflection on the meaning of a case, its relevance and lessons. For example, the choice of particular cases may be dictated by a researcher’s esoteric interests or by a political agenda. To what extent can such cases be used as the basis for theoretical generalizations? Often a case is treated as a story. But in telling a story, a narrator can alter significant details, omit, exaggerate or improvise for effect. Are the same narrative distortions acceptable in the researcher who uses a case? What constitutes an ‘irrelevant’ detail and what detail offers crucial keys to a case’s deeper significance and meaning?

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Getting to Know Your Students and an Educational Ethic of Care

[We’re pleased to welcome author Thomas F. Hawk of Frostburg State University. Hawk recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled, “Getting to Know Your Students and an Educational Ethic of Care,” that is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Hawk shares background and motivation for pursuing this research:]

A sabbatical in 1996 that focused on critical thinking led me to discover the Philosophy of Education Society and the idea of an ethic of care. The more I explored the ethic of care literature, the more it resonated with me and gave me a vocabulary and a philosophical frame for describing and discussing my fundamental processes of facilitating the deep learning of my students. That journey of exploration continues to the present even though I retired from the university in 2009.

In 2003, a student who appeared to be struggling in my MBA capstone strategy course sent me an email asking me not to “give up on her” as she had some learning challenges that held her back from actively contributing to the case discussions. But she also complimented me on the caring and skillful ways in which I focused on my students’ learning development, provided extensive developmental feedback, and continually tried to get my students involved in the discussions. That email triggered a set of questions in my mind that led to the 2008 JME article, “Please Don’t Give Up on Me: When Faculty Fail to Care.” As I understand it, that was the first full length article in JME to address an ethic of care.JME_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg

As my journey into an ethic of care continued, I did research on the extent to which business ethics textbooks and journals addressed the issue of an ethic of care as an alternative ethical framework to the traditional ethical frameworks of virtue, deontological, utilitarian, and justice ethics. That research revealed an almost total absence of a consideration of an ethic care in business ethics textbooks and only a few articles on an ethic of care in the primary business ethics journals. I also became aware of the significant differences in the ontological/metaphysical assumptions made by the rationalistic and abstract universalistic individualism of traditional ethical frameworks and the relational, concrete, uniqueness of each situation that characterizes an ethic of care and its central focus on the well-being of the parties to the relationship and the relationship itself.

Chory & Offstein’s 2017 JME article (41-1), “Your Professor Will Know You as a Person: Evaluating and Rethinking the Relational Boundaries between Faculty and Students,” prompted me to write, “Getting to Know Your Students and an Educational Ethic of Care.” That article reflects my current exploration of the congruence among an ethic of care, Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy and process ethics, and a process perspective on teaching and learning (see Whitehead, 1929, and Oliver & Gersham, 1989, cited in the article). I now see an ethic of care as a way of being in the world, not just as an alternative ethical framework. But in the educational domain, the most important scholarly work I have read over the last year is: Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017). Time and the Rhythms of Emancipatory Education: Rethinking the Temporal Complexity of Self and Society. New York: Routledge.
Enjoy the reading.

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Designing Compensation Strategy with Game Theory Perspectives

[We’re pleased to welcome back Pankaj M. Madhani, Associate Dean and Professor of ICFAI Business School (IBS). Dr. Madhani is the author of “Salesforce Control and Compensation System: A Game Theory Model Approach which appeared in Compensation and Benefits Review, Volume 47, Issue 4, and is currently free to read for a limited time. From Madhani:]

The performance of a sales organization is positively influenced by ethical behavior of sales people. The design of salesforce control and compensation system is crucial in salesforce management as it plays an important role in influencing ethics of salespeople. To understand this relationship, this research applies game theory model in the areas of salesforce control and compensation system.

The propensity for sales people to make unethical choices can be reduced by designing an appropriate salesforce control system and a relevant compensation plan. Ethical behavior in sales organization can also be influenced by various organizational drivers such as ethical climate, code of ethics, hiring, selection and training process and ethical leadership. By such organizational influences, if a salesperson is motivated to act ethically by putting high efforts for building long term customer relationships, trust and loyalty, it results into a win-win situation for both sales people and the organization. Research has developed various frameworks, models and payoff matrices to validate application of game theory in the field of salesforce compensation. After considering multiple scenarios in the game to identify optimal payoff, research concludes that a sales organization is better off with outcome control when sales people behave honestly as it has the highest payoff among all other possibilities.

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Pankaj M. Madhani earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and law, a master’s degree in business administration from Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree in computer science from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and a PhD in strategic management from CEPT University.

He has more than 30 years of corporate and academic experience in India and the United States. During his tenure in the corporate sector, he was recognized with theOutstanding Young Managers Award. He is now working as a professor at ICFAI Business School (IBS) where he received the Best Teacher Award from the IBS Alumni Federation. He is also the recipient of the Best Mentor Award. He has published various management books and more than 300 book chapters and research articles in several refereed academic and practitioner journals such as World at Work Journal and the European Business Review. He has received the Best Research Paper Award at the IMCON-2016 International Management Convention. He is a frequent contributor to Compensation & Benefits Review and has published 19 articles on sales compensation. His main research interests include salesforce compensation, corporate governance and business strategy. He is also editor of The IUP Journal of Corporate Governance.

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Salesforce Control and Compensation System: A Game Theory Model Approach

Journal of Management Inquiry: Corruption Special Issue

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgThe July 2017 Special Issue of the Journal of Management Inquiry is now online to view! This issue focuses on the phenomenon of corporate corruption, with specific topics such as counterproductive behavior, corporate culture and ethics, and media framing. Below is an excerpt from the special issue introduction entitled “Expanding Research on Corporate Corruption, Management, and Organizations,” from authors Stelios Zyglidopoulos, Paul Hirsch, Pablo Martin de Holan, and Nelson Phillips:

Corruption is a major problem in much of the world. It often prevents economic development, causes inefficiency and unfairness in the distribution of resources, can be the underlying factor behind corporate failures and industry crises, can erode the social fabric of societies, and can have other major negative impacts in the well-being of individuals and societies….But, before we proceed to discuss the topic of corruption research, we should address the issue of what corruption is and note its complexity. Transparency International (2017) defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Similarly, Ashforth, Gioia, Robinson, and Treviño (2008) define corruption as “the illicit use of one’s position of power for perceived personal or collective gain” (p. 671). We believe we should enrich and expand this definition by differentiating between first- and second-order corruption….In this special issue, our purpose is not only to renew and extend the research agenda around corporate corruption, so that we can contribute toward a more sophisticated and complex understanding, but also to facilitate communication between different researchers.

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American Slaughterhouses: The Meatpacking and Methamphetamine Relationship

[We’re pleased to welcome author Josh A. Hendrix  of RTI International, Research Triangle Park. Hendrix recently published an article in the Organization & Environment entitled “American Slaughterhouses and the Need for Speed: An Examination of the Meatpacking-Methamphetamine Hypothesis,” co-authored by Cindy Brooks Dollar of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. From Hendrix:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? A few years ago, I was teaching an undergraduate Sociology of Social Deviance course.  In class one day, we were reflecting on an article we had just read and were bringing up examples of how deviant behavior can be influenced by structural or cultural factors that go beyond individual psychopathology.  I brought up an example I had recently come across in Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation; specifically, the notion that methamphetamine use can be a re122874634_b6873ca52d_z.jpgaction to social pressures for productivity within competitive Western societies.  Although the idea is provocative and made for a good example, I realized that there was no empirical research that could show whether there is in fact a relationship between animal slaughter and methamphetamine use in the United States.  I recruited one of my colleagues who I knew had the right skill set for this type of project:  an open, critical, and creative mind, and strong analytical skills, and the project really developed from there.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? We were surprised to find any support for Schlosser’s hypothesis that there is a connection between the meatpacking industry and methamphetamine use, simply because the idea is so radical and far out there.  At the same time, it was surprising that the relationship did not hold when breaking down our analysis by different types of meat.  This suggested to us that the relationship is more complex than we had first imagined but also made us realize that more research on this topic using different types of methods was necessary.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? We would love to see additional work on this topic, and especially a project that uses qualitative methods to elaborate on why methamphetamine may be used by slaughterhouse workers.  Alternatively, a study that examines methamphetamine usage prior to, and following the construction or relocation of slaughterhouses would be interesting and informative.

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Slaughterhouse photo attributed to benketaro (CC).

From the Ordinary to Corruption in Higher Education

[We’re pleased to welcome author Mildred A. Schwartz of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Schwartz recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “From the Ordinary to Corruption in Higher Education.” From Schwartz:]

When I moved to New Jersey after many years of teaching in Chicago, my interest as a political and organizational sociologist was piqued by theJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg kind of corruption I learned of.  Not fully satisfied with existing theories and explanations, I began thinking of how to approach corruption as a sociological phenomenon.  Then, when I read local press coverage about misconduct at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), I felt that I had found the ideal case
for exploring how corruption could arise even within such an unexpected setting–a university dedicated to the health care professions.

Of all the findings that came from my research, at least two were surprising.  One was the prevalence of many of the illegal or unethical behaviors found at UMDNJ in other U.S. universities that had medical schools.  The second was the ability of UMDNJ and other universities, despite misconduct, to still fulfill their duties to train health care professionals, advance scientific research, and treat the sick.

I would like to think that my findings will inspire efforts at controlling organizational corruption, particularly as it is manifested in higher education.  At least three guidelines emerged from the larger research, discussed in my book, Trouble in the University:  How the Education of Health Care Professionals became Corrupted (Brill, 2014).  One is the importance of enough transparency to allow organizational participants to understand how decisions are made.  Second is the need for accepted avenues through which to express complaints without fear of reprisal.   Third, and this is especially relevant to state-supported universities although it is not confined to them, is the need for firm boundaries between politics and education.

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Protecting Students’ Intellectual Property

14620308240_c746067daf_z[We’re pleased to welcome Sarah Wright of the University of Canterbury. Sarah recently published an article in Journal of Management Education entitled “Protecting Student Intellectual Property in the Entrepreneurial Classroom,” highlighting her interview with Jerome A. Katz of Saint Louis University.]

The interview I conducted with Jerry Katz looks into an important, but overlooked problem in entrepreneurial courses within universities – the ownership of student ideas. Who owns the intellectual property a student creates while enrolled in a course Current Issue Coverat university, using university resources? Jerry and I began talking about this dilemma at the Vancouver AOM meeting. I was puzzled as to why there has been no widespread discussion of this issue – in the literature, within universities, or in general?! It seems like everyone is scrambling for revenue streams for universities created from innovation and commercialisation, and in doing are so making sure the academics and the universities’ interests are protected. But it seems the students, and their families, interests have been forgotten in the process. We think this oversight, purposeful or otherwise, is quite worrisome. Professor Katz’s solution is to put the students’ interests at the heart of any university policy on commercialisation of intellectual property (which is only starting to happen now), and to create strong classroom norms around the protection of ideas.

The abstract for the paper:

While universities are intensely protective of revenue streams related to intellectual property interests for the institution and professors, the financial and legal interests of students in the entrepreneurial process have largely been overlooked. This lack of attention, both in universities and in the literature, is intriguing given the mushrooming growth in entrepreneurial education courses in almost every U.S. university. This article builds and reflects on an original article by Katz, Harshman, and Lund Dean where the authors advocate for establishing classroom norms for promoting and protecting student intellectual property. We present research, insights, and reflections from Professor Katz regarding the controversial ethical and legal issues related to student intellectual property in university settings and provide suggested resources for faculty traversing these issues.

You can read “Protecting Student Intellectual Property in the Entrepreneurial Classroom” from Journal of Management Education free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Journal of Management EducationClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Copyright symbol image attributed to Chris Potter (CC)