Being practical with theory: a window into business research
Universities have always had a reputation as ivory towers, within which deep intellectual debates take place and significant specialist research is undertaken. The public consensus is that much of this research is not understandable or even relevant to those outside the hallowed walls. To most people research is a mystery and the articles published by researchers in academic outlets are mostly unintelligible.
Those of us on the inside know that most researchers develop a real passion for the subject they investigate. They believe that what they are doing is important and that their findings could make a difference. They bemoan the fact that, unless it is a great medical or scientific breakthrough, news of significant research findings rarely makes the headlines in the public sphere. In the academic tradition we publish the results of our research in reputable academic journals as required by our job descriptions. We have little time, and are not encouraged, to ensure that our results are widely read by sections of the the public who might be interested in the research and who could potentially benefit from its results.
When they do have time to reflect on the impact of their work, most researchers are concerned not only on the way their findings influence other researchers in the area but also how they can influence day-to-day practice and policy making. In this regard, members of our research group, THEORI, have discussed ways to make their research more accessible to the public and this book is the result of those discussions.
THEORI is a research group located in the Faculty of Business at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Our name, THEORI, is an acronym of Transforming Human Enterprise: Organization, Responsibility and Innovation. We have around 40 members including academic staff, from full Professors to Early Career Researchers (ECR), Higher Degree Research (HDR) students, and Honorary Fellows. All of us are in some way concerned with ways of Transforming Human Enterprise (THE) with three sub-themes: Organization, Responsibility and Innovation (ORI) reflecting the breadth of research topics that our members study.
Although our research in the main focuses on investigations of many instances of practice we have chosen the acronym THEORI because theory is the common research element that brings us together. As academic researchers we are all attracted to, and rely on, theory as a means of giving our work authority and general applicability. Authority comes from the use in our research analysis of theories that have been widely used and stood the test of time. However theory is not something mysterious and exotic that belongs only to the realm of academia. Theories are the generalisations of what we have discovered from our own investigations of particular problems and situations. The general applicability of theory to practice come from the way we abstract the findings of our research into a model, framework or a theory that can be used in many situations other than the one where our research was conducted.
While good theory is crucial to the advancement of all academic disciplines, the development, use and application of theory are particular challenges in the emerging professional fields of organisation studies, management and marketing. In fact, in these fields, practice is usually instrumental in theory development and refinement. THEORI’s vision is to leverage the particular mix of expertise and experience among our members to build a reputation as leaders in the development and application of theory for all forms of 21st century human enterprise. In this book we present our understandings of existing theories, our expertise in the knowledgeable use of theory in research and the application of theory to sustain best practice, support policy development and guide organisational transformation.
No one can deny that we live in an era of enormous change. Through this book we hope to show that our research provides some understanding of what is happening and what may happen in the future in business, government and community organisations. We investigate the transformations that are occurring, as well as the why, how and where-to of these. On the one hand we identify those valuable things that do not, and should not, change so quickly. On the other we seek innovative and responsible ways to bring about desirable change in all forms of human enterprise.
The book brings together much of what THEORI members have learnt over many years of high quality research. It is written in a way that that we hope will appeal to anyone who is interested in organisational studies and management practice. With the collection of short articles in this book we aim to create a straight forward guide for researchers and practitioners on a range of theories used in the fields of management and organization studies. Collectively, THEORI members have spent many years studying significant real-world phenomena to do with how human enterprises organise and operate in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally responsible. We hope it will inspire both researchers and practitioners as they seek to generate and mobilise the knowledge that assists innovation and adaptation to ever-changing circumstances
We have organised the book in the following way. In Section 1 we explain some of the well-known theories we use: ones that have inspired other researchers over the years and influenced the practice of many organisations across the globe. In Section 2 we present some of the theories and frameworks that have been developed as a result of our research that we hope will be useful to others. In Section 3 we provide some of the phenomena to which THEORI members have applied existing theories, models and frameworks in their research. In Section 4 we present some ideas of how we believe our research applies to practice.
As an ebook we don’t expect that the book will be read “cover to cover”. We hope that readers can easily find their way around and will jump to the items that interest and inform them.
The ebook is available at: