Making the Case for the Social Sciences: Management
A video of the event is now available at
The sixth issue of the Academy's highly successful series of booklets containing stories of social science research that has made a difference to policy or practice was launched in Westminster on 18th June 2012 to an invited audience of policy makers and practitioners.
A strong evidence base is vital for policy making and the social sciences provide that background, said Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, addressing the audience at the launch event [right]. He went on to note the 'massive contribution that the academic community makes to [his department's] work.'
Dr Cable said that research summarised in the booklet showing that private equity buyouts performed more strongly than buyouts using other types of funding was useful. “This is quite an interesting conclusion that goes against the accepted wisdom but is quite relevant in terms of the work of this department in promoting non-bank finances.
He highlighted some of the other case studies set out in the booklet. These included work showing that foreign-owned firms which practised good employee participation did well, and research looking at how to tackle the cash-in-hand economy in Europe.
“There are also a whole lot of studies [in the booklet] not directly related to government polices which are quite important in terms of insights about the way that business functions,” he said.
The meeting then heard from some of the contributors to the collection.
Rajesh Bhatt, General Manager of Tata Quality, spoke about how management research helps business. Tata Group is the largest manufacturing firm in the UK and operates in over 80 countries worldwide. In 2007 it built upon its long history of innovation by inviting Professor Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School to help it develop its innovation work and embed it within the company. Professor Birkinshaw's work on the Innovation Value Chain was used to create a series of instruments by which levels of innovation could be measured and where improvements can be made as well as mechanisms by which innovation can be encouraged right across the global workforce. Download Rajesh Bhatt's presentation slides here (pdf).
Professor Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School noted that business schools carry out applied social science research, building on work from economics, psychology and elsewhere in an applied setting, looking critically at what goes on within business and then working with companies to bring about improvements. His work showed that innovation is a key to sustained success for any business and he described how he was approached by Tata in 2007 to help with their business improvement. He noted that, whilst many CEOs will say they lack time to investigate management research, Tata Group ensure that academic work is read and help is sought. In his work on innovation in companies, Professor Birkinshaw had found that these complex social systems can work against innovation so he had developed methods and tools by which innovation processes can be safeguarded, Download Professor Birkinshaw's presentation slides here (pptx) .
Dr Rebecca Homkes of the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE spoke about the World Management Survey, which has studies around 10,000 firms across the world over 10 years in order to see where best practice lies and what effect good management has on business performance. Through deliberately informal 'conversations' with senior managers, carried out by doctoral and MBA students under double-blind conditions, businesses were scored on their management practices which could then be correlated against business performance. Several clear correlations emerged, all of which highlight and underscore the value added to a business by good management. She particularly noted the importance of professionally trained managers and staff education at all levels. Download Dr Homke's slides here (pptx).
Iain Wright MP, Shadow Minister of State for Competitiveness and Enterprise at BIS and Labour MP for Harlepool, spoke about the 'fascinating times' we currently inhabit, with its crisis of capitalism and the need to develop new models which work to enable as many as possible within society to benefit from the fruits of economic growth. The new capitalism needs to recognise the central importance of juman capital and effective worker engagement in developing an economy that can support business. He joined others in emphasising innovation as a key to long term business success. He called for better relationships between business and wider society and business and the government, highlighting the need for an industrial strategy for the long term in which government departments and academics work together to ensure success. He welcomed ideas towards this new strategy.
Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE then talked briefly about her work on women on Boards of directors, which now provides official statistics for the UK. She reported a positive ongoing engagement with government and noted that the UK was one of three countries held up as a good example by the EU for its work in helping to increase the representation of women on boards.
A panel discussion with questions from the floor then took place. Topics touched on included: the need for a proper cost-benefit analysis of the value added to business in the UK by management training and improved management practices; the effect of competition on company behaviour and development; the need to make management training available to the SME sector, which is less able to pay for it, but which employs a very large proportion of the UK workforce and so has a great impact on national economic performance. Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, drew attention to a new CMI report showing that investment in management does leed to significant improvement in organisational performance and people productivity.
Hard copies of the booklet can be obtained free of charge from the Academy's Administrator, Vicky McGuinness (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). A pdf version can be obtained by clicking on the cover image here.
The Academy is very grateful to the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies (SAMS) for its generous sponsorship of both the publication and its launch.
We are also grateful to Academicians
who all donated considerable time and energy as the advisory group overseeing the project.