Lost in Translation: How Relevant is the Relevance Debate in Academia?

By Stephan Manning.

Management scholars have the habit of regularly questioning the relevance of their own research for society. For example, Jerry Davis and Steve Barley recently debated in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly whether management research should aim for novelty or truth in order to be more meaningful. Mats Alvesson and Andre Spicer discuss in their recent article whether academic rigor and compliance with norms of high-status journals, or creative autonomy and variety can make management research more interesting and relevant. On the surface these questions are justified: management research is meant to be useful or have social impact, yet very little management research has any significance for practice. This is partly because practitioners do not read academic journals, and because our research agendas and methods have little to do with how managers or policy-makers make decisions. But do shifts from novelty to truth, or from rigor to variety, make any difference? In fact, is this whole debate about relevance relevant at all?

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Deskilling 4.0? How Office Jobs Look Like in 2020

By Stephan Manning.

Not long ago, many in the U.S. and Western Europe feared the loss of white-collar jobs through offshoring and outsourcing. Now, experts predict the replacement of office jobs worldwide through smart technology. According to a study by World Economic Forum (WEF), which was prepared for the annual meeting in Davos last weekend, around five Million office jobs across major economies will be made redundant by 2020 through advanced technology. For the same reason, new tech start-ups will require less and less staff, according to WEF founder Klaus Schwab. Some call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the fusion of technologies, and use of artificial intelligence to process the internet and big data. To illustrate, twenty years ago, preparing for legal cases would require law firms to process masses of legal documents by their own staff. Ten years ago, some of that work would have been gradually outsourced to legal process outsourcing firms in India and other developing countries employing lower-cost skilled labor. Now, legal documents are increasingly analyzed by data processing software semi-automatically. Are we seeing a new wave of ‘deskilling’ – the devaluation of human labor through technology? While many jobs might be replaced entirely, affecting in particular the developing world, the WEF report suggests that also two Million new jobs will be created, especially for high-skilled software engineers. But that may not be the whole story. I discuss another type of ‘job’ that is likely to emerge – the semi-skilled ad-hoc office worker who cleans up the mess smart robots leave behind.

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The Enloe Strikes Back at the Phantom Menace of Business Militarization

By Keshav Krishnamurty.

UMass Boston was honored to host distinguished guest speaker Prof. Cynthia Enloe (Clark University) during the lunch session of the AIBNE Frontier Conference on October 23, 2015. Prof. Enloe is one of the most prominent and distinguished scholars in the world to study the complex intersections of feminism, women, the military, war, politics and the international economy.

After being introduced by Prof. David Levy (UMass Boston College of Management), Prof. Enloe spoke about how she spent a lot of time thinking about the field of militarism and the processes of militarization, the processes by which anything and anybody can be infused with militaristic ideas and depends for their well-being on militarization. These processes can occur at the macro-level and micro-level, from daily life to public policy. Her talk, she said, would be about the militarization of business, a process that happens in several different ways.

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Bringing Gender from the Dark Side to the Light in International Development and Management

By Keshav Krishnamurty. 

A panel on Gender, International Development and Management was hosted on October 23 at UMass Boston as part of the Academy of International Business US-Northeast conference, including panelists Banu Ozkazanc-Pan (UMass Boston College of Management), Kade Finoff (UMass Boston College of Liberal Arts, Economics Department), Cynthia Enloe (Clark University, Worcester) and Deborah Jones (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) with Alessia Contu (UMass Boston College of Management) as the moderator.

The discussion began with Alessia Contu noting that any conversation about gender lands up with an all-female panel, and stating that it is important how scholars teach gender to their students. Some excerpts follow:

(Question) Alessia Contu: What does it mean to think about gender seriously in political economy?

Banu Ozkazanc-Pan : Gender is the complex interaction between biological sex, identity and perception of gender role/gender expression. It’s not just about women! “Genderblind” does not relate to gender-neutral outcomes. It’s like when students conduct a SWOT analysis of a company, there are assumptions being made about gender in business all the time. Who’s going to benefit from a cost-effective workforce? What are the real gender consequences of those decisions? What we research, practice and teach about international management needs to include all those. Continue reading

The Force of Political Economy Awakens at UMass Boston

By Keshav Krishnamurty.

AIBNE Panel I

Two weeks ago, UMass Boston played host to the Academy of International Business (AIB) US-Northeast 2015 Frontier Conference themed “Bringing the Political Economy back in” (October 22-24), facilitating a broad discussion and engagement on the issue of Political Economy and International Business amongst leading academics from top universities across the world. The first highlight of this conference was the panel “Challenges to International Business Research: Bringing the Global Political Economy back in”, featuring panelists Mona Makhija (Fisher College of Business), John Cantwell (Rutgers University), Rajneesh Narula (University of Reading, UK) and Ravi Ramamurti (Northeastern University), with Suhaib Riaz (UMass Boston College of Management) as the panel moderator. This panel underlined the great importance of political economy perspectives and raised some fundamental issues for future research.

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Science vs. Business?

By David Levy, UMass Boston.* 

The fossil fuel industry’s campoil refineryaign to deny climate change and oppose the regulation of greenhouse gases is a well-researched and publicized story. Much less is known, however, about the role of corporate scientists in shaping the internal perspectives on climate change in these companies, and the impact on corporate response strategies. Recent revelations by InsideClimate News show that from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Exxon funded its own scientists to engage in a serious research program, which pointed to conclusions that broadly matched those of the broader climate science community. Indeed, during the 1980s, Exxon put plans on hold to develop the massive Natuna gas field off the coast of Indonesia, because of concerns that nearly two-thirds of the gas was carbon dioxide, and there was no economically viable way to capture and dispose of it.

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Is the Volkswagen Scandal Surprising? How Profitability Pressures Drive Corporate Misconduct

By Stephan Manning.

The Volkswagen diesel scandal has been dominating recent news headlines. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accusing the German automaker of using a ‘defeat device’ that manipulates results of health-threatening nitrogen oxides emissions tests by switching the engine to a low-emissions mode when detecting a test. Following the accusations two weeks ago, VW’s stock price has dropped by 40%; Martin Winterkorn has lost his job as CEO; VW will be removed from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index; and the German multinational is facing a lasting damage to its long-built reputation. On top of that, the automaker will need to refit up to 11 Million diesel cars and vans running with the ‘defeat device’ worldwide, incurring costs of $7.3 Billion or more. Current investigations focus on various top executives responsible for letting the fraud happen, including research and development (R&D) managers Ulrich Hackenberg and Wolfgang Hatz. But is the scandal just the result of the ‘criminal energy’ of individuals, or is it a more systemic problem? Do rising pressures in a competitive global economy – meeting customer needs and shareholder expectations, driving down costs, adhering to norms and standards – perhaps promote individual cheating and corporate misconduct?

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