Why Management Professors Should Write More Books

It is paradoxical that while so many books about management are being published, so few of them are by management professors. There are three mutually reinforcing reasons for this.

First, many fields within management have adopted a natural sciences research model that emphasizes publishing academic journal articles rather than books.

Second, the research component of the influential Financial Times global ranking of business schools is based on articles published in a list of 40 top-tier academic journals. Administrators attempting to improve a school’s rankings will therefore, as they say, incent faculty members to publish articles in those academic journals rather than books.

Third, business schools have been growing, which means hiring entry level faculty members. To get tenure, assistant professors need to publish quickly, and books take too long, so a business school with a young faculty – as most are – will concentrate on publishing academic journal articles.

Despite these reasons, there are a few management professors who continue to write books. I’ll suggest two important reasons why.

First, there are still some management professors, especially tenured full professors, who undertake big and ambitious research projects, and a book is the vehicle par excellance for publishing the results. A book is the place to publish a new theory, work out is implications and applications, and analyze the supporting evidence. A book is the place to synthesize a field or subfield. A book is the place to create a new field or subfield.

Here are a few examples at the Rotman School. Richard Florida wrote a book to explain and elaborate on his theory of the creative class. Andy Stark in a recent book addressed the complicated question of the shifting margin between public and private sector responsibilities in the US. In my own case, I found that a book was the best format for a comprehensive look at innovation in government, both in general and in a variety of different policy areas.

Books have the related advantage that they consolidate research in one place, rather than spread it around a number of different academic journals. A book is the place to go for the first word, last word, and the whole story in between.

The second reason for publishing a book is to reach a different and possibly larger audience. Journal articles are necessarily aimed exclusively at academic colleagues, who are the only people who read the journals. A book might also be read beyond one’s academic colleagues, possibly by practitioners and even the general public. Many academics aspire to write something that reaches out beyond his or her academic colleagues to a broader public, and a book is still the vehicle for doing that.

A three-part injunction for living a full life, attributed to the nineteenth century Cuban independence leader and writer Jose Marti, is to plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. I hope that more management professors, particularly those with the security of tenure, will embrace the third part.

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