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Hitting the Focus Button

Jan. 10, 2012

Business researchers often talk about what something looks like. Seeing how an activity occurs and discussing it helps sharpen the focus and improve the results.

Two events, one in 2010 and another this year, honed that focus to a fine point. And an ongoing program at the McBride Center for International Business continues to bring international scholars to Baylor and send Baylor scholars abroad.

The 2010 event was a five-day symposium to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Baylor University's Center for Professional Selling. It was a research symposium like no other, with teams of scholars embarking on projects advancing the field of sales education.

About 50 attendees came from around the world for the event, which alumni contributions funded. Another two dozen participants served as reviewers for research projects. Ten teams each included at least one international faculty member as well as a young scholar, a mid-career scholar and a senior researcher. During the five days, the faculty developed research questions and outlines for articles, said Jeff Tanner, associate dean of Research and Faculty Development.

The teams worked extensively after the conference. They presented working papers at a May 2011 event hosted by the Academy of Marketing Science and heard feedback after standing-room-only sessions. The symposium took months of planning and will produce years of results. Andrea Dixon, executive director of the Center for Professional Selling, began planning the symposium about a year in advance to celebrate the Center's 25th anniversary.

Tanner said several things encouraged the research. "First, you are bringing people together who develop common interests and continue to collaborate," he said. Also, because each team includes veteran scholars, younger researchers receive continued encouragement to focus. Finally, the special anniversary issue of the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, which is publishing the works, "is likely to be influential because of the content."

Another event was this year's Transformative Consumer Research Conference (TCR), which encourages studies on "changing the world," said Brennan Davis, an assistant professor of Marketing who bid on bringing the event to Baylor. Donations allowed the university to provide food and housing for 100 attendees, which included international researchers who study how to transform the world by eliminating barriers between social change and business research.

Davis said those who follow the movement founded by David Mick of the University of Virginia challenge the ivory tower reputation of academia.

"We believe in the value of theory at a high level," Davis said. "We believe theory can be used and developed with the purpose of applying business principles to some of the world's biggest social problems."

Davis said both individuals and businesses are generous with donations for TCR, and research journals are interested in the work. "Very high level, respectable journals with plenty of content have contacted us," he said.

One of these is the Journal of Business Research. "It's not focused on social marketing or transformative marketing," Davis said. "It is interested in what we have to say to everyone, not just to smaller circles."

Twice-yearly McBride Fellowships continue to encourage international PhD students to study with professors to complete their dissertations. The program has produced more than a dozen co-authored papers either with former McBride Fellows or their dissertation supervisors. International students reciprocate by inviting Baylor faculty and PhD students to their universities.

"This collaboration has blossomed into really strong relationships," Tanner said. One TCR attendee is returning to Baylor as a McBride Fellow. Ten Fellows have gone through the program since 2005.

These activities set the agenda for research with an important international component. "We are using the conferences to develop relationships so that our research can be more global," Tanner said. "It puts a stake in the ground that we think these are important areas of research."

Visit the Baylor Business YouTube channel for videos of the Center for Professional Selling and the Transformative Consumer Research conference: www.youtube.com/baylorbusiness

Recently published books by faculty of Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business:

James Roberts

Professor of Marketing

Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing

Roberts, a leading researcher and expert on consumer behavior, wrote Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy, published by HarperOne, November 2011. Based upon the latest research on materialism and written in an easy to understand, upbeat style, with a touch of humor, Shiny Objects addresses how our obsession with possessions impacts our sense of self, the quality of our interactions with others, and our willingness to get involved in community affairs and social issues. Roberts' book helps readers examine their day-to-day behavior, offering tips and tools to change spending habits and develop smarter saving strategies. Shiny Objects reveals the key to reversing the devastating and ever-increasing effects of materialism in modern culture and explores how we can cultivate lives of real value. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

Pedro Reyes

Associate Professor of Operations Management

Director, Center for Excellence in Supply Chain Management

Reyes, recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on RFID technology, wrote RFID in the Supply Chain, published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, February 2011. The book offers insight to help companies decide whether, when and how to use RFID technology to improve supply chain management processes. Reyes includes 32 case studies of successful RFID implementation from companies like Gillette, Pro-X Pharmaceuticals and Walter Reed Army Medical Center to illustrate the range of RFID applications across industries. Along with a technical overview of RFID technology, coverage includes topics such as the advantages and limitations of RFID; RFID security and privacy concerns and solutions; improved supply chain visibility; and tracking, as well as a view of future implementations. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

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