Business Research

Research with Impact

We know that Thomas A. Edison gave us the first workable light bulb more than a century ago, but we don't know every process he went through to produce the "electric lamp." One argument he offered critics of his numerous theoretical processes was that they were not failures because they helped him find "10,000 ways that won't work."

His best answer to critics was, of course, the light bulb itself. His successful research led to a product that improved life for everyone. Perhaps Edison started only with a good idea and thousands of unworkable theories, but as we consider the benefits of artificial lighting today, the "ways that did not work" don't matter very much.

Successful research often starts with a belief that you will find something that will make a difference. With business schools spending millions of dollars a year to support faculty research, our findings should matter, and at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, we have conducted studies that matter for decades.

This issue of Focus highlights some of our practical results. The stories presented here take readers on a journey that connects Hankamer professors and students with global businesses and international trade agreements, health care reform, the effects of work on home life and vice versa, the impact of abstinence programs on teenagers, cyber security, and many other areas. Name an issue that affects people, and our professors have studied it, taking students with them in the exploration. In one story offered here, a graduate student led the expedition into how a business networking site reduced turnover at a large organization.

But how do you measure the impact? Academics everywhere struggle for an answer, because metrics are elusive. One problem is that our knowledge is often published in journals not widely available to the business community or to the community at large. Sometimes, results are taking shape even as the researcher moves to new projects.

We have to use alternative measurements, and they are more subtle than quantitative figures. One business school accrediting body, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), of which Baylor is an accredited member, defines effective research as diverse, highly visible, and accessible to the public at large.

We can use these factors as measuring sticks:

• the number of times a published article is cited
• the number of awards its authors receive
• testimony before a government or other policy-making body changes in business practice
• requests to present papers at important gatherings
• sales numbers of books

The research we present here measures up in all those ways and more. The results clearly demonstrate that research with impact offers positive results immediately and that intensive, targeted research, widely disseminated, can help individuals, governments and businesses worldwide negotiate today's landscape while planning for next month or next year, or even 20 years into the future.

Terry S. Maness
Dean, Hankamer School of Business

Terry Maness
Baylor University