Evidence based management challenges partial solutions
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Evidence-based Management: Challenges & Partial Solutions. Sara L. Rynes Evidence-Based Management Conference University of Groningen November 7-8, 2011. What IS Evidence-based Management (EBM)?.

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Evidence based management challenges partial solutions

Evidence-based Management: Challenges & Partial Solutions

Sara L. Rynes

Evidence-Based Management Conference

University of Groningen

November 7-8, 2011


What is evidence based management ebm

What IS Evidence-based Management (EBM)?

“Evidence-based management is about making decisions through the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of four sources of information: practitioner expertise and judgment, evidence from the local context, a critical evaluation of the best available research evidence, and the perspectives of those people who might be affected by the decision.”

Briner, Denyer & Rousseau, 2009


Not everyone is impressed

Not Everyone Is Impressed…

“Fact-based” figures into a new suite of verbal tics that I find especially annoying: reality-based, evidence-based, knowledge-based. “As opposed to what?”, I am always tempted to ask.

Alex Beam

Boston Globe

July 8, 2011


What stands in the way of ebm

What Stands in the Way of EBM?

  • Practitioner side

    • Lack of awareness of research findings

    • Disbelief or dislike of research findings

    • Non-implementation of research findings

  • Academic side

    • Insularity, “incestuousness”

    • Publishing norms and reward structures

    • “Evidence wars”


Practice barrier 1 lack of awareness

Practice Barrier 1: Lack of Awareness

  • Management not a profession

    • No required education or certification

  • Limits to education (e.g., MBA)

  • Limits to post-education

  • Academics not on most practitioners’ “radar screen”


Practitioner barrier 2 awareness but disbelief

Practitioner Barrier 2: Awareness, but Disbelief

  • Some areas where practitioners (and some academics) disbelieve research findings

    • Decision aids for selection (Highhouse, 2008) & use of evidence by juries

    • Validity of intelligence for predicting performance (Hunter & Schmidt, 1998)

    • Average effectiveness of goal setting vs. “empowerment”


Commonalities in findings associated with disbelief

Commonalities in Findings Associated with Disbelief

  • Threats to self-image or threatening implications for self outcomes

  • Dislike of findings that imply reduced control (Pinker)

    • (Intelligence, goals, actuarial formulae)

  • Dislike of findings that describe humans in terms of discrete traits(vs. holistic, individuated “bundle”)

  • Dislike of “being a number; being like everyone else”

    • “Uniqueness paradox” (Rousseau)


The uniqueness paradox

“The Uniqueness Paradox”

  • “But that’s a different industry”

  • “But we already hire smart people”

  • “But we already have a better hiring system than most”

  • “But we have other objectives than performance”

Would we use the same logic with our doctor?


Other barriers to belief distrust of science scientists

Other Barriers to Belief:Distrust of Science/Scientists

  • Increasing funding of scientific studies by corporate interests

  • “You can find a scientist who’ll say anything”

  • Findings keep changing (medicine, diet)

  • In U.S.: Concerted, systematic attacks on science per se (based on politics and religion)

    • Embryonic stem cells

    • Sexual abstinence

    • Climate

    • Evolution


Evidence based management challenges partial solutions

This book is a wake-up call to all Americans who value intellectual honesty and civility in our national affairs. Mooney’s exposure of the cynical collusion of special business interests with the anti-intellectualism of the religious right is a must-read for all who care about this nation’s future.

(Russell Train, EPA Administrator for Nixon & Ford)


Practitioner barrier 3 belief but no implementation

Practitioner Barrier 3:Belief but No Implementation

  • Johns (Personnel Psychology, 1993): Management research ideas looked at as administrativerather than technologicalinnovations.

  • Agency theory: Does reader of research act as an agent?

  • Pfeffer & Sutton (Knowing-Doing Gap): Company differences in research receptivity

  • Rogers (Diffusion of Innovations, 2003) & Tetlock (ASQ, 2000): Also individual differences in receptivity

  • Ferlie et al. (AMJ, 2005): Role of professionals; need to elevate to higher levels of analysis


Potential solutions warning

Potential Solutions: Warning

I think all the evidence about innovation in general practice points to the fact that rarely, very rarely, does a single method change people’s behaviour.

(Primary care doctor interviewed for Ferlie et al. )


Alternative metaphors

Alternative Metaphors


Actions to increase awareness

Actions to Increase Awareness

  • Build relationships with practitioners

    • Bartunek (AMJ, 2007), Burt (AMJ, 2007), Nonaka & Konno (1998)

  • Investigate topics of greater interest to practitioners

    • Content areas: academics tend to “follow”

    • Align research/reviews with problem-focus

    • Phenomenon focus

  • Expand/reward use of appropriate outlets for translating research findings


Actions to increase beliefs

Actions to Increase Beliefs

  • Communicate more effectively

  • Produce more systematic reviews & points of agreement among “camps”

  • More effective teaching of statistics & methods

    • Maybe how to read/interpret studies more so than conducting them


Actions to increase implementation

Actions to Increase Implementation

  • Co-produce and co-implement research with practitioners

    • Joint sensemaking (Mohrman et al. and Amabile et al., AMJ, 2001)

  • Create “roadmaps” for implementation (e.g., Kotter)

    • Enhance the “implications for practice” sections of academic journals

  • Communicate “principles” accompanied by examples

    • Locke’s Handbook of OB Principles; Latham’s Becoming an Evidence-Based Manager; Pearce’s Real Research for Real Managers

  • Need research to find “what works”


Questions to ponder

Questions to Ponder

  • Is this just a micro OB/Human Resources phenomenon?

  • What structures are needed to support EBM?

  • What additional evidence do WE (academics) need to support EBM?

  • Is EBM the right “marketing” for the movement?


For further details

For further Details….

  • Rynes, S.L. (in press). “The research-practice gap in I/O psychology and related fields: Challenges and potential solutions.” In S. Kozlowski (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, OUP.

  • Giluk, T. & Rynes, S.L. (in press). “Research findings practitioners resist: Lessons for management academics from evidence-based medicine.” Forthcoming in D. Rousseau, (Ed.), Handbook of Evidence-Based Management: Companies, Classrooms and Research. OUP.


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