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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


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: 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.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 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.: 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 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.


Actions to increase awareness
Actions to Increase Awareness 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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…. 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.

  • 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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