I am a scholar. Merriam-Webster defines a scholar as a learned person and scholarship as “the charter, qualities, activity, or attainments of a scholar; learning.” So, being a scholar must necessarily be inextricably linked to learning, right? In my little slice of the academy (academy = a group of scholars, much like a flock of birds or a school of fish), we equate the evidence of achieved learning with the act of publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
Thus far, no problem.
However, the business academy needed a way to assess the performance of its scholars, so it/we began to measure and reward (or punish) scholars based on an accounting of their published (or lack of published) work. The better the journal that a scholar is able to publish in, the better that scholar. In the midst of this, a publishing company (Financial Times) decided to rank the relative greatness of scholarly business journals. This list (called the FT-45) has now become one of the primary standards that the academy uses as a proxy for publishing excellence in the discipline of business. Over the years, this system of rewards has produced a business school academy that is more focused on the act of publishing than it is on the achievement of learning and thought leadership.
Hence, the problem.
This is not to say that valuable work isn’t accomplished in the academy of business scholars, because it is. The problem is, we have created a self-propogating system of performance measurement that now stands in the way of our ability to study the more difficult and valued problems that industry faces. I believe that, as a business academy, we are loosing our way and we face the very real risk of becoming irrelevant.
We need a new model to evaluate scholars; a model of scholarship that is based on learning, thought leadership and knowledge transfer.