Beyond Translation: Relevant Research in Practice
Driven to develop research that impacts business and society, Hult has transformed its research culture in a way that stimulates the creation, dissemination, use, and benefit of applied and relevant research across Hult’s global faculty.
Call to Action
In 2015 Ashridge Business School and Hult International Business School formed a strategic alliance with a mission to be the most relevant business school in the world. A strategic priority was to establish the school as an even stronger and credible institution through firmly embedding and creating a shared culture of research. The development of this strategy coincided, and is perfectly aligned with, the 2016 AACSB Collective Vision for Business Education, specifically the ideas to co-create knowledge with practice, become catalysis of innovation, be leaders on leadership, and positively impact society.
Hult and Ashridge both have their roots in management practice, applied scholarship, global entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. The combined research strategy was designed to leverage these roots, as well as the vast combined network of faculty members across both organizations and global campuses. The new approach focused on two key themes or challenges—transforming behavior and creating disruption—which serve to provoke thoughtful research agendas from faculty regardless of academic discipline, epistemological stance, or methodological preference. In developing their research strategy, however, Hult was determined to establish an infrastructure and eventually a new research culture that would promote the development of research that is rigorous, robust, and relevant, and could achieve demonstrable impact on business and society.
The research strategy is built on five key foundations:
- Focusing on two key challenges: Research at Hult falls into two themes: creating disruption and transforming behavior. This approach allows Hult to gain critical institutional intellectual mass to address the challenges relevant to business and society.
- Setting engaged scholarship as the default: Research proposals must articulate the practical business problem they examine and clarify how it will address those problems and impact teaching practice, business, and society.
- Offering professional services: A team of eight full-time research professionals, strengthened by a suite of contractors, supports faculty research efforts, both for creation and dissemination, optimizing the use of professor time. Proposals, resources, funding requests, and incentive claims are processed and coordinated through an online research portal.
- Rewarding output: Faculty are financially incentivized for actual intellectual contributions rather than time—contributions that include practitioner outputs, blogs, TED Talks, mass media interviews, and academic channels.
Over the past two years, Hult has seen substantial growth in faculty engagement in research. A total of 145 faculty are conducting research across the school, submitting 229 proposals and resulting in 222 outputs, 42 percent of which are practitioner outlets. Faculty are publishing in a range of academic journals, including the International Journal of Social Economics and the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Practitioner-oriented outputs include Harvard Business Review, European Business Review, Forbes, The Telegraph, and The Drucker Forum.
In addition, faculty are claiming incentives for “Outstanding Impact,” evidencing readership and download figures of online articles and videos, including over 100,000 views of an article by a member of Boston faculty, over 25,000 views of an article by a member of San Francisco faculty, and over 200,000 views of a TEDx Talk by a member of Dubai faculty. Research is also impacting Hult classrooms in bachelor’s, master’s, and executive programs, resulting in innovative pedagogies, including a simulation that builds on research into the neuroscience of experiential learning and uses heart rate variability monitors to assess participants’ stress response.
Finally, Hult research is having demonstrable impact on broader society. For example, a report exploring corporate approaches to tackling “modern slavery” in the supply chain, which was launched at the House of Lords, is being used by a growing number of companies to open dialogue between businesses and policymakers to address purchasing practices and improve working conditions. It is being cited by government lobbyists and policymakers, and the author has been invited to speak at the U.S. Assembly.
While the strategy and infrastructure of this innovation was developed by Hult, the research the school conducts is often in collaboration with different trade institutions and organizations, including the following: Ethical Trade Initiative, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, U.N. Global Compact Board, Hamad Medical Corp, GSK, Asia Specific Institute of Technology, UNICON, Google, Peruvian Central Bank, Red Bull, Swarovski, Ferrari, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, RocketSpace, Dong Energy, Business in the Community, Oxfam, and the UK Civil Service.
Academic collaborations include Cambridge Judge Business School, Harvard University, Oxford University, University of Vaassa, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Moscow State University, and Gothenburg University.