Communicate practical knowledge to the masses vs deepening the depth of knowledge

By | Curse of Knowledge

(Excerpt from The Edge Singapore Issue 923, 9 Mar 2020, by Howard Yu is a Professor of Management and Innovation at the IMD Business School in Switzerland and Singapore and director of IMD’s signature Advanced Management Program)

“In 1997, CEO Grove held up a copy of The Innovator’s Dilemma in front of a packed audience at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas and proclaimed it the “most important book” he had read in ten years. That same year, Grove gave another keynote address at the annual conference for the Academy of Management, the sort of academic conference only academics would attend eagerly.

He held up Clay’s book and basically said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but there’s nothing any of you have published that’s of use to me except this.” The professors in the audience must have pressed their lips together in tight smiles and held them for a moment before letting them turn into grimaces. They knew Clay had not even succeeded in getting published in any of the A-list journals. It wasn’t a secret. Clay had said so and wasn’t ashamed of it.

So here is an eminent professor whose research Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had recommended. He had “deeply influenced” Steve Jobs and saved Intel from ruin, and wrote the most downloaded article that Harvard Business Review had ever published. He was ranked the most influential management thinker of our time and gave the world a new way of seeing itself. And yet he never managed to get published in the A-list journals.

The fault line does not seem to be restricted to Clay. Competitive Strategy’s Michael Porter, Blue Ocean’s Kim Chen, Change Masters’ Rosabeth Kanter, and, more recently, Business Model Canvas’s Alex Osterwalder have rarely or never been featured in any A-list journals.

At the same time, outside academia, no manager seems to have heard of the A-list journals: Administrative Science Quarterly, Strategic Management Journal and Academy of Management Review.

This dis-joint, the likes of which have not been seen in the fields of medicine, law, and engineering, has many causes. Whatever the reasons for it, here is its consequence: Smart people are spending their lives trying to answer questions that no one cares about, and when their insights get written, no one reads them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *