Can Kogut Do It? The New European Management Review

1 May 2006 at 12:24 pm 11 comments

| Nicolai Foss | 

The only-two-years-old European Management Review has just changed its editorship.  The main change is that Bruce Kogut has taken over as new editor. In his editorial statement he proclaims that "The European Management Review has the ambition of being the journal of first choice for scholars interested in the theory and empirical study of management." 

Kogut goes on to mention established top-journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly and Academy of Management Journal — without, however, directly implying that these are the direct competitors.  It is clear that Kogut wants to position the EMR as an "ideas journal."  How then does it differ from the intended competition? 

Here is how Kogut positions EMR relative to — one suspects — the Academy of Management Journal: "… we do not want 'here are six hypotheses, data, and ten regressions … we want our contributors to play the role of their own critics." Refreshing! 

So, we can ask, paraphrasing Keynes, can Kogut do it? ("It" operationally implying ISI listing and becoming the premier Euro-based management journal within 2-3 years).  Kogut is highly respected, centrally placed in the research community, well connected.  Although the set of Euro journals include the highly regarded Organization Studies and Journal of Management Studies these still only rank around #16 in the overall hierarchy of management journals. They may not be that tough competition to take on. I suspect that Kogut can "make it" in the sense of making EMR the #1 Euro journal rather quickly. But beating AMR and the other top American management journals may be a tall order. 

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Management Theory.

Copenhagen Conference on Strategic Management 2006 New Foss-Foss-Klein working paper

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. arie lewin  |  1 May 2006 at 2:11 pm

    Did Bruce omit comparison to Organization Science which did
    become a recognized top tier journal in a very few years since founding in 1990? If any journal can be a model for EMR it is OS.

  • 2. nicolaifoss  |  1 May 2006 at 2:15 pm

    Good point! I am not completely sure, and I cannot check from here, but I doubt Kogut mentioned Org Science. Arie, you indeed did for Org Science what Kogut wants to do for EMR.

  • 3. Bo Nielsen  |  1 May 2006 at 5:37 pm

    Can Kogut do it? To answer this, let us examine the recent ‘Editors Introduction’.

    Kogut establishes the goal of EMR to “be the first choice for scholars interested in the theory and empirical study of management”. While this goal is admirable there is little in the approach, as outlined in the ‘Editors Introduction’, which convinces me that this may indeed happen within two years. Indeed, most of his ‘ideas’ concerning how to make EMR the first choice among scholars of management seem to lack the very intended premise of the journal; diversity, innovation and change. Let me qualify this:

    First of all, Kogut maintains that the journal “must be devoted to quality”. According to Kogut, the best way of assuring this quality is to allow established scholars to publish rapidly in this journal. By relying on accomplished scholars to advance the quality (or perceived quality) of this journal, you run the risk of attracting predominantly the same type of articles that are seen in other journals OR (even worse) attracting only the articles from these prominent scholars that could not otherwise make it into one of the top tier journals. The premise that “we usually agree quickly on what is a quality article” is dangerous because it may stifle academic novelty and discourage innovative approaches. If the goal truly is to promote diversity in research, then this approach, which seems very similar to the American model, may run counter to the goals. On a positive note, however, only two of the associate editors are located within the US (although I suspect more have been trained in the North American tradition) and this does promote diversity in general. Unfortunately, we know very little of the quality (!) and diversity of the reviewers, a topic I will return to below.

    Second, amidst the lengthy discussion of what exactly EMR looks for in terms of article contributions (of which majority reads exactly like that of any of the top tier journals), a returning theme is the publishing of ‘ideas’ rather than substantial theory testing. This would seem to position EMR in the realm of a conceptual-type journal, perhaps competing with AMR or, if we allow for some empirical papers, Journal of Management, Org. Science or ASQ. The question here is: what is different about EMR? It is stated later that EMR welcomes research related to the European project, although the journal does not encourage practically oriented papers (another topic I shall return to below). Is EMR truly European and if so does this mean that it will favor European studies over others? This certainly does not seem to be consistent with the aim of creating a truly international and diverse, high quality journal that will be read in all corners of the world. Why would Asian and Latin American scholars read a journal devoted predominantly to European studies?

    Finally, Kogut asserts that the journal is interested in contributions that help develop a deeper understanding of how management contributes to world development and issues. While we may agree with the importance of this focus, EMR does not offer any novel way of attracting this type of articles (except for a section devoted to reporting on activities of European (!) institutes). Given the current format, quality standards and review process of this journal, it seems unlikely that non-academics will publish regular articles in this outlet. Indeed, Kogut maintains that the goal of the journal is to “help European and non-European researchers make their careers”. Again, this sounds very much akin to the well established top-tier journals.

    In conclusion, I would like to offer a few ‘ideas’ as to how a new journal could distinguish itself from the competition and perhaps even make an impact outside the tightly knit academic community. First of all, I think that relevance should be at the forefront of a management journal. Good ‘ideas’ are not driven by method or theory but by practical relevance. What is missing in many of the top-tier journals is an emphasis on implications, above and beyond advancing our academic careers through incremental, yet methodologically rigorous research. Management research should be driven by the desire to tackle real practical problems faced by managers. The search for answers should be guided by rigorous application of theory and method. It would be refreshing to see a management journal devoted to management issues, for instance by encouraging collaborative research between practitioners and management scholars. The topic of public sector management and the relationship between business and larger world issues seems to be well positioned to benefit from this kind of research. Moreover, changing the format of the journal to allow for (and encourage) relevance-based research may be appropriate. The true test of relevance of new ideas should be found in the practical application and results of implementation of such ideas rather than in a SPSS regression output file. Relevance should be at the center of such a journal, but not at the cost of rigor and execution. It is possible to conduct relevant research while ensuring ‘what we can all agree is quality’.

    Finally, a note on the review process of academic journals. The quality and consistency of a journal is directly related to the quality and consistency of its reviewers. While I am ignorant as to the recruitment, training (!) and retention of reviewers at EMR, I do know that for most other journals this process is rather arbitrary. The academic community could truly benefit from a review of the review process for most journals. A new journal could ensure high quality and consistency while promoting new ideas and innovation in methods etc. by actively recruiting and training reviewers to adhere to the desired standards, whatever these may be. Moreover, if a new journal seeks to compete on speed-to-market, a well-trained and committed reviewer community is needed. In an academic world of ‘self-interest with guile’ this can probably only be accomplished by offering some kind of incentives above and beyond ‘academic duty’. Perhaps the time has come to hire professional reviewers and pay them accordingly? Either way, in an academic community, where the natural tendency is to reject based on lack of rigor rather than accept based on innovative potential, we need to ensure accountability by evaluating reviewers and reward quality reviews.

    So, can Kogut do it? I think that Bruce Kogut will advance this journal and make it a very strong academic management journal, perhaps even the #1 European management journal. However, if Bruce Kogut truly wants to turn EMR into a top-tier journal with impact (beyond citations) he needs to answer the questions of “why do we need another management journal” and “how does EMR differ from existing management journals”. Personally, I find it difficult to see the difference between this journal and the other top-tier journals in terms of aim, scope and audience. I also have a hard time identifying the competitive advantage of EMR, except for its promise of rapid publications – a promise that cannot be kept if the journal is to advance to become a top-tier journal, with ever increasing submissions and triple-blind reviews as a result. I applaud Bruce Kogut for taking on the laborious task of elevating the status of EMR. The future will tell if he truly ‘did it’.

  • 4. Peter Klein  |  1 May 2006 at 9:57 pm

    Interesting points, Bo. Regarding practical relevance, isn't this niche already filled to some extent by HBR, Sloan Management Review, etc.? (An excellent example of a hybrid academic-practitioner journal, by the way, is the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance.) Of course these journals don't specialize in original, applied research per se, but rather in practitioner-oriented spinoffs of existing academic papers. Still, I'm not sure I know how how your proposed objective would be better met.

    More generally, it's difficult for any new (or newly edited) journal to create a unique identity, given today's already-crowded field. As it happens, within the last six months I've had two different opportunities to become editor or associate editor of an existing journal. (No, not the American Economic Review and Journal of Political Economy, in case you were wondering.) In both cases I ended up declining, partly because I couldn't articulate a distinct purpose or mission, something that would set the journal apart from its rivals. The signal-to-noise ratio in the existing journal space is already so low; do we really need to create even more journals?

  • 5. JC Spender  |  1 May 2006 at 10:48 pm

    Our journals are key components of our scholarly community’s developmental and maintenance apparatus. They succeed when they provide functions whose absence inhibits the development of the community. Our community develops willy-nilly of anyone’s plans because the technological, social, and conceptual context in which we work is constantly evolving – though not necessarily advancing.

    Success might follow when the new journal becomes the place to find a new line of theorizing until then shut out of the established journals. We might see SMJ’s success as part and parcel of the rising importance of strategy as a field and a set of concepts – now embracing the RBV. Succcess might follow because a new generation of scholars finds it is unable to publish because of academic politics and snobbery.

    The history of the business of business education suggests both academic quality and managerial relevance are peripheral. Indeed there seems to be ample evidence that there are few ways of predicting which articles will eventually reshape our community. We know quality best ex-post. Likewise managerial relevance is almost totally irrelevant. Our breast-beating about the rigor-relevance problem was not new with Hambrick’s wondering what would happen if we mattered. It has been going on for decades, even centuries, and is as common to mainstream economics, anthropology, geography, and information systems, to name a few, as it is in management studies.

    Arie’s comments are right on, and Organization Science has shown that a new journal can succeed, and within a generation too. But is Arie going to tell us just how this was achieved? And can we be sure that the conditions in which he and his colleagues made this happen are the same as those that now confront Bruce?

  • 6. Bo Nielsen  |  3 May 2006 at 11:22 am

    Managerial relevance is almost totally irrelevant? I disagree and I DO think that a new journal can find a niche that is NOT pratictioner-oriented (we do not need another HBR or LRP etc.) but rather focus on publishing articles that seek to address practically relevant questions – yet grounded in solid theory and through the use of rigorous methods to ensure academic quality. What I am suggesting is for a true management journal to start by asking the question: Is this research question relevant to business managers? If you use this as a starting point for reviewing academic articles in management today I fear that most won’t make this first cut!

    Management research has moved so far away from management practice that the gap has created almost hostility between academics and practitioners. To me, at a minimum, management research should be grounded in practical problems faced by “real” managers – as it is now, far too often we see “research for the academics” with little or no attention to the actual relevance of this research.

    Is managerial relevance really totally irrelevant? I remember when I started my PhD program – it was with an idea that I would change the world (of management that is) – analyze in detail a small, yet to managers, interesting problem that I could then help shed light on and solve. Alas, I have not succeeded but I still frequently ask managers what problems they really face when forming and managing alliances. Do you suggest we tell our PhD students to “ignore all managerial relevance” of their research? If so, then management research is moving toward management science – perhaps these are two distinct diciplines and should be defined as such? Economics is a science – but is management?

  • 7. JC Spender  |  7 May 2006 at 9:47 am

    Alas Bo, we all think we are going to make a difference in the world at large, eventually settling for just a smidgeon on our own little patch.

    But you follow me correctly. By failing to address these issues we avoid our obligations as senior people advertently or inadvertently changing the lives of our students and colleagues.

    The relevance issue raises straegic career questions. Do we think we are in the business of helping managers do their work better? I suspect not. Rather we are in the business of fitting our students for employment in the business of business education – getting a credential and a job in an industry that functions in ways that none of us understand.

    There is an alternative career, that of the scholar. There are not many scholars in our field, though this blog is as close as we normally get to our real scholars.

    We need to help our students understand the differences between these careers, and look at the implications both in terms of training and in expectations of the kind of lifestyle entailed.

    There are other careers also, such as fitting oneself for a career in consulting, while using the university as the marketing platform. clearly appointments to most of the better-known BSchools are highly prized for this reason alone. Is there better scholarship there?

    In Europe, of course, there is a long tradition of taking a PhD as part of seeking higher public or private sector office. Alas there is no corresponding tradition in the US. Is this is the student’s aim, then seeking reserach projects framed outside academe makes better sense than looking to the pages of AMJ.

  • 8. Bo Nielsen  |  8 May 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Good points! Now my question is (and remains) whether these two (apparently different) businesses are mutually exclusive? I suspect they may be in many people’s mind but this is exactly what I call for – a journal and other academic outlets that help us bridge this perceived gap (because I see this as a perceived gap rather than a real gap).

    If there truly is a gap and these two businesses are distinct and unrelated then who is to blame? And how can we remedy this? Or do you suggest we do not worry about this question at all?

  • 9. Bo Nielsen  |  15 May 2006 at 3:37 pm

    Just a final thought:

    Why is it that we see so relatively few replication-studies in the top journals? In most other sciences (or real sciences) a theory is not proven unless if can be replicated by others. I call for more replication studies as this would greatly improve our understanding of the basic phenomena under investigation as well as the reliability of the findings. My sense is that most studies are idiosyncratic and specific to a certain dataset/context etc..(perhaps the dissertation findings reported by Foss elsewhere as a proof? of the fallacy of the value of intangible assets over tangible assets is an example).

    Similarly, I wonder why so relatively few theoretical studies (AMR) are ever tested empirically? Perhaps because they make sense only in theory and cannot ever be tested due to the complexity and lack of grounding in practical phenomena?

    Finally, I would call for more dialogue in the business journals – I remember having read some excellent comments on articles and rebuttals but unfortunately far to few of these make it into the top journals. If academia is truly an ongoing conversation then I call for more of these types of public conversations in published media. On that note, I congratulate our two authors of this forum for their initiative! This is scholarship!

  • 10. unknown  |  10 October 2008 at 11:13 am

    well, He did not…

  • […] long ago after the start of O&M I blogged on the change of editor at the European Management Review, paraphrasing Keynes’s examination […]

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