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What is Management Research?

August 13, 2019

Rotman researchers study a broad range of management issues using a variety of methodologies and underlying disciplines.

On any given day at the Rotman School of Management, it’s difficult to pinpoint where our researchers might be and what they might be working on.

You might find some, like Organizational Behaviour & HR Management (OB/HRM) Professor Chen-Bo Zhong, in the School’s Behavioural Research Lab, dimming the lights or altering the environment in some other way to see how it impacts the behaviour of the participants he’s recruited for his study.

At the same time, some of our Finance professors, such as Andrey Golubov, might be hard at work in the BMO Financial Group Finance Research and Trading Lab, analyzing data to undercover the subtle effects that mergers and acquisitions can have on workforce restructuring.

Others, such as Sarah Kaplan, Professor of Strategic Management and Director of our Institute for Gender and the Economy, might be sitting in a boardroom in a downtown office, carrying out ethnographic analysis to better understand the process of corporate decision-making.

Still others might be running what’s known as a ‘field experiment’ — randomly altering conditions in the ’real world’ to understand a particular phenomenon. For example, OB/HRM Professor Sonia Kang recently conducted an experiment that involved altering otherwise-identical resumes and sending them to potential employers to learn how companies respond to so-called ‘resume whitening.’

Many Rotman researchers develop theoretical models, often mathematical in nature, that capture how firms compete under a variety of different market conditions.

Though their approaches to collecting data and the types of questions they ask can be very different, they all focus on the same core goal: Uncovering the general principles and relationships that impact economic and social activity. Put simply, management researchers — at Rotman and elsewhere — study individuals, organizations, markets and the interactions amongst them.

We are proud to say that Rotman is one of the most productive research centres in the world. Among business schools, we are ranked in the top 20 globally for research, according to the 2020 Financial Times rankings, beating out top-tier schools like Stanford, MIT and Columbia. In any given year, half a dozen books and hundreds of articles are published; our researchers are called upon by the world's top companies for advice; and they regularly testify personally for policymakers around the world.

The Rotman faculty is highly diverse: Our researchers come from across the globe and as indicated, specialize in various disciplines, including economics, sociology, psychology and management science. In addition to the examples above, they examine a broad range of issues such as the functioning of capital markets, the role of financial institutions and regulations, the nature of human decision-making, the impact of free trade agreements, strategies for stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, the effects of technology on productivity and employment, and the barriers to and benefits of diversity in organizations and on boards of directors — to name just a few!

Ultimately, this collection of diverse perspectives, experiences and interests allows us to develop a broad view of the major issues in Accounting, Business Economics, Finance, Marketing, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management, Operations Management and Statistics and Strategic Management — Rotman’s main research and teaching areas.

Importantly, management research is grounded in the principles of the scientific method. We aren’t interested in developing flashy headlines or latching onto the latest buzzwords being repeated in the news. Instead, we develop theories (to explain what we see in the world), form hypotheses (concepts that can be tested) and collect evidence (that can support or refute our original theories).

While there is often a lot of rhetoric around the latest business challenges or the newest technologies, in reality, most new problems are actually old ones. It is precisely by understanding the general principles that impact management, and the conditions under which they will and won’t hold-up, that we can offer insight and evidence-based recommendations that can shape the future of management practice and policy.

Written by Mara Lederman, Associate Professor of Strategy and Director of Research Resources

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