The essay “Making Research in Business Have More Impact: A Relational Engagement Approach,” by Julie Ozanne and Brennan Davis, is timely one. A major accrediting body for Colleges of Business (AACSB) has challenged business educators to demonstrate the value of our research by showing its impact beyond an academic audience. In the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, we are finding this “challenge” to be a tremendous opportunity. Within our College, numerous externally focused organizational entities (outreach centers, advisory boards, innovation hubs, institutes, studios) facilitate our interactions with industry partners.
As Ozanne and Davis describe, the benefits of relational engagement are profound and exponential. The role of College administrators is to spark relational engagement. Sometimes this is done through creating new structures, such as a university institute to which companies belong and that is focused on solving problems through research. Sometimes this is done by connecting with university units that face strong external pressures, such as research in medical school clinics that must deliver results to patients. Sometimes this is done through partnerships within the educational environment, such as student projects that address business or community problems. And sometimes this occurs when Colleges can set the stage for serendipity by bringing together faculty researchers and business partners who have similar interests.
Regardless of how it happens, our experience has been that relational engagement has precisely the type of impact that Ozanne and Davis describe. Productive interactions ensue, all parties are strengthened in their knowledge bases, and social networks becomes broader and denser, resulting in positive results that have exponential benefits.