I wrote recently of how it had occurred to me that it was absolutely critical for academia and business to come together for the greater good of global business and inter-culturism. Oddly enough, as I spoke recently on a global stage, my views were reinforced ten-fold. As, on this particular occasion, I addressed a global audience of primarily academic and administrative attendees, it rapidly became apparent that they were not too accustomed to hearing from the business sector. As I made my points and finished by commenting on the need for global business and academia to partner for the betterment of us all, I was greeted with applause and standing ovations. I thought to myself, “How remarkable – we all know we need to work together, yet the mention of actually doing so is a revelation.”
The idea that business and academia would partner to create stronger graduates and leaders seems to be quite novel. Until recently, I had not given it a lot of thought, but I was challenged by a respected colleague to provide some ideas as to how this could effectively work. Experience has shown me that business struggles to transform leadership and management theory into reality, and academia seems to struggle in the areas of really understanding how to develop, at an experiential level, anything new or innovative that can actually be leveraged to impact business. Here are some of the things I have done personally, and with clients, in the past that could be effective for others moving forward:
- I have, from a corporate and coaching perspective, partnered with universities to come on site and teach courses that incorporate solid global management principles and theories, but that are backed up with real-time global client business cases. These cases are pertinent to current business issues the company is facing and current employees are responsible for managing. Employees actually talk to the clients about the cases and potential solutions – this has repeatedly been wonderful for relating theory to experiential practices.
- Sandwich learning is highly effective – I encourage clients to support employees alternating relevant periods of education with professional application.
- Training in conjunction with Coaching always has a stronger outcome due to the repeated reinforcement and targeted approach. Extended, reinforced methods of educating both leaders and employees facilitates true growth and development in both the individual and teams.
- At conferences that attempt to bridge the gap between academia and business, I tend to see two types of presentations: 1) purely academic that seem out of touch with business and 2) purely business with no real interest in what academics have to say. Wouldn’t it be interesting to pair an academic professional and a business professional and ask them to partner for a joint session presenting a multifaceted problem with potential for a joint solution? Could we derive some unique, joint perspectives?
- Create and deploy joint think-tanks with membership split between academia and global business – with the express purpose of deriving joint solutions to move both camps forward. I have in the past run both Technical and Strategic Advisory Councils that had similar, but not expressly the same, missions – they were both based on corporate/client think-tanks instead of academic/business think-tanks…
If we are to evolve meaningfully, we will need to look to Translational Science – we have it in medicine and we need to bring it to global business. Translational science is scientific research that is motivated by the need for practical application. The term is used mainly in the health sciences and refers to things like the discovery of new drugs that directly help improve human health through alternative uses. Thus, translating bench or “lab” science to clinical practice and real people. In essence, the same principle applies to business. We need to translate the research that is done on management and leadership into practical applications that can be effectively deployed. It seems an easy concept, but experience tells me that today, most executives out there can not translate theory into application. As such, they do not apply potentially impactful research findings to their business environment – thus making the valuable research that is done essentially useless in real-world business application.
So you may ask, “how we can apply Translational Science to global business?” While certainly not the all-inclusive answer, I do believe that the five points made above could be a valid start to the process. We have got to find ways to bring academia and business together to leverage the best in both for the betterment of the whole. If we don’t, we will never actually move forward.
You can contact me at Sherilmackey@gmail.com with your thoughts or comments. Check back soon for the next installation of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.