French researcher Jacqueline Fendt argues that academic research on businesses is not practical enough in its focus. She argues that management education would be improved with a stronger focus on the everyday realities of Executives.
She also advocates using more qualitative research methods and case studies, rather than statistical surveys. This would improve in-depth understanding of how management is actually carried out in the real world. So how do social scientists carry out this type of work? One method we use is called ethnography.
Social scientists use ethnography to study individuals and groups interacting in their everyday lives. This involves attending public events, observing community behaviour and gathering other information to assess how people react to social situations. Researchers will also interview and survey people during social and work functions in order to get a critical insight into group dynamics.
Ethnography has been used in many contexts: to evaluate social services; to plan public infrastructure; to address the needs of employees; to assess public health issues; to improve environmental policies; to better integrate culturally diverse groups; and much more.
Improving Outcomes Through Research
Ethnographic data can be further applied to improve corporate responsibility. By placing Executive behaviour and corporate culture in context, social scientists can determine how leadership affects morale. Furthermore, researchers can introduce social science principles of social justice to improve Executive relationships with employees.
R.V. Aguilera’s research team shows that when workers perceive their organisation is acting fairly, they are happier and more productive. The researchers show that because “Social change is at the core of social science inquiry,” social scientists are well-placed to transform corporate dynamics.
Over to you!
Have you got any questions about how social science might improve Executive work? What other issues need to be addressed that aren’t already covered here?
Top photo: US Department of Labor via Flickr.