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How do Carlson School faculty members generate robust ideas, clearly defined research questions, access to valued resources, and insightful conclusions? By tapping into the power of collaboration.

Great minds don’t always think alike. When scholars with differing points of view team up to explore business issues, the whole can be bigger than the sum of its parts. Just as cross-functional teams can help attain broad-based corporate goals, research collaborations can unearth answers to challenges that cross several disciplines. Here are some Carlson School faculty members who have collaborated with colleagues in their units, across campus, and around the world to conduct great research.

Operations and Management Science It Takes a Team to Learn About Quality

Exploring the link between quality processes and corporate performance is at the heart of Associate Professor Kevin Linderman’s operations management research. He is currently working with Carlson School colleagues Roger Schroeder, professor of operations and management science and Carlson School Chair in Operations Management, and Andy Van de Ven, professor of strategic management and organization and Vernon H. Heath Chair of Organizational Innovation and Change, to study organizations that do not sustain high levels of quality. “Few researchers have analyzed why organizations lose their quality advantage,”says Linderman. “We are identifying factors that led to a loss of quality for three companies over a three-year period.”

        Collaborating directly with companies is another way to enhance practical research applications. Linderman is working with Schroeder and with Aravind Chandrasekaran, ’09 PhD, an assistant professor of management science at Ohio State University, to explore how high-tech firms manage innovation projects. “After gathering front-line data, we will use a multi-level analysis to understand the links between managing innovation and company performance,” he says.

Unexpected Traveler In the Trenches of Lean Manufacturing

Rachna Shah knows what it means for a company and its employees to put “lean” initiatives to work. Shah, associate professor of operations and management science, has seen lean-based transformational changes on assembly lines, shop floors, and production management offices. “Fieldwork has grounded my research,” she says. “Interacting with people responsible for process improvement and collaborating with my peers has helped me shape relevant, practical, and valid research.”

        Shah recently teamed with Susan Goldstein, associate professor of operations and management science, and the Minnesota Heart Institute at Minneapolis-based Abbott Northwestern Hospital to study process improvement in health care. She notes that it was an ideal opportunity to see quality initiatives in a non-manufacturing setting and to interview key people in the process, including the institute’s medical director, nurses, and patients.

Marketing and Logistics Management Do Commissions Increase Sales?

Professor George John learns about marketing and sales problems from executives in the MBA program, Carlson Brand Enterprise students and clients, and industry board members at the Institute for Research in Marketing. John, chair of the department of marketing and logistics management and the General Mills–Gerot Chair in Marketing, has also teamed with Om Narasimhan, associate professor of marketing and logistics management, and the PhD students they jointly advise. “I contribute conceptual and managerial direction, Om provides mathematical and technical guidance, and the students implement data collection and analysis,” John says. “This model has produced many productive research studies.”

        In a current study with PhD student Ranjan Banerjee, they are exploring the impact of commissions on sales volume. The business in question has two groups of employees (appointment-setters and salespeople) involved in its sales process, but only one receives commissions. During a five-month experiment, it paid commissions to both groups and saw sales increase by 21 percent. “Commissions don’t always make financial sense,” says John. “But in this case the two roles were complementary, and it was effective to pay commissions for both appointments and sales.”

Language, Advertising, and Negative Information

Rohini Ahluwalia, professor of marketing and logistics management and the Curtis L. Carlson Trust Professor of Marketing, recently studied advertising in bilingual markets with University of Michigan Marketing Professor Aradhna Krishna. Among their findings: Language choice for advertisements is an important decision for multinational corporations and the effectiveness of different language formats varies by type of product.

        Ahluwalia also has collaborated with Jill Klein, an associate professor of marketing at INSEAD, to study the role of negative information in evaluating political candidates. Klein had reported different results from those realized in a similar study by Ahluwalia. “We conducted a collaborative research project to resolve the issue, reanalyzed our data using new techniques, and generated a novel set of findings that furthered our understanding of the topic,” she says.

Information and Decision Sciences Online Auctions

“By its nature, information systems is a multidisciplinary research field,” says Gedas Adomavicius, associate professor of information and decision sciences and the Carolyn I. Anderson Professor in Business Education Excellence. “Researchers with varied backgrounds and training—like our department’s faculty members—often come together to analyze information technologies. My training is in computer science and mathematics, and I am working on projects with colleagues who have economics, psychology, and cognitive science backgrounds.”

        Adomavicius frequently collaborates with Professor Alok Gupta, chair of the department of information and decision sciences and the Curtis L. Carlson Schoolwide Chair in Information Management, while researching combinatorial auctions. “With online auctions of multiple items, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as well as single items,” Adomavicius says. “Such auctions are often more profitable than traditional formats because of the complementary relationships between items.”

        Gupta also collaborates with Associate Professor Ravi Bapna, the Board of Overseers Professor of Information and Decision Sciences. The two are now working with senior executives of multinational IT services companies based in India. “This is a unique research environment—India is the world’s second fastest-growing economy, and the IT services industry is the catalyst for its growth,” says Bapna. “Since technical skills depreciate rapidly amidst the torrid pace of innovation in the IT industry, we began researching the link between employee productivity and Indian IT services firms’ training investments. Our results provided empirical evidence to justify ongoing training investments.”

Setting the Stage for Great Research

One of the Carlson School’s most productive research facilities is also the simplest. The Analytical Research Lab, located on the third floor, features a 12-person conference table and a large blackboard that create an ideal setting for analytical modeling and collaborative research. “Faculty members and PhD students gather in the lab to brainstorm, develop, and formalize research ideas,” says Professor and Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Accounting Frank Gigler. “Over the years, groups have created dozens of published research papers and at least six PhD theses.”

        The facility even has its own history: The blackboard was moved to the conference room from the old Management Tower during construction of the Carlson School building. Room 3-112 proved ideal for groups of four to six people to work on a common subject—an important aspect of collaborating while researching and solving problems.

        “The Analytical Research Lab is a productive space for groups of authors working on research papers, especially when their meetings last several days at a time,” says Professor and Arthur Andersen & Co./Kullberg Chair in Accounting and Information Systems Chandra Kanodia. “It creates opportunities for us to bring in co-authors from outside the University for longer periods of time.”

        Indeed, virtually all of the research for “Accounting Conservatism and the Efficiency of Debt Contracts” was conducted in the analytical lab. This paper was written by Gigler, Kanodia, Haresh Sapra of the University of Chicago, and Raghu Venugopalan of the University of Illinois, and published in the 2009 issue of the Journal of Accounting Research.

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