Researchers
July 31, 2020

Do Business Leaders Turn To Research Too Often?

It has become a common activity for executives and thought leaders to post novel research findings for their co-workers and audience members to look at. But what about their own thoughts?
Source: Unsplash

Having a plethora of research material at your disposal is both a good and bad. It means being able to use the power of research to solve real-world problems. But it also entails the right amount of caution and good judgment when it comes to looking for statistics to prove a point or simply using our own voices to do so.

It is truly a time in today’s modern workforce where you can pretty much Google your way out of any situation and figure out how to problem solve with the advent of the Internet and increasingly social media platforms. While it is important to seek the advice of experts (we do so when we see a doctor all the time) who have published research findings, it is also important to step back and perhaps ask ourselves if business leaders and executives are turning to research too often in the workplace, instead of trusting their own intuitive thought processes.

What are the assumptions that guide such behavior?

Why executives and leaders turn to research so often:

In order to understand why organizational leaders and executives should maybe not turn to research findings to back up their thought processes, we first have to examine why this phenomenon has become so mainstream in the first place. Here are some legitimate reasons:

  • Executives can now post research findings on their LinkedIn channels, signaling the work of other experts thereby paying lip service to their ideas and habits for increased cooperation
  • Executives who make advisable decisions based on research findings and statistics can take less blame and accountability when the advice they were sharing were the expressed views of others in the first place
  • Sharing research helps build partnerships which might free up capital in the future or lead to grant proposals
  • It is perhaps more passive to report a research finding than to intuitively post your own thoughts on platforms like LinkedIn
  • It makes leaders come off as academics

Timing and trade-offs

There are of course many leaders and executives of companies who appropriately cite research, and use it in a timely manner during the event of a crisis or when recalling research that has given their organization a good reputation over the years. This is all good and should not detract from the opportunity that research does present.

When reading about such findings posted on Impactio, LinkedIn, or even job sites like Idealist, this information can be fun, timely, and persuasive. It also puts us into the heart of the problem an organization is trying to solve, and triggers our ethos to care about the same issue and invest our time in making the world a slightly better place.

But some sites have become saturated with research heavy findings that dull originality and lead to missed opportunities for executives to share their opinions and thoughts. That’s why when executives and thought leaders post original content it creates more of a stir—and perhaps some controversy, but also challenges underlying assumptions about a particular issue. This is important because challenging assumptions is what leads to innovation no matter the sector.

For example, Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, challenged the assumption that women who operated informal markets and depended on daily cash incomes as a means of subsistence were not worth lending to. At the time in Dhaka, no central bank or financial institution thought such a lending strategy would amount to any ROI. But through challenging this assumption and starting his own lending scheme, his idea started the sector that is largely microfinance today.

While not every business or organizational leader has the insight or cunning of Yunus, it is interesting to think about how leaders in general can instinctively decide when to turn against conventions and try to pioneer something. So while research is incredibly valuable in that it helps set the record straight in terms of reporting global problems and current events, it also might thwart innovation if we post about it too often.

Tags Research Innovation
Michael Robbins
Writer
Michael is a writer that helps organizations align their mission and values to a wide audience.

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