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Is the Knowledge Gained through Research Useful in Practice?

2019.07.18




Kazunori Fukushima
Associate Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: management accounting, management control

Is the knowledge gained through academic discourse (or in other words, through research and scholarship) useful in practice? To address this frequently raised question, several disciplines in the social sciences have been debating the issue of the research-practice gap. The research-practice gap refers to two different things: the gap between matters that are widely observed in practice, but for which the mechanisms are not clearly explained through academic discourse; and the gap between matters that are extensively discussed in academic settings, but are mostly ignored in practice.

When comparing these two gaps, the first gap may be eventually eliminated with the advance of academic discourse, but the second gap suggests that there may be a wealth of knowledge generated through academic discourse that isn't being utilized in practice, and without some kind of proactive effort, this gap cannot be eliminated.

What Issues Should Academic Discourse Be Engaging in?

Why is knowledge that is potentially useful not being put to use? One of the reasons that are often brought up is that academic discourse isn't focused on making significant contributions toward real-world business. This means that although academic discourse generates knowledge through the observation and evaluation of real-world business and the subsequent clarification and explanation of the mechanisms that are involved, it doesn't always concern itself with providing information for applying that knowledge to improve matters in practice (as a kind of prescription, in a sense). As a result, people in the business world have begun losing interest in academic discourse.

To address this criticism, what issues should academic discourse be engaging in? When you listen to the people in the world of real-world business, they have a vague understanding of how the knowledge gained through academic discourse is useful in some way, but they often express that they don't know how to apply that knowledge in their company or organization. Based on this response, it can be surmised that what is demanded of academic discourse is to take the knowledge it generates and convert it to a generalized form that can be applied in practice, and to make that generalized knowledge more easily accessible.

What is the Significance of Knowledge Generated through Academic Discourse from the Perspective of the Business World?

As long as the side that engages in academic discourse doesn't make these efforts, are we to accept the fact that the knowledge we gain continues to go unutilized in practice? I don't think that is the best way to go. There are benefits we could be missing by not utilizing the knowledge.

I want to take this opportunity to use the example of the research results in the field of management accounting, my area of expertise. With management accounting systems, just because you start using them doesn't mean that you will see the expected results. Because of this, among companies that use the same management accounting system, some may see the expected results, while others don't. Upon observing the difference between those companies, it becomes evident that the gap lies in the ability to seek the knowledge generated through academic discourse and understand its value, and the ability to take the knowledge that they deem valuable and apply it in practice. This suggests that the knowledge generated through academic discourse is beneficial.

In other words, at least with regard to management accounting systems (although this may apply to other fields as well), companies that are capable of going beyond the fact that the knowledge generated through academic discourse hasn't been sufficiently generalized and that there is no easy access to that knowledge, and still are able to rigorously pursue knowledge, understand it, and utilize the information they deem valuable, can enjoy the benefits offered by the knowledge gained through academic discourse.

Leaving the Ivory Tower and Pursuing the Knowledge through Academic Discourse

When you think about it this way, especially in this age where the future is difficult to predict, people who engage in academic discourse should leave the ivory tower, and the people in real-world business should pursue the knowledge generated through academic discourse.

That is, for the sake of the society, it is crucial for those who engage in academic discourse in the social sciences (unless the benefits described above are only available in the field of management accounting) to abandon the notion that academic discourse must be separated from real-world business. They also should abandon the notion that it should only satisfy intellectual interests, rather than that the generated knowledge needs to be useful, and that it should just contribute to the development of scholarship (or, in other words, leave the ivory tower). On the other hand, it's also important for the people in real-world business to not lose interest in academic discourse because it's difficult to understand or its significance is unclear, and instead pursue the knowledge generated through academic discourse, and if they find it useful, apply it in practice.

I believe that when the people who engage in academic discourse and the people in real-world business walk in step, it ultimately leads to the creation of a better future.
Kazunori Fukushima
Associate Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: management accounting, management control

Kazunori Fukushima was born in Chiba Prefecture in 1981. 2004: Graduated from the Keio University Faculty of Business and Commerce. 2006: Completed his master's course at Keio University Graduate School of Business and Commerce. 2009: Finished without a degree after completion of required course credits, Keio University Graduate School of Business and Commerce, Doctoral program.
He was a lecturer, associate professor at Seinan Gakuin University before assuming his current post in 2017.
The focus of his research is to analyze the mechanisms that facilitate the utilization of management accounting and management control toward organizational growth.
Recently published works include Nihonteki Kanrikaikei no Tankyu (Exploring Management Accounting in Japan) (co-authored, Chuokeizai-sha, 2012) and Nihonteki Kanrikaikei no Shinso (Depths of Management Accounting in Japan) (contributor, Chuokeizai-sha, 2017).