Impact at the School Level: How Doctoral Studies Support the Business School Mission

Professor Loick Roche, Dean and Director of Grenoble Ecole de Management


To mark the visit of the EFMD/FNEGE this month for the Business School Impact Survey we continue our series about doctoral studies and impact. In this post Loick Roche and Mark Smith outline how to interpret impact at a school level and how doctoral education can support school strategy. In the case of Grenoble Ecole de Management this means aligning with the school’s vision to become a School for Business for Society.



Providing a sense of direction

Given the criticism leveled at business schools concerning the relevance, responsibility and purpose of their activities, it is has become important to define a path that allows a school to maintain its legitimacy in wider society. Today, the vision at Grenoble Ecole de Management is to become one of the most influential business schools by having an impact on all of our stakeholders. Our strategy is to move from being a Business School to a School for Business for Society. This transition confirms our mission to serve business and our vision of business as a responsible actor in a sustainable society.


In terms of our doctoral studies, this sense of direction has encouraged us to further align our PhD and DBA programs with the interests of research teams at our school. These interests include health, sustainability, energy, alternative forms of markets, well-being and work life integration. As a result, the research carried out by our doctoral students around the world serves to support the themes we have identified as being important for organizations and society. We are also better able to promote results, practical implications and knowledge from our doctoral researchers in line with these themes.


Measuring local impact

In May, the EFMD and FNEGE came to Grenoble as part of their Business School Impact Survey (BSIS). This initiative builds on a survey developed by the French Foundation for Management Education (FNEGE) and has now been rolled out to more than a dozen business schools across Europe. The survey is not an accreditation, but rather a means to measure both the quantitative and qualitative impact of a business school on its surrounding environment. The BSIS seeks to identify the tangible and intangible benefits of business schools on their local environment in terms of jobs, salaries and projects as well as the influence of a school’s social and cultural ideas.

We await the final report to see what impact Grenoble Ecole de Management has on the high-technology basin where we are located, but given the strong emphasis on technology and innovation in our research and among our doctoral researchers, we are confident that we are a good match with our neighbours and stakeholders here in the city.


Impact provides internal benefits  

By thinking more actively about what we do as a business school there are internal benefits too. Within organizations, what men and women need most is sense; a sense of direction that gives their work a deeper meaning and helps them stay engaged. Inner satisfaction from work is not derived from repetitive actions. Whether one works on an assembly line or makes strategic decisions as a manager, the real satisfaction comes from defining the deeper purpose behind one’s work. If work makes sense and helps fulfill a purpose, then this is a healthy situation. As François Hubault, professor at the University of Paris I, points out: “A healthy business is an activity that is beneficial for itself, but also to others, the company and the world.”

This sense of purpose aligns closely with a European vision of business schools that considers them as having a responsibility to contribute to wider society as well as serve the immediate needs of business. It is important to keep a focus on this greater goal since pressure caused by rankings, publications and building one’s personal CV can distract researchers from the main goal of research. As Anne S Tsui says:

All parties in the research enterprise – scholars, school leaders, grant agencies, policymakers, business leaders and journal editors – can contribute to the pursuit of socially responsible scholarship by remembering the goal of science: the discovery and application of true knowledge to improve the human condition.

Doctoral Students are key stakeholders in this process and agents for change for future generations of academics and business school cultures.


Moving forward with school-level impact

The concept of a School for Business for Society provides a framework that gives meaning to actions and inspires each person to go beyond their duties to help improve the welfare of society. For a business school, contributing to the welfare of society can be achieved from numerous angles such as working with companies, our incubators and start-ups, creating jobs, or inventing the methods that will be used tomorrow to teach managem sciences.

Perhaps most importantly, a business school’s potential for impact is huge thanks to its ability to share research output and implications with policy makers and organizations. Here doctoral students are key actors since they work closely with organizations and stakeholders who benefit directly from research and the findings. The important challenge is to keep these stakeholders, and the potential benefits, in mind throughout the doctoral research journey. By celebrating doctoral students’ impact we can provide an environment in which doctoral research really makes a difference.


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