How to Do Relevant Research


How to Do Relevant Research

From the Ivory Tower to the Real World

9781788119399 Edward Elgar Publishing
Philip H. Mirvis, Senior Research Fellow, Global Network on Corporate Citizenship and Lewis Institute for Social Innovation, Babson College, Susan Albers Mohrman, Senior Research Scientist, Center for Effective Organizations, University of Southern California and Christopher G. Worley, Research Professor of Management, Department of Management and Organization Theory, Pepperdine University, US
Publication Date: 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78811 939 9 Extent: 200 pp
Amidst rapid and fundamental shifts in the economic, geo-political, technological, and societal landscape, this cutting-edge book makes the timeless case that research can be informed by problems in the ‘real world’ and make important contributions to theory and practice.

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Amidst rapid and fundamental shifts in the economic, geo-political, technological, and societal landscape, this cutting-edge book makes the timeless case that research can be informed by problems in the ‘real world’ and make important contributions to theory and practice.

Throughout the book, the authors argue that there is a ‘sweet spot’ where both scholarly and practical research can be done simultaneously. It offers readers insightful and rich examples of how this can be achieved, including frameworks, examples, ideas, and tools which will guide researchers in the lifelong task of defining themselves as researchers and crafting their own unique research practice. It also features critical insights into careers oriented toward having impact on practice, reflective questions that make the principles personal and relevant, and a framework to help develop the network of connections required for research to impact practice.

Speaking to the graduate student in all of us, How to Do Relevant Research will greatly benefit Ph.D. students and early career academics who gravitate towards this kind of research but worry about its feasibility and instrumentality, mid-to-late career scholars who do research for practice and teach young scholars how to do it, and to researchers in a think-tank or consultancy who want their work to be scientifically sound and practically useful.
Critical Acclaim
‘This book is a very powerful statement of how management research can be relevant for management practice and why that is important. I used a preprint with my doctoral students to enable them to think about how their scholarship can be both rigorous and relevant. The reflective questions scattered throughout the book are an added bonus that guide students to reflect for themselves about what matters to them about research. I strongly recommend this book for academics pondering their links with practice.’
– Jean M. Bartunek, Boston College, US

‘Minimizing the rigor-relevance trade-off is the holy grail not only of management research but for all the social sciences. This ingenious and timely book is full of actionable insights and wisdom on what its authors call “sweet spot research” as organizations confronting pervasive disruption need the research of business schools more than ever.’
– Geoffrey Garrett, The University of Southern California, US

‘How to Do Relevant Research shows how to achieve both rigor and relevance by building a solid bridge between academics in the ivory tower and practitioners in the world. It inspires meaning, purpose and action in a community of scholars where research is often void of societal relevance and filled with instrumental careerism. It provides a compelling explanation of why sweet spot research is responsible research, why it is good for everyone, and how it can inspire a collective dream of making the world a better place for all people. This book is a wonderful gift to all current and aspiring scholars, not only those in management but in all professional disciplines.’
– Anne S. Tsui, Co-founder, Responsible Research in Business and Management ( 67 President, Academy of Management (; Founding President, International Association for Chinese Management Research (

‘This book is a treasure. Mirvis, Mohrman and Worley have named and confronted head-on the challenges and struggles of the research philosophies and practices in our field. Through erudite summaries, penetrating questioning and reflective exercises they have built an integrating framework that can be a transformational force in the future of organizational scholarship. This is a book, not only to be read, but also to be subjected to deep reflection and application.’
– David Coghlan, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

‘Mirvis, Mohrman and Worley have written the definitive primer on how to do research that matters to both academics and practitioners. For those early in the journey of doing relevant research, the book is a “must read.” Clear, informative, and useful. For those with experience doing relevant research, the book is a “thankful read.” Illuminating, evocative, confirming.’
– Thomas G. Cummings, The University of Southern California, US

‘At last a book that is philosophically sound and demonstrates there is no tradeoff between rigor and relevance. How to Do Relevant Research needs to be required reading for every management and business school professor and graduate student. It gives us lots of examples of how to do research that makes a difference. This will be the saving grace of business schools – if people pay attention.
– R. Edward Freeman, University of Virginia, US

If you want to make a difference to practice and theory, How to Do Relevant Research by Mirvis, Mohrman and Worley is on target. I wish I had the wisdom in this book when I was a doctoral student or in early career – it would have helped me accelerate my contributions to theory and practice.’
– Michael Beer, Harvard Business School; Co-founder TruePoint;
Co-Founder Center for Higher Ambition Leadership

‘This is an indispensable guide for scholars and practitioners. Mirvis, Mohrman, and Worley offer decades of exceptional experience. Their practical frameworks and vivid examples show practitioners how to tap the vast trove of useful evidence produced by scholars, and show scholars how to connect and ground their research in the pivotal issues, values, and decision frameworks used by practitioners.’
– John Boudreau, University of Southern California, US

‘An important and engaging contribution to doing research that enhances practice. More than a “how to” guide, Mirvis, Mohrman, and Worley’s years of experience in engaged research compel us to pay attention to the necessity of relevant scholarship. If you aren’t already doing and communicating useful, relevant research, this elegant book should inspire you to act. And if you are, then this exploration should energize you to build and connect.’
– Gavin M. Schwarz, University of New South Wales Business School, Australia

‘At a time when executives seek evidence-based insight into effective practice, academics pursue opportunities for thought leadership, and accrediting bodies and funding agencies call for greater impact from research, this book guides scholars about how to best balance theory, rigor, and relevance. I strongly recommend this book to practitioner scholars and academics who are seeking to elevate their engaged scholarship and potential impact.’
– John Mooney, Pepperdine University, US

‘This is an important book on relevant and useful research that should be read by any scientist who is interested in making a difference to both practice and the academy. Based on decades of work, Mirvis, Mohrman and Worley provide a coherent roadmap for the complex and exciting journey into the borderland between academy and industry.’
– Abraham B. (Rami) Shani, California Polytechnic State University, US and Co-Author of Collaborative Inquiry for Organization Development and Change

‘Many organizational scholars, including Presidents of the Academy of Management, have urged us to do research that is both rigorous and relevant. This book shows us HOW to do this – at all academic career-phases. Coming from world-renowned scholars who have done this (and still do), this book’s refreshingly reflective and authentic tips promise to inspire and enable more organizational scholars to rigorously conduct relevant research thereby exponentially increasing the reach and impact of organizational science. This is needed now more than ever!’
– Debra L. Shapiro, University of Maryland, US and Past President, Academy of Management (2016)

‘This excellent book is must reading for anyone who wants to conduct relevant research that advances knowledge for theory and practice. It finds the sweet spot between contributing to theory and producing knowledge relevant to the problems faced in management and organizational practice. It suggests practical and proven ways to engage in a network of activities and relationships that enable relevant research.’
– Andrew H. Van de Ven, University of Minnesota, US

‘A most welcome and well written guide to practical scholarship that is both rigorous and useful. For those stuck in the ivory tower, it’s also a liberatory call to action research!’
– Hilary Bradbury, Editor in Chief, Action Research Journal, Curator, Foundation AR+

‘This book offers a time-tested methodology on how to execute research that delivers relevant knowledge for practice. It resonates with the CEEMAN Manifesto on excellence and relevance in education and research and answers the question of professors and their doctoral students: “How do you do it”?!’
– Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Bled School of Management, Bled, Slovenia and President of CEEMAN, The International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies

‘This book is timely given the current global crisis and potential ones that businesses will likely face. Social science researchers have a role to play in solution making but are often missing from the solution making space occupied by managers. Mirvis, Mohrman and Worley provide concrete guidance to researchers to get to the ‘sweet spot’ where knowledge produced is both relevant and rigorous. They ask us to reflect on our research paradigms and professional identity, and to find inspiration in the many examples of research-practice collaborations that they share in the book. A must-read for researchers at any stage of their career seeking to produce research insights that impact practice.’
– Garima Sharma, Georgia State University, US

‘This book is long overdue. With examples of relevant research all over the world, it enables scholars to smell the aroma of practice and practitioners to taste the cooking of academics. I recommend this work to academics around the globe. For practitioners who are venturing into the scholarly world (i.e., getting doctoral degrees), this is must have book.’
– Baniyelme D. Zoogah, President; Africa Academy of Management; Xavier University, US

Contents: Preface and acknowledgements PART I WHAT AND WHY 1. Theory-driven, practice-driven, and “sweet spot” management research 2. Developing your research philosophy 3. Creating value in organizational research: a relational view 4. Relevant research: yesterday and today PART II HOW 5. Theorizing and practice 6. Research and practice 7. Communicating research to scholars and practitioners 8. Managing research relationships in the field 9. Being a sweet spot researcher Index
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