Helping business schools engage with real problems: The contribution of critical realism and systems thinking

  • Mingers J
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Abstract

The world faces major problems, not least climate change and the financial crisis, and business schools have been criticised for their failure to help address these issues and, in the case of the financial meltdown, for being causally implicated in it. In this paper we begin by describing the extent of what has been called the rigour/relevance debate. We then diagnose the nature of the problem in terms of historical, structural and contextual mechanisms that initiated and now sustain an inability of business schools to engage with real-world issues. We then propose a combination of measures, which mutually reinforce each other, that are necessary to break into this vicious circle - critical realism as an underpinning philosophy that supports and embodies the next points; holism and transdisciplinarity; multimethodology (mixed-methods research); and a critical and ethical-committed stance. OR and management science have much to contribute in terms of both powerful analytical methods and problem structuring methods.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Critical management
  • Education
  • Ethics
  • Societal problems
  • Soft OR

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