2 November 2021

02 NOV 2021

Written by Jamela Hoveni - Senior Lecturer, Milpark Business School

My colleague, Dr Cobus Oosthuizen, and I, presented our research papers at the 2021 International Business Conference (IBC) in September. I love conferences because they are an opportunity to network with other academics and to engage in meaningful dialogue about research. This virtual conference was a first for the IBC and, although many of us long for the good old days when we could meet physically in the same space, it is comforting to see that in the post Covid-19 world there is still a space for academics and researchers to meet ‘face-to-face’ to connect, inspire and share knowledge.

The IBC attracts researchers and academics from international business schools. They present on diverse topics covering areas such as leadership, entrepreneurship, financial management and knowledge management. The IBC reflects the current state of business school research and places particular emphasis on how business schools are striving for relevance amid the rapid shifts in technology and society that we have seen in the last two years. Coming from the so-called traditional university where research is more oriented towards theory, I find the shift in emphasis toward application interesting and refreshing. As I sat in on the various sessions, I was eager to get insight on this development.

One problem facing businesses today is the issue of sustainability in the context of the climate debate, widespread poverty, and unemployment. For one, I was anticipating meaningful engagement on such issues and the IBC did not disappoint. Dr Cobus Oosthuizen’s paper on the integration of sustainable development goals in MBA curricula challenged us to think about what is being taught at business schools in relation to sustainability.

Thinking about issues of governance and the influence of good governance on business and the economy, I presented a paper on political risks and stock market volatility in a selection of African stock markets. My research shows that political risks do matter and contribute to volatility in financial markets.

One can argue that the range of topics usually covered at business school conferences provides insight on the research priorities of business schools in general – and those of South African schools in particular. What are those priorities and is the focus of this research relevant? The debate about the relevance of business school research raises ethical questions about the kinds of problems and questions that are the focus of business school research. These questions challenge the core values underlying scientific research and we cannot afford to ignore them at this point in the evolution of science and society.

Do business school conferences still offer an opportunity for meaningful engagement? What of their relevance? These are questions worthy of reflection and research – questions that we at Milpark Business School are thinking seriously about. They challenge all of us to think critically about research, thereby challenging our core values and beliefs.