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Transforming Business Research into Impact

Herman Aguinis in front of the crowd at the Telfer Distinguished Speaker Series eventNow, more than ever, the "world of work" is making its way into the headlines of news outlets worldwide. From quiet quitting to remote work and artificial intelligence (AI), business research is more important than ever. As business researchers, we sometimes wonder—how can we make an impact.

On May 12, 2023, the Telfer School of Management hosted the annual Distinguished Speaker Series in Thriving Organizations and Societies. The Thriving Organizations Research Collective hosted Herman Aguinis, PhD, a distinguished management scholar and leading expert on talent management and organizational research methods from the George Washington University School of Business. Professor Aguinis is a world-renowned scholar and thought leader with over 200 academic articles published throughout his career. He also served as president of the Academy of Management (AoM) for 2021-2022.

During his keynote speech at Telfer, Professor Aguinis reflected on his decades of research, teaching, and consulting and discussed how management researchers can have an impact on their communities, countries, and the world. He offered the room full of students, faculty, and business leaders several strategies to help bridge the gap between science and business in order to create lasting change.

Learn from outside your expertise

When was the last time you picked up an applied economics book or read an article on philosophy? Whether it’s listening to podcasts or reading books, seeking new ways of viewing the world outside your discipline can help you challenge underlying assumptions – both your own and those of your industry or company. In doing so, it’s possible to integrate existing perspectives in novel ways. Professor Aguinis gave examples such as how the microscope transformed the field of medicine and how the telescope revolutionized astronomy, creating the gateway for future space exploration.

He challenged the audience to think about what the next microscope or telescope might be for business and to consider applying what we’ve learned in other disciplines to business and management. For example, in biology, many complex systems create an ecosystem. Can we apply our knowledge of these biological systems and how they thrive to organizations and the people who work for them? By learning from outside our field of expertise, we can identify blind spots, revealing what our own field’s telescopes and microscopes might be –and what the field might be missing or unknowingly assuming.

Expand your scope

Lightbulb with two arrows pointing in opposite directionsFor business researchers to make an impact, they must know and understand their audience. They must also be willing to expand their audience and gain awareness of who they are disseminating their research to and how. Professor Aguinis highlighted three methods to reach and impact desired audience members.

First, prioritize the practical implication of research and research findings—according to an article published in The European Business Review, only 1.5% of organizational behaviour and human resources research includes practical implications. Second, take your research to your desired audience by networking outside your traditional groups. If your goal is to influence Human Resources professionals, share your research at Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) or Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) conferences. If you intend to use your research to fuel legislative changes, speak with policymakers and their constituents to learn how your research can be most meaningful. Third, share research findings in outlets that your audience already reads, such as The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and The Conversation, and promote it through social media networks, such as LinkedIn.

What's your impact?

Many researchers aspire to have impact – not just in academia, but also on the rest of the world. But how can impact be achieved? Professor Aguinis recommended creating a Personal Impact Development Plan (PIDP) to identify individual competencies and resources needed to increase impact. Reflecting on questions like, “On whom do I want to have impact and why?” and “Am I scanning the environment looking for ways to increase my impact?” once every year can help researchers identify their research values, passions, and motivations that will grow their impact for a better Canada and a better "work world" for all.

Jennifer Dimoff and Mikaila OrtynskyThis article was written by Mikaila Ortynsky and Jennifer Dimoff.


Jennifer Dimoff is an Associate Professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. She holds a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Saint Mary’s University, and is the youngest recipient of the Society of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Scientist-Practitioner Recognition Award.

Mikaila Ortynsky is a PhD student in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources at the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. Her research interests include women’s health, well-being, and leadership at work.