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The academic non-consultation phenomenon revisited: a research agenda

Nhien Nguyen (Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway and Nordland Research Institute, Bodø, Norway)
Jens Ørding Hansen (Niels Brock Copenhagen Business College, Copenhagen, Denmark)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to revive interest in the question, never definitively answered, which Stephen Watson raised in the title of his 2000 paper, “Why is it that management academics rarely advise on their own institutions?” It is argued that finding the answer to the question would not only be interesting in and of itself but could also lead to valuable contributions to the theory of the learning organization.


Inspired by Watson’s original paper and a new interview the authors made with him in 2017, this paper discusses the possible explanations for why management academics rarely advise on their own institutions and sets out an agenda for future research.


The authors suggest a simple three-way categorization of the nine hypotheses identified by Watson (2000), grouping them by the themes of management knowledge, motivation of higher education institution (HEI) managers and incentives for academics to engage. This study proposes an integrated framework to illustrate how these three categories of hypotheses are connected and can jointly explain the observed phenomenon. The study provides theoretical underpinnings for the most promising hypotheses and suggests an agenda for future research, emphasizing the potential of such research to contribute to the learning organization field.

Research limitations/implications

This paper should not be interpreted primarily as an attempt to provide support for any particular hypothesis. Rather, the principal aim of the authors is to sketch out a future research agenda and inspire others to contribute empirical evidence that can help shed light on the paradox of why management academics rarely advise on their own institutions.


The theoretical contribution of this paper is to revive the important research topic of “why management academics do not seem to be widely engaged in advising university managers” (Watson, 2000, p. 99) and to introduce a research agenda that can help realize the potential contribution of this topic to the learning organization literature. The practical contribution is to re-address the difficulties of HEIs in becoming full-fledged “learning organizations” and to suggest that HEI managers re-examine the possibilities for using hitherto untapped internal expertise.



The authors wish to thank Professor Anders Örtenblad of Nord University, Norway, for his helpful comments on the manuscript. The authors are also grateful to Are Jensen, Nord University, for his valuable comments regarding methodology.


Nguyen, N. and Hansen, J.Ø. (2017), "The academic non-consultation phenomenon revisited: a research agenda", The Learning Organization, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 312-326.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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