7 No. 3
December 2004/January 2005
Its Own Sake
When knowledge isn't
you package and promote your knowledge is equally as important as
how to produce world-class knowledge. Jagdish
Sheth, Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing
don’t think the basic researcher has an obligation to apply
what he or she discovers.
Duke, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology
Negative Benefits of Historical Study
On not applying the lessons of the past
Allitt, Professor of History
graduate and postdoctoral education
Marsteller, Senior Lecturer in Biology and Director of
the Emory College Center for Science Education
The power and popularization of an ancient art at Emory
Exchange: Do knowledge producers have an obligation
to disseminate knowledge they create?
Jagdish Sheth: At one time there were thought to
be two kinds of academics: those who are knowledge disseminators
and those who are knowledge producers. I find the dichotomy not
at all useful. Knowledge producers must become knowledge disseminators.
That raises a slight problem because now the knowledge producers
must also be marketers of their knowledge. So how you package and
promote your knowledge is equally as important as how to produce
world-class knowledge. For example, today the latest articles in
the best medical academic journals, such as the New England
Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical
Association, have worldwide media coverage simultaneously with
the publication of a major research finding. The new knowledge is
not limited to small academic communities; it has worldwide impact.
Similarly, research done on Nobel Prize winners has found consistently
that the winners are often excellent knowledge disseminators. There
are some exceptions, of course, but mostly the winners took a leadership
role and took knowledge beyond academic journals.
AE: Are there more self-centered reasons for
JS: Yes. First, others might take credit for your
ideas if you don’t. Unfortunately there’s a lot of imitation,
so if a good idea comes along, other people are likely to take it
over. Second, the more you disseminate the more you’re known
as a producer of knowledge, and the more you create your own identity.
In the scholarly world, where we’re all trying to create our
identities, this is important.
AE: What are the ways you conduct your research,
and what have they led you to find in marketing?
JS: There are three traditions of knowledge creation.
The first is observing reality and providing a framework that provides
an explanation—why is it happening? For example, many poor
people don’t always purchase the least expensive products.
The question is why. There are two theories: The old one is conspicuous
consumption—they want to emulate someone whom they are not.
That theory was debunked by sociologists at Columbia University.
Instead, it is suggested that what they’re doing is compensatory
consumption: they know they don’t have all the rights in society,
so they compensate for that by buying more expensive products. There’s
also a risk-reduction theory. It suggests that low-income consumers
are actually very rational, and they know they might make a wrong
choice if they buy only by price.
The second tradition of knowledge creation is experimental. You
come up with a hypothesis, create an experimental design to control
everything else, then change the chosen variable to see how it affects
behavior. That’s done a lot in marketing. For instance, if
you advertise in one market but not another, and the two markets
are comparable, you have a test and a control market and can measure
the impact of advertising.
The third type of research is deductive. You begin with a theory
about the world then use that theory to say, This is how it should
behave. Then you test if that behavior is followed accordingly or
if there is a disconnect with your theory. This style of research,
for example, can be used to determine how various incentives affect
employee performance. What makes human beings work harder? Is it
strictly an economic motivation, or are there other factors?
AE: Do you have a preference among those models?
JS: I’m very eclectic and not wedded to any
one approach. Recently I’ve begun creating large-scale theories
that require deductive techniques, the best of which is fuzzy logic.
Fuzzy logic was created as a mathematical approach and is built
into every digital camera and many other electronic devices. It
starts by saying, Here is a partial reality, and then it fills in
the rest with logical assumptions. What I enjoy most is putting
together crystallized thoughts about the world that make sense.
AE: What ways have you chosen to disseminate
JS: There are three mechanisms I use. One is to
publish in academic journals or books. I find that books have a
wider impact because journals are narrowly read. Another route is
to provide interviews on mass media, like bbc, npr, or
cnn. The third is the most interesting one, and that is to become
an advisor to government. I started advising the government of Singapore
twenty years ago. After the industrial revolution, the economic
activity of the world was organized in an east-west direction, and
that’s what many people believe will continue. But actually
the world economic order is get-ting organized in a north-south
direction, a trend that began in the 1980s. The world is not globalizing;
it’s actually regionalizing along a north-south axis, such
as North and South America, or Asia and Australia. Singapore’s
future thus lies within the north-south axis between Australia and
China. They are in the middle of that and strategically positioned
to take advantage of its location.