• Knowledge that counts: an examination of the theory practice gap between business and marketing academics and business practitioners examined in respect of their respective epistemic stances

      Longbottom, David; Ash, Malcolm (University of DerbyStaffordshire University, 2014-08-06)
      This work examines and presents evidence for the existence of a gap in epistemological views between academic and practice marketers. Few if any academics would seem to challenge the ‘gap’ premise but the importance of any gap and its nature are issues about which little agreement exists. The intractable nature of the academic practitioner gap has a long history of interesting and diverse debate ranging from Dewey’s argument about the true nature of knowing to contributions based on epistemic adolescence, ontological differences and more pragmatic suggestions about different tribes. Others include the rigour versus relevance issue, failures in curriculum or pedagogy and a clash between modernist and postmodernist epistemologies. Polanyi’s description of tacit versus explicit knowledge further extends the debate as do issues of knowledge creation and dissemination in particular through Nonaka. Irrespective of approach actual evidence for a gap was largely based on argument rather than empirical proof. This work address that lack. The intractability of the gap suggests that it is at root, epistemic. To identity the existence of a gap in such terms a domain specific epistemic questionnaire developed by Hofer was used. A factor analytic process extracted a common set of factors for the domain of marketers. Five epistemic factors were identified. Three of these showed significant difference in orientation between practitioners and academics confirming that the theory practice gap is tangible and revealing an indication of its nature Broadly results from factor analysis with interpretation informed by factor item structure and prior theoretical debate suggests that academics and practitioners views on knowledge and how they come to know share similarities and differences. Academics are more likely to see knowledge as stable, based on established academic premise legitimized from academy. Practitioners are more likely to see knowledge as emerging from action, as dynamic and legitimised by results. Other significant findings included the emergence of dialogue as a means of closing the gap, and the emergence of a group of academics with significant practice experience termed here as, hybrids, who are located in the Academy but mostly share their epistemic views with practitioners. Correlation analysis showed that academic propensity to engage in dialogue with practice moved academic factor scores towards practitioners. This shows that dialogue has a clear role in both perpetuating the gap in its absence or reducing it. Fundamentally dialogue plays a clear role in bridging the two epistemologies and in providing for additional epistemic work. Finally a solution to bridging the gap has been proposed. The model called dialogic introspection melds dialogue and introspection to create epistemic doubt, the volition to change and a means of resolution. The model avoids prescription of what form knowledge should take but instead adopts a stance similar to more mature disciplines like medicine in which the status of academic work is enhanced in line with its relevance to practice which itself is embodied in dialogue. This approach recognizes the centrality of epistemology as shaping the conditions necessary for recognizing epistemologies as hierarchies in which the epistemology most capable of additional epistemic work is the most desirable. Such an epistemology would have the capacity to add epistemic work and reinforces Nonaka’s call for epistemology to be recognized as central to knowledge creation.