The Benefits of Integrated Scholarship

As our society is changing at a rapid pace, so are our definitions of research excellence. To explore where this may take us both individually and as a research institution, we sat down with Dr. Markus Giesler, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Schulich School of Business.

How is scholarship changing in today’s world?

I think there are two basic approaches and also an infinite amount of possible combinations between these two: the classic differentiated approach and a more recent integrated approach. In the classic approach, researchers look at their work like independent art directors look at their movies – something that inspires and transforms you and your tribe members but not many others beyond that. That’s where the second model begins. In a world where 13-year olds reshape entire industries only by using their Twitter and Instagram accounts, some researchers are asking why we do so little to allow other researchers, managers, policy makers, journalists, and the broader public to benefit from our work? So the goal in the integrated approach is to assemble larger institutional webs through a range of strategic devices from research studies and white papers to videos, blog posts, media interviews, industry partnerships, TED talks, and even tweets. Both models seem legitimate. But I personally lean more towards the latter.

Do you see this as being part of a larger trend in scholarship?

The fact that funding agencies such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada are expecting us now to provide strong evidence of our ability as researchers to advance the interests and agendas of multiple stakeholders suggests that our definitions of excellence in scholarship may be dramatically changing. At the same time, taxpayers, politicians, students, and CEOs are asking why should we invest in your institution in exchange for knowledge that remains largely inaccessible to us? In the past, high numbers and quality of publications were enough. Now our stakeholders are asking more and more for concrete evidence that your research also informs and inspires boardrooms, classrooms, courtrooms, chat rooms, newsrooms, and even living rooms.It has been argued that this new logic puts a lot of pressure on researchers.

What has your experience been in terms of time investment?

It certainly requires researchers to adopt a number of new roles and responsibilities. We are expected to be faster and more entrepreneurial, flexible, and tech-savvy. But I would also say that it depends a lot on your institutional environment. 99 percent of my research time goes into theory building. This entails the usual scholarly practices and processes such as designing studies, collecting data, writing papers, writing revision notes, etc. Everything else happens on the side. And Schulich is just an excellent place for doing this efficiently. For example, my Huffington Post blog reaches over half a million monthly readers. But it only takes about an hour per week to manage. I usually write the post on the subway up to Schulich and by the time I reach campus, it’s online. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the excellent technological infrastructure we have at Schulich as well as the generous support from our IT director Mark Orlan who has taught me a lot about how technology can help us tell better research stories. Beth Marlin in our media department, our Research Officer Farhana Islam and my esteemed Schulich research colleagues have been equally supportive. More than ever before, scholarship is a team effort. And our flexible culture at Schulich enables this nicely.

Let’s talk about one of your recent initiatives. What was your TEDx talk all about? 

TED is one of these knowledge communities where people of various stripe are looking for ideas and inspiration. It has an enormous reach and it is organized as a global franchise. Thanks to the leadership of Ross McMillan, a very engaged YorkU student affairs coordinator, we have our own TEDx YorkU event. Ross and his team helped me translate my research into the TED language. In the final version, I used bird feeding as an accessible metaphor to demonstrate that market creation success is not merely about creating a powerful innovation or understanding consumer behavior but about harmonizing the interests of multiple actors and elements. It’s an act of network building. That’s the central premise behind market system dynamics and design, the marketing subfield that I’ve created: marketers who look at and shape markets as social systems can be more successful than those who only think about birds and breadcrumbs.

What concrete benefits did the talk generate?

Thus far, it has generated research-related awareness, interest, desire, and action. At this point, it has had around 25,000 views [update: as of Feburary 2016, the video has had 217,000 views] and it has been shared by fellow researchers and researchers in other fields, media journalists, industry players, and policy makers at the United Nations and at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This reach has led to a solid increase in number of article downloads and Google Scholar citations as well as invitations for more talks. In addition, it has helped drive corporate donations for the Experience Design Lab, a new bridge between marketing research and practice that our recent Schulich hire Ela Veresiu and I are currently institutionalizing.

On the local level, it has helped integrate Schulich research with the interests and agendas of the larger YorkU community. The TEDx speaker group has begun to work together on a number of projects that add value to our schools and to the university at large such as paper collaborations, research fairs, and university marketing initiatives. As well, the talk is helping us attract new students. Just the other day, I received an email from one of our incoming MBA students who wrote that the talk had played a key role in his decision to join Schulich this coming fall. This alone made it worthwhile.

Source: Schulich Spotlight on Research 2015

Markus Giesler

Markus Giesler draws on concepts from economics, technology studies, and sociology to inform his research in marketing. He determines how ideas and things (products, services, experiences, technological innovations, intellectual property, brands, etc.) are made valuable over time, with research focused on improving marketing strategy through an understanding of markets as evolving social systems. Giesler's research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the European Research Council (ERC) and published in top-tier academic journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing. Giesler has an extensive entertainment industry background. He founded his own record label at age 17 and has worked in various production and marketing responsibilities for over a decade. He lives in Toronto, Canada.