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WORLD BUSINESS
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Executive Education

Researching the business world

By Peter Walker for CNN
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(CNN) -- Much like traditional universities, the reputation of a business school rests not only on its teaching prowess, but also the quality and quantity of original research produced by faculty staff.

For anyone considering which business school to attend, paying attention to recent research papers can often help indicate where a particular institution's strengths or areas of interest lie.

Schools can also devote whole departments to particular subjects. For example, the highly-ranked London Business School has just announced it is to set up a specific institute dedicated to the management of new technologies such as stem cell research and pharmaceuticals.

The Institute for Technology will "contribute world-class research on the management of technology," according to London Business School's dean, Laura Tyson.

Another well-regarded UK institution, the Sad Business School at Oxford University, has just launched a group to study corporate social responsibility (CSR), a joint venture with a management service company.

While CSR is increasingly important for businesses worldwide, too much of the area is "dominated by lazy thinking and bland PR," noted Steve New from Sad.

"There is a need for clear and robust non-partisan research, which engages with practice with the right combination of empathy and skepticism," he added.

More specialized

Other recent business school research can, on the face of it, appear a bit more trivial, but is just as important in its way.

For example, a professor at the top-ranked Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the U.S., has found out an important fact for those deciding on the price of a consumer good.

Bobby Calder's research showed that every extra syllable in a product's price decreases its chances of being remembered by 20%, something caused by the fact that a person's phonological loop -- a regulator of memory -- can only hold 1.5 to 2 seconds of spoken information.

"It is not the length of the price in digits that determines how difficult it is to memorize, but rather how many syllables this price has when read," explains the research by Professor Calder and academics at two other institutions.

This means that people who talk more quickly tend to remember longer prices -- a particular boon to Hungarians, who tend to be faster speakers.

Yet another piece of research coming from a leading US school has potentially important implications for marketing departments.

The study, by David Wooten, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business, explores the impact of adolescent ridicule on consumer behavior and brand consciousness.

According to Wooten's study, ridicule helps teach teenagers what brands and styles of clothes and shoes to wear and which ones to avoid, if they want acceptance from their peers.

"Although teaching is seldom the motive of teasers, learning is often a byproduct of teasing," Wooten said.

"I find that the practice of ridicule both reflects and affects adolescents' perceptions of 'belongingness,' the content of ridicule conveys information about the consumption norms and values of peer groups, and the experience of ridicule influences the acquisition, use and disposition of possessions."


story.price.jpg

Quite a mouthful: more syllables make prices harder to remember.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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