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April 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Columbia Ideas at Work

Paul Glasserman and Gita Johar


At Columbia Business School, we pride ourselves on bridging theory and practice: sitting in a research university in the business capital of the world, it’s our destiny. Five years ago, the school added an important lane to the bridge by launching Columbia Ideas at Work to highlight and translate faculty research for a wide audience of alumni, business leaders, journalists and the general public. The newsletter and Web site have raised the visibility of faculty research and lowered the barriers to communication between academics and practitioners.

The Ideas at Work collection accumulated over the past five years reflects the diverse range of interests and research methods of our faculty members. Examples include an online experiment run by Olivier Toubia to measure how incentives influence idea generation and creativity; a mathematical model developed by Linda Green to improve medical scheduling; an empirical study of drug development alliances by Jerry Kim; an analysis of transfer pricing by Tim Baldenius that integrates economics and managerial accounting; and a large-scale field study of public school teaching by Jonah Rockoff, reflecting both the School’s breadth and its immersion in the New York community.

Part of the success of Ideas at Work lies in its multiple formats, which include feature articles for fuller discussion of a research accomplishment and a Viewpoints section for faculty members' opinions. Its most innovative format is the Research Brief, which crystallizes a research study into a single key takeaway idea for managers, followed by an explicit statement of the work’s practical applications. With the addition of social media features, Ideas has also become part of a community conversation that strengthens the bonds of the School’s network.

Through Ideas at Work, Columbia Business School celebrates and promotes faculty research to the outside world, but we also challenge ourselves internally. We challenge ourselves to produce ideas with impact and to speak to a general business audience as well as to academic colleagues. Each issue is a reminder of the importance of balancing rigor and relevance, timelessness and timeliness, theory and practice. As we look back over five years — and, eventually, fifty years — Ideas at Work provides a record of the important problems our faculty members have addressed and the impact of Columbia Business School ideas.

Paul Glasserman is the Jack R. Anderson Professor of Business in the Decision, Risk and Operations Division at Columbia Business School. As senior vice dean at the School from 2004 to 2008, Professor Glasserman was instrumental in the conception and launch of Columbia Ideas at Work.

Gita Johar is the Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business in the Marketing Division at Columbia Business School. In July, Professor Johar will assume the role of vice dean for research at the School.

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