Trends from the world's largest management conference: Meaningfulness is becoming more important

Meaningful work, environmental issues, artificial intelligence and diversity will be on the agenda in the coming years say researchers returning from big conference in Seattle.


Madeleine Rauch, Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Florence Villeseche, Marie Louise Mors and Andreas Rasche

The world's largest management conference of leadership recently took place in Seattle, USA.  Thousands of leading management researchers participated, and CBS researchers also turned up in force. But what trends do we see within management in 2022? And what impact will they have on companies and organisations in the coming years? We have asked some of our own researchers who participated in the Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022(AoM).

Madeleine Rauch, Assistant Professor at the Department of Strategy and Innovation

  • What were the most interesting trends at AoM according to you?

I think it was a discussion about meaningfulness at work. Meaningfulness is becoming more important for the employees than their actual pay. Do you want to work for big pharma, a gun manufacturer or the tobacco industry – versus working with something you believe in? A zoo keeper is not making a lot of money, but they find their work very meaningful – and there is a trend going on that meaningfulness will be much more important for the employee down the line.

  • How is this trend going to influence organisations in the coming years?

It's going to affect companies that are not in an attractive industry. How are they going to convince employees to join them? They may have to assume a more holistic view in order to make their company more attractive to work with. Meaningfulness is not everything though, as we can see that nurses, who have a very meaningful job, may not have the best conditions either. So, I think the coming years may see more companies try and have a holistic view on what they offer their employees – more than just money.

Marie Louise Mors, Professor at the Department of Strategy of Innovation

  • What were the most interesting trends you were presented with at AoM?

Companies are thinking more than ever about how they affect different stakeholders, but the nuances of value creation are still not entirely clear. Who is it that you create value for – is it customers, the company itself, shareholders or society? And how do we measure that value?
Value for customers is very much about how much we lose if a business disappears. If Google disappears, we can easily use a different browser, and then you can ask yourself how much value they bring at this time. Conversely, they have already created value because many competitors have entered the market.

  • How is this trend going to impact businesses in the coming years?

Phil Leslie, Vice President Economist at Amazon, spoke about how they create value by expanding their way of thinking about their business. For example, they give those who sell their products through Amazon access to their warehouse and logistics for a fee. It's been a great success because it's easier for retailers to sell, and Amazon creates extra value by making money lending out their processes and systems. I think we're going to see more of that kind of value creation.

Andreas Rasche, Professor, Associate Dean at the Department of Management, Society and Communication

  • What were the most interesting trends at AoM according to you?

One obvious trend for me was that there were more sessions concerned with the real-world impact that scholars can and should achieve. Interestingly, many of these sessions were jointly organised by different AoM divisions showing that achieving practical impact often requires us to think beyond single disciplines and areas of scholarly interest. This is why multi- and interdisciplinary research is so important these days. The holy grail of this debate is how to measure the impact that researchers might have, and I have seen some thought-provoking debates on this, for instance around the lacking usefulness of judging individual scholars' impact through journals' impact factors. It is good to see the impact debate finally becoming itself more impactful, but I also think there is still a lot of work ahead of us.

  • How is this trend going to influence organisations in the coming years?

Obviously, if scholars are more concerned with their impact it should lead to more impactful research, at least ideally. My hope would be that these kinds of debates spur further initiatives by business schools, journals, and professional associations to connect with practice in meaningful ways so that scholars become more engaged in public discussions. Some of these initiatives are already under way, such as some journals communicating much better the practical implications of research results, but much work remains to be done. I think the prominence of this debate shows that reaching higher levels of practical relevance is still one of the biggest challenges academia faces.

Marius Gudmand-Høyer, associate professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy

  • What were the most interesting trends you were presented with at AoM?

An interesting trend was that the climate and environmental discussion also here at AoM is changing a little bit. It is no longer just a climate challenge with one problem – that it is getting warmer, that we must maintain what we have, that we must solve it all by reducing emissions. Insects are disappearing, water levels are rising, our materials, metals and plastics, are everywhere in nature including in ourselves, extreme climatic conditions. We are now in so deep that we may have to come to terms with the fact that it is not something we just solve, but something we learn to live with, however, in new ways, if we want to live and to survive.

  • How is this trend going to impact businesses in the coming years?

This new situation has become a cross-cutting organisational challenge, because how do you respond to it? It is a new social existence, which on the one hand is a bit about giving up, but at the same time it's also a recognition that our responsibility is so great that it is hard to see where we need to engage and where not to. It is no longer possible to imagine a manual for how companies and institutions should act in the future to solve 'their part' of the problem. However, it is not possible either to imagine that this will not become the central organizational task.

Florence Villeseche, Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy

  • What were the most interesting trends you were presented with at AoM?

Interest in diversity, sustainability and AI are quite prevalent themes across the AoM divisions this year, whether as core topics of research, as elements to integrate in existing scholarship, or as points of discussions for research implications.

  • How are these trends going to affect businesses in the coming years?

If such themes are present in a wide range of papers from different sub-disciplines, this means that the acute need to reflect on diversity, sustainability and AI will get through to more organisations and companies in the future. I believe this can help both academics and practitioners to think more systematically about why and how they can act towards some of the main challenges we encounter today, and address them holistically rather than as separate, one-off tasks.

You can read more about the conference in the article: CBS at the world's largest management conference: "There is a need for research-based solutions to pressing challenges"

The page was last edited by: Sekretariat for Ledelse og Kommunikation // 08/19/2022