June, 2019

Taking AIM at Theoretical and Pragmatic Impact

A Call for Actionable, Insightful, and Measurable Research
  • Christopher Craighead

  • Jessica Darby

  • David Ketchen Jr.

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Ongoing debate surrounds the relative importance of theory and practice within supply chain research. Some contend that strong theory is central to knowledge advancement and its application to practice should be a secondary concern. Others argue that emphasizing theory moves the field away from its applied roots and the concerns of managers. We transcend this debate by proposing that theory and practice are separate dimensions rather than opposing concerns. Research projects can thus be strong in terms of both theory and practice, weak on both, or strong on one and weak on the other. We propose that placement within the first category requires scholars to devise research that is AIM—actionable (i.e., it provides a basis for making changes), insightful (it provides new ideas on important issues), and measurable (its effects can be quantitatively assessed). The impact of such research is magnified or dampened by the degree to which scholars achieve theoretical contextualization (i.e., adjusting the theory to reflect the setting under investigation) and theoretical calibration (i.e., alignment between theory and methods). Because “AIMing high” can deliver strong value for both scholars andmanagers, we encourage scholars, editors, and reviewers to embrace it in the development and evaluation of research.