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The research-teaching “oneness” of competitive dynamics: Toward an ambicultural integration


How to integrate research and teaching is a vital but little-studied topic in business academia. In the West, pedagogy and theoretical work often make for strange bedfellows, while in the East, research and teaching are unified by the ancient philosophical notion of “oneness.” Chinese scholars adhering to the Confucian tradition devote themselves to work that goes beyond both teaching and the research-publishing impetus of their Western counterparts. Their paramount task is to be a respected teacher and to educate students of all kinds within the ethical context of caring for the greater community. The case of competitive dynamics, a management topic developed in the West, demonstrates how teaching and research may be balanced and integrated much as in the traditional Eastern pedagogical conception. This effort to bridge the divide between teaching and research is instructional for scholars seeking to transfer theory to the classroom and for researchers aiming to broaden the scope of their investigations. This paper raises a fundamental question: What does scholarship in the applied academic fields, such as management, mean in modern China and within a global context?

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  1. “East” and “West” are not discrete or homogenous concepts. Nonetheless, the dichotomy is constructive for symbolizing distinctions between the two groups of countries and to compare and contrast variations in institutions, cultures, and managerial and social practices. China, or Chinese business (in mainland China and overseas), and the United States, or American business, often represent the East and West paradigms, for reasons of simplicity and parsimony (Chen, 2014). I adopt this premise here.

  2. Two companion papers in APJM (Chen, 2009, 2010a, b) relate tangentially to the topic of research and teaching integration. I share this research with rising scholars and doctoral students to demonstrate my learning in the development of competitive dynamics, such as time management and cultivating an integrative mindset.

  3. The rise of competitive dynamics is the result of the collective effort of many scholars (Chen & Miller, 2012). The story of the growth of the field as a demonstration of research-teaching oneness, the subject of this paper, reflects in many ways my personal-professional experience. My work and life paths have illuminated one another. Therefore I have approached the current paper from personal and professional vantage points, inserting anecdotes throughout. It is my hope that this narrative will contribute to a deeper understanding of both the research and teaching arenas, and of the work-life balance of the “humane scholarly” pursuit.

  4. Before leaving Taiwan, I studied the Chinese classics with Master Aixinjueluo Yu-Yun 愛新覺羅.毓鋆 (1905–2011), a nephew of the “Last Emperor” of China. Under his tutelage I read the works of the most illustrious philosophers from the zenith of ancient Chinese civilization (772–222 B.C.). In the course of my studies I was immersed in the work of Sun Tzu and various interpretations of his writings, which later deeply influenced my competitive dynamics research.

  5. This approach to scholarship is not exclusive to China or the East. Referring back to Van de Ven (2007) (citing Boyer, 1990), many Western academics practice a “broader and more expansive” conception of scholarship: “[T]he work of the scholar also means stepping back from one’s investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice.”

  6. I appreciate an anonymous reviewer’s comment emphasizing this point, which is considered later in the paper.

  7. The idea of Dao (道) lies at the heart of the work of virtually all Chinese philosophers, including Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Sun Tzu. Dao is both one of the simplest and most complex ideas in Chinese thinking: it expresses philosophically a “way of life,” a “law of nature,” a standard or pattern, or an overarching moral principle. Practically it conveys the idea of a method, a path or road, or a means.

  8. I am deeply humbled by a special conference scheduled for June 2018 at Queens University, Canada, organized by a group of prominent strategy scholars around the anniversary of my 1988 dissertation publication to celebrate three decades of competitive dynamics study.

  9. I clearly remember one Saturday morning in 1996 when I received a call from a former Columbia MBA student. He wanted to thank me for his early exposure to Chen (1996), which he said had helped him finish his first big project at the consulting firm Booz Allen. What he had read as a student in my competitive dynamics seminar was a working draft, and I was delighted to learn of the applicability and endurance of the research (which later received best paper awards from AMR and the Academy’s Business Policy and Strategy division).

  10. There are some interesting research-teaching contrasts (or “tensions”) between the schools where I have taught. Columbia and Penn/Wharton emphasizes publishing in a very few selective scholarly outlets. At UVA/Darden, teaching is paramount, and case and book writing is recognized as research. As further evidence of Darden’s teaching orientation, faculty maintain an open-door policy: posting office hours is taboo and professors are expected to meet with students at any time, unlike conventional policies whereby office hours are the norm.

  11. A student from my 2003 MBA seminar who wrote a technical note on indirect competition returns every year to teach a session of the course. A fan of AMC since his first exposure to the concept, he has applied the AMC ideas and tools in his work as his career has progressed, starting as a junior consultant in a multinational firm in the computer services industry, then as director and subsequently partner of one of the firm’s international joint ventures, now as vice president of a virtual e-platform provider for retail business. It is a rewarding experience in itself to catch up on this student’s intellectual and professional advancements each year when he returns to campus.

  12. The conference has been sponsored by leading Chinese universities including Cheng Kung (2010), Chengchi (2011 and 2014), Fudan (2012), Tsinghua-SEM (School of Economics and Management) (2013), and Peking-Guanghua (2015). Since 2016, Chinese executives and EMBAs/DBAs I have taught have hosted the event.

  13. “East Meets West” was the theme of the 2011 Academy of Management annual meeting and the topic for a special AMJ (2015) issue, as part of my Academy presidential obligations.

  14. A Shanzhai product is a more inexpensive version of a well-known product. It is designed to meet demands for low price by a set of specific consumers, roughly equivalent to a “knockoff” in the United States. Shanzhai reflects the Chinese innovation characteristics of incremental innovation, which improves a product’s cost or time-to-market without drastically changing the technology, and localization, which adapts existing technologies for a local market.

  15. The habit of starting work early (3–4 a.m.) and talking on the phone or undertaking other interactions only in late afternoon (5–6 p.m.) continues today. To stay “disconnected,” I still do not even open my laptop until 10 a.m., writing only with pen and pencil in the early hours when I work on research, (including this paper, which was in “indirect competition” with my MBA and EMBA teaching, among other tasks).


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I would like to thank Donald C. Hambrick, former colleague, inspiring mentor, co-author, who guided me into the integrative world of management research, teaching, and practice during the imprinting stage of my career. His paper “Teaching as Leading” (1997) profoundly influenced me as a business educator and planted the seeds of the current paper. I also wish to thank Wei Han, Hao-Chieh Lin, Linqing Liu, Wenpin Tsai, and Zhixue Zhang for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this paper, as well as Wan-Chien Lien, Wanjie Niu, and Chang Tan for their dedicated assistance in the preparation of this work. The research also benefits from insightful comments from Arie Lewin and John Michel. My special thanks to Charles Tucker for his friendship and thoughtful editorial assistance. Financial support from the Darden Foundation of the University of Virginia is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Ming-Jer Chen.

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This paper is dedicated to Dr. Stephen J. Carroll, my dissertation co-supervisor, lifelong role model, and “teacher-father.”


Appendix 1: Session outline of the MBA syllabus

Table 3 “Competitive dynamics,” Spring 2018 (Quarter 3), 11:45 a.m.-1:10 p.m.

Appendix 2: Session outline of the EMBA syllabus

Table 4 “Competitive dynamics,” Spring 2018 (Term 9)

Appendix 3: Session outline of the MBA syllabus

Table 5 “East Meets West: Strategic implications for managing in the 21st century,” Spring 1999, Tuesdays 3–6 p.m.

Appendix 4: Session outline of the Schwarzman College syllabus

Table 6 “Ambicultural strategic management,” Spring 2018, 1:30–2:45 p.m. & 3:00–4:15 p.m.

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Chen, MJ. The research-teaching “oneness” of competitive dynamics: Toward an ambicultural integration. Asia Pac J Manag 35, 285–311 (2018).

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  • Research and teaching integration
  • Ambiculturalism
  • Competitive dynamics
  • Academic career
  • Chinese management scholarship