Market Orientation: The Key to Survival in Academia

Academia is like Highlander. A competitive version of Highlander. Researchers fiercely compete with each other for who will have the most publications. There can be only one. Publications are the only currency in academia. Hence, the infamous saying: Publish or perish.

There are adverse effects in every domain where one key performance indicator dominates all other indicators. But this is for another article. Not even winning a Nobel Prize can help your survival in academia because publications are all that counts.

Most researchers struggle with publishing academic articles. Why is that? I will argue this is because researchers are not familiar with market orientation and do not conduct research in a market-oriented way. 

Market orientation originates from marketing and represents a philosophy manifesting itself in behaviors designed to keep a brand close to the customer. Customer focus (or customer centricity) is at the heart of market orientation. There is a positive relationship between market orientation and new product success.

New product success in academia means publishing academic articles. I will posit that researchers that conduct research in a more market-oriented way are more likely to be successful in publishing. Conversely, researchers who fail at being market-oriented are more likely to be unsuccessful in publishing.

Who are your customers in academia? I had a professor who used to ask us for whom researchers write academic articles. Are the articles written for brands? Or for policy-makers? Or for consumers? While all these groups might read the publications, market-oriented researchers write for journal reviewers. 

How does the working process of the non-market-oriented researcher look? First, the researcher identifies a topic of interest. Second, the researcher conducts research and writes an article. Third, the researcher looks for a journal and submits the article.  

How is the working process of the market-oriented researcher different from the one described above? First, the market-oriented researcher identifies a journal (an audience) where the researcher will submit an article. Second, within this journal, the researcher spots a theoretical research stream of considerable size. Third, within this research stream, the researcher creates a tiny research gap (because gaps do not exist) that the researcher will fill with the theoretical research contribution of the article. Fourth, the researcher conducts the research and writes the article (that does not even have to be creative). In the process, the researcher develops an interest in the topic of the article. 

Publish or perish? My advice: Be more market-oriented, and you will publish and flourish. 

Dr. Lachezar Ivanov

Dr. Lachezar Ivanov (Mail, LinkedIn) is a marketing consultant working on strategy, research, and communications. He also publishes the Evolutionary Inc newsletter, in which he discusses marketing and behavioral biology frameworks that you can apply in your work and life.

This article is published under a Creative Commons 4.0 License.

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