The International Energy Agency has just released a new special report entitled Solar PV Global Supply Chains. It examines solar PV (= photovoltaic) supply chains “from raw materials all the way to the finished product, spanning the five main segments of the manufacturing process: polysilicon, ingots, wafers, cells and modules”. The authors argue that “[p]utting the world on a path to reaching net zero emissions requires solar PV to expand globally on an even greater scale, raising concerns about security of manufacturing supply for achieving such rapid growth rates – but also offering new opportunities for diversification”. It becomes clear from the report that China currently dominates such supply chains and that diversification can reduce supply chain vulnerabilities and offer economic and environmental opportunities. According to the authors, policy makers need to aim for (1) diversifying manufacturing and raw material supplies, (2) de-risking investment, (3) ensuring environmental and social sustainability, (4) continuing to foster innovation, and (5) developing and strengthening recycling capabilities.
Language in academic texts should not only be used to list arguments, to summarize methodical steps, or to report results. Too often, as a reviewer, I have read manuscripts that have not effectively used what I consider to be the most important function of language in academic texts: Above all, language should serve to communicate with the reader. In some cases, I could not believe how imprecise sentences were formulated, how unconvincing arguments were developed, and how the language simply lacked “beauty”. In fact, there is no contradiction between a neutrally worded text, if that is desired, and the pleasure that a reader feels while reading it. Unfortunately, authors often also lack vocabulary. I can only recommend every academic author to read an English novel at least once in a while and to pay attention to the language. Of course, the language in academic texts differs from that in novels. But there is still a lot to learn.
Should academic articles be interesting? At least that is the main message of the famous article That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology by Davis (1971). Generations of Ph.D. students have read it, and those who have not should definitely do so. However, there are also authors who have criticized Davis’s arguments. In an article entitled That’s Interesting! A Flawed Article Has Influenced Generations of Management Researchers, Tsang (2022) recently identified five detrimental outcomes that result from “obsession with interestingness”: (1) promoting an improper way of doing science, (2) encouraging post hoc hypothesis development, (3) discouraging replication studies, (4) ignoring the proper duties of a researcher, and (5) undermining doctoral education. Similarly, Academy of Management Journal’s editor Tihanyi (2020) titled his recently published editorial From “That’s Interesting” to “That’s Important”. As so often, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. In order to find it, it is definitely worth looking into these three articles during the summer holidays.
Davis, M.S. (1971). That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1(2), 309–344. https://doi.org/10.1177/004839317100100211
A few days ago, the G7 countries rejected Russian demands to pay for future gas supply in rubles. Robert Habeck, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, therefore activated the early warning stage of the country’s gas emergency plan yesterday. Today, Russian President Putin signed a decree halting gas supplies unless paid for in rubles. It is not yet clear what the consequences of this decree will be, as it also contains loopholes. However, what would happen if Russia really stopped exporting energy to Europe? A study conducted by leading economists, entitled What If? The Economic Effects for Germany of a Stop of Energy Imports From Russia, examines the economic impact on Germany. The authors are cautiously optimistic, but the effect will certainly ripple through numerous industrial supply chains. One can hardly imagine the global supply chain consequences if, for example, the world’s largest chemical company BASF had to stop its processes due to a lack of gas. It is now becoming apparent how dependent Germany has become as a result of its focus on Russia as the single source of supply and how urgent it is to switch to renewable energies even faster in order to minimize this dependency.
The paragraph is probably the most important unit of a well-written academic text. It has a specific structure and standards that make it effective and enjoyable to read. This video demonstrates how to construct good paragraphs and improve writing with better clarity and flow.
The year 2022 has been going on for quite a while. I see the following topics at the top of the agenda in both academia and business: First, the last few months have been characterized by a large number of supply chain hiccups. Missing chips in the automotive industry have become a symbol of this development. Therefore, supply chain resilience is more important than ever. Second, a lot is currently happening in the European Union in terms of supply chain laws. Stricter rules on supply chain liability are expected shortly, and several EU countries have recently pushed their legislation forward. Third, many companies are transforming their linear into circular supply chains, see the new DHL report entitled Delivering on Circularity. Finally, many companies are also concerned with net-zero goals – and more importantly with action plans for these goals. Many of these plans explicitly involve the supply chain. Although I am a bit late, I wish you a good supply chain year 2022.
In this video, Martin Parker, a Professor at the University of Bristol, UK, and author of the book Shut Down the Business School, argues that business schools encourage students to think that they should approach the future with the same tools that have created our problems. He thinks we need new schools, what Martin calls “schools for organizing”. We should ask ourselves what SCM teaching might look like at such schools.
There are different types of case-based research methods that differ considerably in their basic assumptions and objectives. An example of such a method is the multi-case theory-building approach, which is based on the work of Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. Her 1989 article, which laid the foundation for this method, has been cited tens of thousands of times to date. Unfortunately, there are countless misconceptions about the method in terms of types of data, number of cases, and performance emphasis. The method is also often overinterpreted as a rigid template, although it was never intended to be such a template. In a new article entitled What Is the Eisenhardt Method, Really?, Eisenhardt now puts her method in a new light and argues that the method’s relatively few defining features enable a wide variety of research possibilities. It should be clear that this new article is important reading for anyone who wants to do research with Eisenhardt’s method and for anyone whose work aims at theory building.
Eisenhardt, K.M. (2021). What Is the Eisenhardt Method, Really? Strategic Organization, 19(1), 147–160. https://doi.org/10.1177/1476127020982866
This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics goes to David Card “for his empirical contributions to labour economics” and Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences writes in a comprehensive article about the scientific background of this prize (PDF): “Taken together, […] the Laureates’ contributions have played a central role in establishing the so-called design-based approach in economics. This approach – aimed at emulating a randomized experiment to answer a causal question using observational data – has transformed applied work and improved researchers’ ability to answer causal questions of great importance for economic and social policy using observational data.” Similar to what is still widespread in SCM research today, the traditional approach to causal inference in economics relied on structural equation models at least until the 1980s, but, based on the laureates’ work on the local average treatment effect, natural experiments have become increasingly popular in economics. Unfortunately, almost no corresponding research exists in our discipline, but a certain number of natural experiments were carried out in related disciplines (e.g.; Lee & Puranam, 2017; Li & Zhu, 2021; Huang et al., 2021). Perhaps this Nobel Prize can serve as an inspiration for more natural experiments also in the SCM discipline?
Supply chains have a decisive influence on global deforestation, a phenomenon closely related to the climate and biodiversity crises. Therefore, guidance is needed for decision-makers to inform the design, implementation and monitoring of supply-chain initiatives to reduce global deforestation. Lambin et al.’s (2018) article, entitled The Role of Supply-Chain Initiatives in Reducing Deforestation, reviews such initiatives, their effectiveness, and the challenges they might face. The authors propose “a typology of strategies pursued by private sector actors to reduce deforestation”. This typology is based on two questions: “Was the strategy adopted independently by a single company or as part of a multi-stakeholder process?” and “Does the initiative only define and communicate goals, or does it also implement actionable changes?” This leads to four supply-chain initiatives: (1) company pledges, (2) codes of conduct, (3) collective aspirations, and (4) sectoral standards. In sum, the article gives a very good overview of key initiatives that could help us to solve one of the most important problems of our time.
Lambin, E.F., Gibbs, H.K., Heilmayr, R. et al. (2018). The Role of Supply-Chain Initiatives in Reducing Deforestation. Nature Climate Change, 8, 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-017-0061-1