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
“What is interesting research?” I recently read an essay by Cachon (2012), What Is Interesting in Operations Management?, published in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, which starts with just this question. The essay discusses Cachon’s view of “the essential characteristics of interesting research in general and in operations management in particular”. According to him, “[i]nteresting means unexpected—interesting research piques your curiosity, it induces a pause for contemplation, and most importantly, it contradicts how you think about the world”. He also presents a simple rule for an interesting paper: “What was thought to be X is really Y.” Cachon gives several examples that demonstrate how this rule works in the field of operations management and similar examples could easily be found in supply chain management research. Cachon highlights that being interesting is necessary for research, but he also contends that this is not sufficient. To have an impact, research also needs to be important.
Cachon, G.P. (2012). What Is Interesting in Operations Management? Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, 14 (2), 166-169 https://doi.org/10.1287/msom.1110.0375