Bridging the Gap: An Introduction to Biggs and Bussen

Where to?

By: Tom Bussen

Welcome to the Biggs and Bussen website!

Let me begin by introducing myself, Tom Bussen.  I’m a writer of three books, a cross-cultural researcher, and an enthusiastic teacher. I’ve spent far too much money on college tuition, with a JD, an MBA, and a Doctorate of Business Administration on the horizon. And although – or because – I’ve never pursued money for the sake of money, I see my work as an extension of a joyful, meaningful life. 

After graduating law school I took a job practicing law, and eyed the corporate ladder.  It was on my third interview with a New York investment firm – right around the time they were explaining that while the pay was good, I could expect to endure long periods of boredom – that I made the decision. Thanks, but no thanks. Life’s too short for boring. I’m joining the Peace Corps.

And I did. I quit my job at the law firm, wrote a book in 4 months with the accomplished Dr. Nitish Singh, then started a new life teaching throughout the Kyrgyz Republic.  I would before long join the faculty of the American University of Central Asia, where I learned once and for all that work can be fun, meaningful, invigorating. I taught in the valley below the craggy mountains of the capital city Bishkek for 2.5 years, plus a 4 month research fellowship in Budapest in which I lived next door to the infamous Parliament and jogged daily on a leafy island in the Danube, before returning stateside to embark on my doctoral studies.

I began a doctoral program in the humid, gator filled swamplands of the University of Florida, gaining the tools to conduct scholarly research while learning under some of the most objectively brilliant minds the world of academic management has to offer. But just as I went to law school never wanting to be a lawyer, I joined a doctoral program not wanting to be a traditional academic. 

Instead, I wanted to mature as a book writer, and to do that I needed to have an insider’s understanding of how research was conducted. I thus wanted to learn how research was conducted, not how to conduct research.

And I have – though the learning is never complete. Two years later, my course work is done, and I have carried out qualitative and quantitative studies, countless literature reviews, and learned not only my own strengths and weaknesses, but, at least as important, the strengths and weaknesses of the research process itself.

While I spent these last several years beefing up my academic credentials, my co-author, the multi-talented Dr. Henry Biggs, spent these years refining his professional chops. A Harvard grad, a long time Washington University in St. Louis professor, Biggs was already an establish academic and professional when he jetted off to Paris with his wife and youngest son. There, he’s taken on a new role as CEO and general counsel of ofCourse Scheduling.

We live in a time of fake news, of skepticism and conspiracy theories.  We live in a time where the leading management writers either pitch their own life stories as one size fit all solutions – I’m looking at you Tim Ferriss – or, they push their own research without considering the world of research that exists beyond their own ivory towers.  

It’s also a little known fact that most academic research is conducted on WEIRD participants – that is, western, educated, industrialized and developed country participants.  In fact, let’s go further. Most research participants are US undergraduate psychology students.  So while academics like to say that their findings are “generalizable” – that is, universally applicable – the reality is more complex.  

These all contribute to the well-documented academic-practitioner gap, which is, at its root, a knowledge transfer failure.[1]

As in our most recent book, Shaping the Global Leader, in this forum Biggs and Bussen apply their cross-cultural expertise to bridge this gap by learning from cultures outside of our own. We question whether something which is true in the US is also true elsewhere in the world.  We find best practices in other parts of the world, and ask whether those might be useful in other cultures.

This website is not the beginning, but a continuation. It is a continuation of my work with my good friend and mentor, the multi-talented and cosmopolitan Biggs.  It is a continuation of a book writing career that began shortly before that departure to the Kyrgyz Republic.  But it also represents a maturation, a point at which we both are ready to more confidently and competently bridge the gap between academics and practitioners, to identify the best that the academic world has to offer and bringing it to the professionals that can most benefit from it.

In so doing, we hope to make our readers – and ourselves – more educated, effective and ethical global professionals. But we need your help to do that. Unlike a book, this venue allows for immediate feedback.  Let us know what you like and don’t like, but, perhaps even more helpfully, let us know what you want.  The hope is that the work of this blog will serve as the bones for a future book, and we hope for you to be the guiding forces for that work.

Mark Twain once said he would have written a shorter letter, but he did not have enough time.  I fear that I have been too wordy in this introduction, and so, without further ado, let us begin minding the gap.

[1] Banks, G. C., Pollack, J. M., Bochantin, J. E., Kirkman, B. L., Whelpley, C. E., & O’Boyle, E. H. (2016). Management’s science–practice gap: A grand challenge for all stakeholders. Academy of Management Journal59(6), 2205-2231.