One of the world’s most prolific and influential authors on the subject of strategic management nearly bypassed a career in academia.
Harbert College professor Dave Ketchen’s original plan, after completing a marketing degree, involved earning an MBA and launching a business.
“It was going to be a sporting goods store which, in retrospect, would’ve been the worst decision in the world,” said Ketchen, the college’s Harbert Eminent Scholar of Management and the SEC’s 2018 Auburn University Faculty Achievement Award winner.
Some of his undergraduate professors liked the way he wrote. He had a flair for using data to tell a compelling story in an entertaining way. They suggested he think about earning a Ph.D. and becoming a professor.
“I was 21 and still had long hair,” said Ketchen, who played guitar in a band during his long-haired phase. “I thought, `Me, a professor? Are you kidding?’”
Given Ketchen’s trajectory in academia and the upheaval in the retail industry, it’s safe to say he made the right call in opting out of selling baseball equipment and youth soccer jerseys. A recently published article in Academy of Management Learning & Education found that Ketchen is among the top 100 – and among the top 1.6 percent overall -- most influential authors in the area of strategy.
Co-authors Herman Aguinis, Ravi Nawaf Alabduljader, James Bailey and Joowon Lee examined the most influential authors in the areas of strategy, general management, organizational behavior and human resource management. While scholarly impact is often measured through citations in journal articles, the co-authors examined “knowledge transfer” through the frequency of source and author citations in 38 commonly used undergraduate-level management textbooks. As part of the study, the co-authors created a database of more than 33,000 articles and book chapters, 32,900 authors with at least one citation and 7,400 sources.
Based on their analysis, Ketchen ranked among the top 1.6 percent of 6,326 authors included in the database. According to Google Scholar, Ketchen’s work has been cited more than 29,500 times with more than 18,200 citations coming in the last five years. Over the course of his career, Ketchen has explored a variety of topics through his research, including high-performance work practices and their effects on organizational performance, market orientation, connections between organization theory and supply chain management and the relationship between human capital and firm performance.
“A lot of academics feel you should have one or two specialties, but there are so many aspects of organizations I find interesting,” Ketchen said.
Ketchen ranks third among all Auburn University authors in research citations, but he isn’t the only publication powerhouse within the Harbert College. Lowder Eminent Scholar in Finance Jim Barth ranks seventh with more than 14,500 citations, Department of Management Chair and C.G. Mills Professor Kevin Mossholder ranks 12th and Associate Dean for Graduate and International Programs Stan Harris ranks 17th.