Why business professors are professors and not, well, in business

You have to get way into the third page of this Washington Post article regarding websites that identify “experts” to get to this classic quote:

Even if sites are able to identify expertise, several business professors questioned why experts would donate their wisdom to the Web rather than striking out on their own to make money.

Which leads one to the obvious question: If those business professors are so smart, why aren’t they striking out on their own to create businesses?

Actually, I don’t fault the “several” business professors the reporter claims he spoke with to gain that wisdom. It is extremely counter-intuitive to think “experts” will donate wisdom for nothing. It is especially counter-intuitive if you’re observing what’s taking place from an ivory tower or an executive suite or from any other traditional seat of power and prestige. Indeed, it’s not just counter-intuitive: it’s scary as hell. But the simple fact is, the unpaid experts are getting something. Unfortunately, the incentives aren’t rarely easy to define and measure.

Fortunately, I personally know why “experts” contribute their wisdom online for free. Moreover, I have studied closely this phenomenon for more than a decade. However, if you’re expecting me to blog that wisdom here for free, you must be crazy. Why would I donate such insight on a blog when I could maybe strike out on my own and make some money.

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  • I know this is an old post but I just found it and have to comment:

    It is odd that professors wondered why experts give away stuff for free when they probably do so themselves. In their case, it would be high priced business journals getting their research for free and then making money by selling it back to professors and to libraries. What do they get out of the process? Prestige and the fulfillment of job requirements for publication.

    But dissing biz profs for not starting businesses is an exercise in foolishness. For one thing, being an academic offers a lot of open ended possiblities for taking research in interesting places but also for doing paid consultations and public statements. Or for slacking off after one has tenure and taking a very early paid retirement.

    Some business professors do quite well by focusing on their investments. When I worked for the NC Dept of Revenue (I think that was the dept) pulling tax returns of people who made over 50k a year (this was quite a while back), I was surprised at the number of business faculty I encountered, enough to remember it to this day.

    In any case, most of the experts I see offering something freely online either just dig sharing or are publicizing their other services.