Market, reflective ability and sense of purpose
Continuing with our analysis on the role that business schools have to adopt from the start of this terrible pandemic, we continue to reply to Mary Gentile.
It is evident that critics of his level have been arguing that MBAs have been concerned with the market and academic issues more than with the daily practice of management in organizations.
Those of us who have been in this sector for years have tried to correct it for some years now. But when the education system in general does not contribute to this great final objective, the question is more difficult because there is a growing gap between the knowledge of the undergraduate university and what he really needs to apply in the daily work.
Therein lies the leading role of business schools, which in no way can be considered as a continuation or improvement of the bachelor’s degree. It is a different education and it must be highly specialized, so that postgraduate students can acquire an anticipated expertise to practice as young professionals in any job, without the need to dedicate too much time to internal training and qualification
Our colleague says that “determined to speak both the language of the marketplace and the language of academic disciplines, business schools have too often overlooked the proven practices of day-to-day management in large organizations, especially those in critical functions such as operations and human resources that are seen as lacking “fast track” potential or fast money”.
She further adds something of great interest: “And business schools have also ignored those educational methods, no matter how well tested in other fields, which could allow experimentation and give students the time to develop skills in a thoughtful way, methods like peer training, testing programs pilot in a safe space, and, perhaps most importantly, step back from an action to name and question the larger purpose of the entire endeavor.”
And at this point, we also see that we have a shared thought, but not only the theory, but its practical implementation. Because she and us from the AEEE is a response to this confusion that has been going on for some years now, the business schools that our associates represent and, in general, the European and American business schools, are opening a new path.
This corresponds to the existence of a nascent sense of purpose that strengthens the management education profession, and recent innovations show that schools, their teachers, and their students are beginning to seize this opportunity.
Careful! Let us bear in mind that the pandemic has further accelerated this need to respond to the opportunities that the market, in the face of such drastic changes, offers us and at the same time requires us.
Every time we have to adapt to new scenarios, it requires an open mind and a clear vision of where we are going. What are the objectives.
So we can incorporate a lot of energy, a creative spirit and as she says, “what is more significant, a broader social commitment”. And at this point we have problems, because we have to marry the interests of businessmen, institutions, governments and citizens.
And this is so because the educational issue, not only primary, secondary and university should be a long-term state policy, but also the quaternary.
When Thomas Robertson, for example, was appointed dean of the Wharton School (the business school of the University of Pennsylvania) in 2007, he declared that his goal was to make the school a “force for good in the world.”
By reviewing some of the many possible examples of this emerging transformation, we can get a glimpse of the future of the business academy, the types of leaders that are being developed, and the types of businesses that we can expect these leaders to build in the future.
We must clarify that in this great transformed process, the steps that have been taken, come to us most of the examples of business schools in the United States, where the movement is flourishing, but similar changes are taking place in business schools in Europe, and a growing number of Asian business schools are also experimenting with new curricula and internships.
The root of the problem
Business schools have been conventionally heralded as training grounds primarily for competitive winners who can endure great stress and do whatever it takes to survive in a tough business environment.
They have long touted their ability to produce graduates who can work under high-risk, time-pressure competitive conditions, armed with decisive action and confidence in their own one-point analysis of any problem.
Academic leaders defend the prevailing forced curve grading system, which ensures that only a certain percentage of students in each class earn A, most earn C, and some fail, as adequate training for the rank and pull systems that await them in many companies.
Business schools intentionally immerse their students in situations where there is more to do than they can confidently accomplish in order to reproduce the kinds of pressures they will face in their business careers; teaching them to work smart, to know when “good enough” is better than “perfect,” to prioritize, delegate, and focus on what they do or can know, rather than what they might need to understand.
Kim Clark, former dean of Harvard Business School, described this as a “flight simulator” business education model. To be sure, the traits that this model fosters are valuable, even necessary in many situations, but an overemphasis on them has often been deficient for MBA education.
Some of the greatest benefits of the business school experience, in fact, stem from the ways in which it is not like the environment students will enter upon graduation.
It is not enough to reproduce the realities of business challenges through simulations and case studies; Schools must also conscientiously develop knowledge, skills and instincts that cannot be learned in the world of work, so that students can finally respond to challenges with more skills and knowledge than they would have without their graduate education.
Students should graduate with deep and well-considered judgment, not with a set of predetermined positions. And perhaps most importantly, business schools should consciously explore the purpose of the business itself.
Entrepreneurship education should not only develop students’ comfort with risk or the ability to get along with others; it should focus on the goals toward which MBA graduates will apply those skills.
As Harvard Business School professor Rakesh Khurana argues in his book “From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulcated Promise of Management as a Profession” (Princeton University Press, 2007), historically, the The core objective of the major MBA awarding institutions was to “professionalize” business management, a task that requires both a generally recognized body of necessary knowledge and a commitment to a broader purpose of the public good.
But Khurana and others argue that this is a mission from which business schools have deviated in their focus toward a narrow, short-term view of business and entrepreneurship education.
Several emerging trends in business education are presented in response to the emphasis of recent decades, and all involve linking the practice to a broader or deeper sense of purpose.