How Business Schools Lost Their Way

There is a must-read article by Warren Bennis in the May Harvard Business Review for any MBA, anyone who hires someone b/c of an MBA, potential MBA, or anyone who supports or is supported by a business school. Its basic premise is: “Too focused on “scientific” research, business schools are hiring professors with limited real-world experience and graduating students who are ill equipped to wrangle with complex, unquantifiable issues—in other words, the stuff of management.”

It is very well written (eloquent prose) and is the best article I’ve read on a topic people have been kicking around recently: why are so many MBAs going into the real-world with nothing substantive to hang their hat on that will help them in the real-world? In addition, Bennis touches on one of my beliefs that business leaders should read non-business books. He quotes Thomas Lindsey:

Business education in this country is devoted overwhelmingly to technical training. This is ironic, because even before Enron, studies showed that executives who fail—financially as well as morally—rarely do so from a lack of expertise. Rather, they fail because they lack interpersonal skills and practical wisdom; what Aristotle called prudence.

Aristotle taught that genuine leadership consisted in the ability to identify and serve the common good. To do so requires much more than technical training. It requires an education in moral reasoning, which must include history, philosophy, literature, theology, and logic….

Several months ago I was talking with my friend Rob Urstein who now heads up the PhD program at Stanford GSB. As he described it, the Stanford GSB PhD program recruits the top students from around the country right out of college who want to get into academia. After their dissertation (this is a listing of some of their abstract theses) they go straight into a tenure-track position at a b-school. In case you missed it, there was no real-world experience anywhere. College -> PhD -> B-school professor. It is this process that concerns Bennis. Now, Rob did tell me that the general Stanford MBA program is broad and that a good deal of their students go into Public Management for example.

If you’re not an HBR subscriber email me and I can email it to you.

4 Responses to How Business Schools Lost Their Way

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *