Creating the Well-Rounded MBA

mattsymonds_170x170Specialism is dying out at B-schools, author and consultant Matt Symonds wrote recently in Forbes. A growing contingent of programs has realized that focusing on traditional subjects such as finance, strategy, operations, etc., is no longer enough; future managers will need much broader educations to be able to master the contexts their companies operate in.

While double-qualification programs now abound at top American universities, “they also may simply end up producing doctors, lawyers and architects who better understand the importance of cash flow and good marketing, ” says Symonds, who points out programs outside the U.S. as more visionary in this regard.

At ESADE school in Barcelona, Spain, dean Alfons Sauquet puts into practice his belief that business school should be not a stand-alone institution but a hub that connects business, science and the arts. The school has a unique partnership with Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, Calif., where a “Beyond Pretty” program uses a mix of psychology, anthropology and sociology to try to tackle business problems.

Warwick Business School in the UK sends all its full-time MBA candidates to the CAPITAL Centre, a joint venture between Warwick University’s English department and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here, the idea is to teach not acting but all the soft skills that are important in business, such as teamwork, sociability, self-esteem and self-management.

“The true renaissance MBA, as familiar with art and design and the hard sciences as with a balance sheet and an organizational model, may still be some way off,” says Symonds, “But a definite change in thinking is underway at some of the more enlightened schools around the world. There’s a growing acceptance of the idea that the most effective business leaders of tomorrow will be people with a holistic approach to their jobs, not the narrow focus of the past.”

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