Q&A With Haas Dean Rich Lyons

The June issue of GMAC’s Deans Digest features an interview with dean Rich Lyons of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Lyons, who will provide a keynote speech on “path-bending leaders” for the GMAC Annual Industry Conference next week, talks about where he sees graduate management education headed and how B-schools must build innovative leaders.

Below are two edited excerpts from the interview; you can read the entire Q&A here in the latest Deans Digest.

Q: Where do you think graduate management education is headed in the short term and farther out? What general trends do you see?

A: […] If we look at business schools more introspectively, one element that we’re grappling with more and more is our own culture. The great organizations are invariably described by strong norms and values. As we start to think about how we are creating norms among students who come to our business schools, it seems to me that we have been a lot less deliberate than we need to be about the norms and values that we are reinforcing, whether it’s about career choice, or thinking about one’s role in society and the way one manages and leads.

I think firms are much more deliberate about this than business schools are. Firms get paid for being usefully different. Another macro theme, therefore, is how do business schools develop leaders that are producing useful differentness? How do we build organizational capacity for differentness? I think that is absolutely fundamental, and I think we have some hard thinking to do in that area.

Q: In your view, what are the one or two greatest challenges facing graduate management education today?

A: One has to look at the broader social context and understand that society is not that happy with us as business schools. So a major challenge is to respond intelligently to the fact that we are part of a system that performed very poorly over the last three years. Are we to blame? Obviously not exclusively, but we are part of that system. So that’s a major near-term challenge””what will society want to see, and how will we deliver it? For example, do we need to be more deliberate about reinforcing norms and values? Should we have a code of conduct?

Another challenge is when we admit people into business schools, increasingly it’s the case that you can’t have stumbled. [The usual mindset is that] if you got a C in a class, didn’t do so well on the GMAT, or had some interruption in your career path, you won’t land where you want to land. Industry wide, therefore, we are de facto selecting people who haven’t run the big experiments in their lives that they might have. This could be one of those unintended consequences that is having more impact than we realize.
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