The HBR Debate: How to Fix Business Schools

Harvard Business Review has launched an intriguing online debate on how to fix business schools, which as many applicants know, have been charged far and wide as contributors to the ethical and strategic lapses that helped create the current economic crisis. Debaters include an impressive roster of economists and professors endeavoring to discover whether the charge is legitimate, and if so, what changes should be made going forward. Are we talking about a little tarnish, or, as the New York Times asks, are business schools dealing with serious, lasting damage to their reputations?

Here’s a glimpse at what some b-school professors and industry experts have to say:

Bob Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University

One of the root problems with business schools is that too many are infected with assumptions that reinforce and bring out the worst in human-beings. In particular, the logic and discipline of economics usually rules the roost at business schools.

Joel M. Podolny, dean and vice president of Apple University and former dean of Yale School of Management

Business schools provide students with many technical skills, but they appear to do little, or nothing, to foster responsibility and accountability. Society implicitly trusted MBAs to do no harm when it allowed financial markets to operate in a relatively unregulated fashion–but its faith has been betrayed.

Steve Kerr, senior advisor to and former Chief Learning Officer (CLO) for Goldman Sachs

The notion that management education has such a massive influence upon its students that it can be blamed for today’s financial and economic crisis is absurd. If you don’t agree, did you remember to thank your local MBA director for the largely uninterrupted booming economy we all enjoyed from the early 1990’s until last year? Or, like Darth Vader, is the power of management education only for evil, not for good?

Andrew Likierman, dean of London Business School

Business schools will continue to attract talent and continue to train people to be better managers. They will continue to be places where a wide variety of ideas are generated. They should not be convenient scapegoats for today’s financial problems.

The debate rages on and gets quite intense when conflicting opinions come to head. Definitely worthwhile reading for anyone considering an MBA right now.


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