The Technology Lag at HBS

Harvard Business School has rightfully earned its position at the top of many respected MBA rankings, but even Dean Nitin Nohria acknowledges that the school lags behind MIT and Stanford Graduate School of Business where tech is concerned, a recent Wall Street Journal article reveals.

The case method of instruction relies on tried-and-true business scenarios, which means students almost always grapple with management conundrums that are at least a few years, if not decades, old.  Even though faculty are at work drafting cases on current digital issues, some students gripe that the cases are practically obsolete by the time they make it into the syllabus, the WSJ found.

Whereas HBS once dominated in preparing students for today’s technology, and in fact was the first business school in the country to require every student to own a personal computer, the school now offers courses in this area only as electives in each individual HBS department.

To help bridge this gap, students and recent graduates think HBS should do more to infuse the core curriculum with greater technological awareness, covering topics such as data analytics in marketing, crowdsourcing, information technology and other digital issues.

Demand for electives in technology management is at an all-time high, with courses completely filled and waitlists long enough to fill additional classes to capacity. Professor Marco Iansiti, who heads the school’s Technology and Operations Management unit, tells the WSJ he’s interested in adding more technology-management content and “winding down a bit on traditional operations management.”

Nick Taranto, a 2010 MBA and co-founder/c0-CEO of an online food delivery startup, tells the WSJ that Harvard Business School did prepare him to run his 300-employee organization.

“But preparing for early-stage product management, customer discovery, user experience, Web design—what’s the difference between HTML, CSS, Java Script—I had no idea,” he says. “I had to learn all of that on my own.”

Visit the Wall Street Journal to learn more about the state of tech at HBS, and how things may change following a planned relocation of the engineering school that will put it right across the street from the business school.

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