Bennis on Business Schools

In this month’s Harvard Business Review, Warren Bennis and James O’Toole examine How Business Schools lost their way (Subscription required).

Business schools are on the wrong track. For many years, MBA programs enjoyed rising respectability in academia and growing prestige in the business world. Their admissions were ever more selective, the pay packages of graduates ever more dazzling. Today however, MBA programs face intense criticism for failing to impart usefull skills, failing ro prepare leaders, failing to install norms of ehtical hevaior – and even failing to lead graduates to good corporate jobs.” has previously reported on Henry Mintzberg’s criticism of MBAs.
Although the article supports a lot of Mintberg’s argument, Bennis and Jones take a slightly differnet tack. They seek to find the roots of the current malaise in business schools. They argue that the slide dates back to the late ’50s where America’s leading B schools made a conscious decision to pursue scientific research. This led, over time, to an emphasis on pure research, the appointment of professorrs who could peform the research in preference to those who had actual business experience, and a consequent alienation from the realities of the uncertainties of management.
While argues that rigorous research does not have to be quantitative, we largely agree with the premise of the article.
Bennis and Jones go on to say that the solution lies in adopting the “professional model” of medical and law schools where practice is as important as theory.

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