This article was originally published by the The Conversation, "Classroom Smartphone Addicts Are Developing Damaging Workplace Habits".
The joke among lecturers goes like this: you can receive “instant feedback” on your teaching simply by observing how many texts and social media posts your students send on their mobiles during class. If a…
A future MBA course?
The headline above is not quite the question John Beck and Hult President Steve Hodges ask in this FT article, but it's close. Beck and Hodges wonder why can't traditional business schools - a model that has run its course over the last 100 years - transition into more game-based learning, like many elementary school children are already experiencing. Most business schools have tried to innovate using simulations - yet as Beck and Hodges show, the value of simulations is limited at best. If real, entertaining, playable games can be created to teach real business lessons (including strategy, marketing, operations, etc.), then there's no reason why the diploma of the future couldn't be granted to students who had all played (and bested) a rigorous curriculum of video games instead of sitting through hours of boring lectures, exams and writing tedious essays.
Add Oxford's Saïd Business School to the list of schools responding to employer demand for a more innovative curriculum. According to this report from Poets and Quants, Oxford is adding more courses to cover topics such as "global rules of the game, entrepreneurship, and responsible leadership." Why the change? Employer feedback told Oxford that students were holding a sort of "bunker mentality" that made it difficult to consider the bigger picture - including larger questions of how business should relate to and interact with the world.
Many schools have tried to go in a similar direction in recent years based on employer feedback - but the larger question is, will this really make much of a difference to employers? Is business school really the right format to learn about these topics? Or is an entirely new kind of learning format needed - one that truly takes into account all the ways the world of work is changing?
Time will tell if the types of changes being implemented by Oxford and others will bear fruit, but something tells us these are only cosmetic changes. Business school will need to completely reinvent itself unless it wants to be disrupted.
That's the question facing many business schools these days, as they consider whether or not to roll out online programs that either complement or replace their existing traditional programs. Even Harvard, the most famous business school in the world, is preparing to roll out its new HBX brand of online education next week, but even they can't decide whether or not online education will be truly disruptive. Two of their most famous faculty, Professors Michael Porter and Clay Christensen, debate in this article whether or not what Harvard is doing is truly disruptive. So if Harvard doesn't know, who does?
It's probably a safe bet that people will always want to attend Harvard Business School, just because of the name, the history and the network. But as we've noted, the industry seems overdue for consolidation. Spending one to two years of your life, as well as over $100,000 in tuition and lost salary, seems excessive as the price for getting an MBA. So - the real question probably isn't whether or not traditional business school will be disrupted - it will be - but what (and who) will finally get the formula right to do so.
It used to be that when entrepreneurs sought out programs to help them hone business skills they chose one of two paths—business school or the school of hard knocks. But now, there are alternatives all over the world: business boot camps, leadership programs, and short executive programs—some in partnership with schools, others with corporations. Female entrepreneurs especially are benefitting from these alternatives to the traditional MBA.
But not all. Sarah Murray’s article “Business education for women in developing economies,” addresses the fact that “for millions of female entrepreneurs in emerging markets, the fees, travel costs and time away from the company mean these kinds of courses are out of reach.” That’s why Goldman Sach’s “10,000 Women” initiative—in partnership with various business schools—is aiming to make business education more accessible to women in emerging markets.
Business skills are only part of the program, however. Writes Murray, “Even once they have broken through cultural barriers and created a business, women may find it hard to see themselves as leaders.” She quotes Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor as saying, “One of the most important things someone could get out of an executive course is confidence – because women can sometimes hold themselves back…Confidence building translates into people thinking bigger about their business.”
There is also growing momentum to provide business skills outside of the classroom—most notably, Murray writes, on mobile devices. The Acumen Fun and the Africa Management Initiative are examples of two organizations that are working on developing mobile phone-based programs that target both men and women. But there’s no doubt that women entrepreneurs will likely benefit the most from this medium. Murray quotes Guy Pfeffermann, founder and chief executive of the Global Business School Network: “Women have no time, and it’s worse in developing countries, where it’s hard to get things done and women spend a lot of time stuck in traffic…If you can reach them there [with mobile technology], then you’re on to something.”
Photo courtesy of Women Entrepreneurship: The Road Ahead.
Professor Olaf Groth has a great op-ed in the Financial Times titled "Arrogant MBA students are products of role-modelling." In it, Professor Groth highlights the fact that MBAs often are trained to behave in aggressive ways, both in and out of class, because "society has emphasized and elevated outspoken Type-A personalities and celebrates “heroes” with strong, charismatic and overbearing personalities." Groth believes we are on the verge of entering a new age where "business leaders [will] need to be driven by humility, respect and sensitivity to cultural narratives in the face of the unknown."
This is a fundamentally different kind of skill, and thus, if Groth is right, will require a fundamentally different kind of leader than what has been needed in the past. This new leader will need to take great pains to carefully consider all sides of a problem before making a carefully vetted decision. The ability to get buy-in from others will be increasingly important. The question is - can business schools teach this behavior? Are current faculty up to the task, or is a new kind of faculty model required? Groth says that any new faculty member in this new model will need to give students the ability to "learn how to develop points-of-view on systems, coming at them from multiple-discipline angles, and exercising 'surround sensitivity'."
Time will tell if business schools and their faculty will have the ability to adapt to this new model. But the business schools that can perfect this model first will have a material advantage in the marketplace.
You know the drill: at the end of a course it’s time to evaluate the teacher. The thinking behind these evaluations is that they will provide valuable feedback to the teacher on what worked and what didn't, ultimately helping the teacher become a better one. Schools, in turn, get a feel for how successful a class was, as well as a way to measure teacher performance. All this seems pretty good, but it turns out it's better in theory.
In her article “Needs Improvement,” Rebecca Schuman writes that “student evaluations are useless.” She references Stuart Rojstaczer's (professor at Duke University) article that states “students often conflate good instruction with pleasant ambience and low expectations,” and they “will penalize demanding professors or professors who have given them a bad grade, regardless of the quality of instruction that a professor provides.”
But there's also more to the story. Schuman's own teaching experience has shown her that “students are often poor judges of what will help them learn.” One one occasion, Schuman measured her own teaching by evaluating how much more German her students could speak versus when they first walked through the classroom door. Though she saw some of the best results she’s ever seen, Schuman received some of the worst evaluations of her teaching tenure.
Moreover, bad evaluations don't affect teachers in the same way. Adjuncts, she explains, are generally hired on short contracts, which makes them more vulnerable when they are rated poorly. Veteran professors, however, are shielded from bad reviews, and likely never read them anyway.
So what are some solutions? Schuman proposes two, with the former a bit more fantastical (though we agree with it completely) than the latter: “A complete cultural shift at doctoral-granting institutions about the importance and value of teaching”—particularly at the undergraduate level. The second: make students leave their names on evaluations, which Schumer believes would cut way down on the “unethical, rash behavior” behind abusive and unconstructive comments.
To read the article in full, go here.
Picture courtesy of the University of Vienna.
Two recent articles on business schools highlighted a perennial challenge – more men attend business school than women, which leads to a particular kind of culture on campus. Unfortunately, this culture may not be producing what future employers want, which ultimately generates a disconnect between employers and the schools that are supposedly supplying them with future managerial talent.
In the article “Why Business Schools Ignore Women,” author Linda Scott outlines a number of reasons why business schools have fallen short on generating better outcomes for women. Among them are an overly masculine faculty and administration at most business schools, as well as a lack of support for studying issues related to the economic effects of gender.
In another article, “Why Men Outnumber Women Attending Business Schools,” a researcher looks at the differences between men and women in ethically challenging simulations experienced during a business school class. Though the article doesn’t actually answer the question posed in the headline, it does show how men approach ethical dilemmas, shall we say, differently than women. Women were more likely to draw bright ethical lines around their conduct than men in a simulated experience, where as men viewed things more in “shades of grey,” especially if they stood to benefit.
Yet employers have said hiring people with integrity is a top priority for them, especially from MBAs, who will be trusted to run the organizations of the future. If business schools don’t bring more intensity to looking at gender and its effects on the different perceptions of how and when to make the right decision in business, they may face the ultimate punishment: obsolescence.
There can be only one - top ranked school!
Bold predictions on the fate of education are all the rage these days. “Half of the business schools in this country could be out of business in 10 years—or five” says the Dean of Haas, Richard Lyons.
Clay Christiansen of Harvard agrees. “It’s very plausible to say that 15 years from now half of the universities that exist will be bankrupt and in some fundamental way facing extinction and the need to totally change themselves.”
But will these predictions really come true? Given that employer demand for graduates of higher education seems to show no signs of abating (workers with degrees are in demand, as evidenced by the unemployment rate for college graduates and those with advanced degrees being below 4% in the United States, and the wage premium for college graduates and those with advanced remains high), future demand by students for higher education degrees should also remain high.
So if not a fall in demand, what could lead to a massive culling of the university or business school population? Maybe consolidation - which seems to be happening in France, where “twenty colleges and research institutes are combining to create Universite Paris-Saclay, soon to be one of France’s largest universities, at a cost of about 6.5 billion euros ($9 billion).” The hope is the combined university will have a better shot at entering the global rankings as well as reduce administrative overhead.
Consolidation of universities makes sense – after all when too many competitors enter a marketplace, the natural response is for the stronger ones to buy out the weaker ones to gain scale advantages. It may not be so much that demand for education will collapse – but rather, given the outsized importance of rankings on student decision making, as well as the fixed number of what can be considered “highly ranked schools,” then universities joining forces to raise their chances of getting a top ranking spot seems to be a likely eventuality.
Today, the Financial Times Business Education section released the results of its first "Alternative MBA Survey.” The main premise behind it is to help prospective students catch a more candid glimpse of what life is like on various business school campuses—from the learning experience to the type of social life students can cultivate while in their programs.
Does the world need another MBA survey? In their article, “MBAs Write an Alternative School Report” authors Emma Boyde and Laurent Ortmans make the point that "business school marketing departments, if seems, never publish pictures taken in the rain." Once on campus, and in the thick of their programs, some MBA students may have the belated realization that their experiences don’t necessarily match the glossy pictures they viewed in brochures and online during the application process.
The survey was sent out to alumni from all the schools on the FT 2014 “Top 100 Schools” list. It posed questions that don't typically appear in traditional alumni rankings surveys, such as what students would change about their schools, how they rank their overall learning experience, and their rankings on the cost of living on or near campus, the diversity of extracurricular activities, and alumni clubs. Students were even asked to weigh in on topics like the weather, and food served on campus.
Students’ “main moan” from the survey was attributed to career services, but there were others, like, the cost of the program, branding (not enough in the case of graduates of lesser known schools), and the size of classes.
The question now is, how much will prospective students pay attention to the survey results, and will it have enough weight to influence or alter their decisions regarding which business school to attend—if one at all? Time will tell. We’ll be watching. To read the FT article in full, you can go here.
As part of Bentley University’s PrepareU Project, which aims to “bridge the gap between employers and higher education,” the school surveyed business professionals, students and recruiters on whether or not colleges are adequately preparing students for their first foray into the job market. Survey results give a clear indication that schools are not.
In her article "5 Ways to Better Prepare Students for the Business World," Alexandra Levit writes: “Nearly two-thirds of respondents viewed the lack of preparedness among millennials to be a “real problem.” 64% stated “that the lack of preparation of new hires harms the productivity of their day-to-day business, while 74% said the lack of preparedness has an impact on the economic challenges facing the U.S. today.”
But the survey wasn't all gloom and doom. Researchers also drafted recommendations for how schools can better prepare students to face the realities of the business world. Some of those solutions include exposing students much earlier (high school) to the ins and outs of landing a job; another suggestion is to empower students to understand what they are good at, and how to relate their strengths to specific professions. Levit writes: “One such assessment is Latitude by You Science, an online tool that combines scientifically-valid aptitudes, interests and career options to empower informed decision-making.”
The third recommendation doesn't have anything to do with the types of core skills most students think they need to be successful in business: train students to be better at soft skills. Employers want employees with honed soft skills, above anything else.
The two other recommendations aim to take students out of the classroom and into the real world not right before they need to find jobs, but earlier, so they learn “the ropes” as they develop the functional knowledge they need to meet job requirements. And as they are learning the latter, researchers suggested that schools incorporate "cutting-edge technology" like games and simulation, which can teach real world skills, and mimic an on-the-job environment.
To read the article in full, you can go here.
The project's focus is to shine a spotlight on the current issues and trends affecting the business education industry, and to explore how to create a business school that can meet employers' needs and arm graduates with the knowledge and skills they need the most.
We welcome you to join the discussion!