Thursday, March 4, 2010

What's really wrong with Business Schools.

This is a bit old, but it recently came to my attention again and I thought that I would post it for those who haven't seen it.

A few years back, the paper "How Business Schools Lost Their Way" caused a bit of a stir by basically saying that B schools fail because they are too focussed on teaching theory and quant methods and don't teach enough practical stuff. Their summary was
Too focused on “scientific” research, Business schools are hiring professors with limited real-world experience and graduating students who are ill equipped to wrangle with complex, unquantifiable issues—in other words, the stuff of management.

I pretty much completely disagree with their article. Most students in our MBA program have real world experience. Every day they are solving "real business problems" - they don't come to school to solve more "real world problems". The value added of a business education is the analytical tools and methods that will help them understand and solve these types of problems in the future. This means that we have to teach theory. We have to teach quant methods.

As a professor, my job is to create and disseminate knowledge. Most of the stuff I teach is the result of the research of previous finance and economics researchers. You can't teach finance using anecdotes and cute war stories from the real world - although such things can provide nice little breaks in a 3 hour lecture on portfolio theory!

A very well written, and I think entirely on the mark rebuttal to the Bennis and O'Toole paper is by DeAngelo, DeAngelo and Zimmerman. These authors argue that more rigorous training is what is needed in B'schools and furthermore, that counter to the argument by Bennis and O'Toole, "Research competence does not imply teaching incompetence".