Relevance: Practitioners

Richard Schmalensee, Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, asks “Where’s The ‘B’ In B-Schools?” in this Business Week article (nod to Professor Leon Kappelman for posting this article to ISWORLD mailing list). Here’s the crux of his argument (emphasis mine):

Ironically, the recent criticism–that the MBA curriculum emphasizes analysis (what to do) at the expense of management (how to get it done)–is a sign that the last revolution in management education, which began in the late 1950s, was too successful. By bringing the methods and rigor of traditional academic disciplines such as economics and psychology into management research and education, that revolution substantially advanced the practice of management.But now, management school faculty often focus on academic fields such as game theory or econometrics, not on management practice, and their work may have little to do with real business problems. And as business faculty have sought ever more academic status, describing what managers actually do has tended to crowd out prescriptive work on what they should do.

Schmalensee, who is stepping down as Dean next Spring, also admits:

Solving this core problem will require a major effort not just at MIT Sloan, but at all business schools. Many are willing and anxious to solve this problem, but, like me, are not quite certain how to do so.

In other words, it’s business as usual in the research, promotion and tenure game. His conclusion notes likely changes:

We are reevaluating our MBA curriculum to focus it–and the students/future managers we are educating–more sharply on emerging challenges in the areas of globalization, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and innovation. … In the longer run, however, relationships between business schools and business professionals must extend beyond individual classes or programs. And business schools’ research agendas must become primarily driven by real-life management problems. But in order for this change to happen, problem-driven research must become recognized and honored as a great way to advance, not jeopardize, an academic career.

Curriculum changes are inevitable. Dean Schmalensee provides an unsurprising list of changes there. Less certain, do his comments presage a change in emphasis of rewarding research topics? How do his comments match up with advice from your advisor/department?

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