My Scholarly Reflections

This is where I tell what I think, so that I see what I say

“business schools: a problem in organizational design”

with one comment

I will be devoting more of my upcoming blogposts to the business of business schools, and higher education in general. The higher education field, particularly the business education arena is in disruption mode, particularly in its birthplace-USA. For example, MBA, the crowning glory of business schools is hard to justify now as the ‘returns on investment’ and the legitimacy of MBA are being increasingly questioned (see this blogpost). There are other models springing up to provide an ‘apprenticeship’ style of education where students, under the wings of real entrepreneurs, learn the ropes of entrepreneurship (see this article which talks about an initiative: Enstitute – learning by doing). Their central idea makes great sense: who is a better ‘teacher’ of entrepreneurship: a university professor or a guy who has ‘been there done that’? Professors from top universities are launching their own online elearning presence (for example these Stanford professors; the comments on this link are equally insightful). The only major issue left now is robust assessment and credentialing mechanisms.

So essentially there are issues with the organizational design of business schools in terms of what they offer (the product or service, i.e. the content and the end product in the form a credential), and the processes involved how they provide that product (pedagogy, delivery technology ).Both are currently in the throes of major tranformation.

Interestingly, issues with business schools had been identified as far back as 1967 by Herbert Simon, the polymath Nobel Leaureate, also an important player in shaping the organizational model of the business school. The title of this blog comes form his article with the same title published in 1967 (here is the abstract). In this article, Herbert Simon’s problem in organization design of business schools included the increasing polarization between those, coming from scientific disciplines who want to take business schools towards the path of rigorous research, and those who are focussed on applied research relevant to practical business problems.  He predicted that the two groups would ultimately get divided into opposing and isolated camps so that scientists work on irrelevant problems while application oriented faculty might not be innovative enough. He mostly focusses on research in business schools, but some of his comments on teaching are interesting:

About the casual part time lecturer he said: “The outside lecturer is more often used than
used well.” (p.9)

About the lecturers who come with extensive industry background he said: “This man is likely to suffer from the further dangerous illusion that good business teaching consists in ‘telling the boys how I did it'” (p.7)


Written by Amer Khan

April 23, 2012 at 12:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] my previous post (here), I cited Herbert Simon’s article to start off my musings on the ‘problem in […]

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