Metro

  • Written by George Siedel, Emeritus Professor of Business, University of Michigan
Business schools get a bad rap – but a closer look shows they're often a force for good

There is no shortage of books critical of business schools. The titles leave little doubt about how much disdain the authors have for the schools meant to prepare future leaders in business.

Consider books like “Shut Down the Business School: What’s Wrong with Management Education[1],” or “Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools[2].”

For criticisms of a specific school, there is “The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite[3].”

These books lament the failure of business schools to develop ethical business leaders and to address societal concerns.

In a February 2022 address to business school deans, Dartmouth management professor Sydney Finkelstein piled on by criticizing schools for not producing research[4] that has an impact on society.

The title of his talk spared no one: “Big Scam? What’s Wrong with Business Schools, Business School Faculty, and the Study of Management.”

My recent field study of legendary business school professors, published in “Seven Essentials for Business Success: Lessons from Legendary Professors[5],” tells quite a different story.

In my effort to identify the best teaching practices, I also found that the star professors profiled in the book are deeply involved in activities outside their traditional classrooms that have a positive impact on their students and society.

Beyond the traditional classroom

Stanford emeritus accounting professor Charles Lee, for example, has helped bring the Veritas Forum[6] to campus. This organization encourages students to address fundamental questions, such as “Who are you?” “What are you doing here?” and “Where are you going?”

In talks to students at universities around the country, he stresses that “you are not your resume[7].” Instead of their obsession with educational and professional accomplishments, Lee encourages the students to use other metrics, such as virtue, to define success and happiness in life.

Stanford professor Charles Lee urges students to reexamine notions of professional success.

In a similar vein, business law professor Richard Shell co-founded the “Purpose, Passion, and Principles Program” at Wharton, the business school at the University of Pennsylvania. The program seeks to encourage students to reflect on how they define success and happiness. One student observed that the program has motivated her[8] to develop a “better understanding of how I define both happiness and success in my personal and professional lives.”

The profiled professors are also involved in activities that benefit society at large.

Strategy professor Jan Rivkin is a leader of Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project[9]. He is active in training the next generation of civic leaders[10] through an offshoot of the project called the Young American Leaders Program.

The program inspired a work-based learning program in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Through the program, high school students get paid US$9 an hour to help make car parts at a local manufacturer. The hands-on job experience also counts toward their graduation. A program coordinator calls the program a “win-win for the students and the company.”

Management professor Gretchen Spreitzer is a leader at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations, which encourages positive work environments[11] for employees. Organizations as varied as the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, General Motors and Google use research produced by the center[12], according to Wayne Baker, a University of Michigan business and sociology professor who serves as faculty co-director at the center.

And when it comes to impact, I believe Steve Kaplan’s record is hard to match. A finance professor at the University of Chicago, he started a new venture program[13] that enables student teams in his special projects course to win cash prizes for their business plans. The program has launched over 370 companies[14] that are still in existence and created thousands of jobs.

Improving lives around the world

Examples of the positive effects that business schools have on their students and society extend far beyond legendary teachers at leading schools in the United States.

Through a crowdsourcing experiment, the Financial Times identified business school projects that were making a difference in people’s lives worldwide[15]. One of the many examples they found was a student project at China’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. Students stayed in a Gobi Desert village and helped the villagers market their goji berries. Their efforts increased the villagers’ income by a third, according to the publication.

My research and the crowdsourcing experiment illustrate the increased focus by business schools on societal concerns that will likely accelerate in coming years. Business schools will also be expected to show social impact in order to meet accreditation standards[16] put forth by AACSB International - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which accredits business schools around the world.

Business school rankings have been criticized for focusing too much on individual achievement[17], such as their graduates’ salaries, instead of community-based results like sustainability and social purpose. An association of business experts from around the world have created a new measure called Positive Impact Rating – deliberately not a ranking – to highlight[18] a school’s sustainability and societal engagement, as assessed by students.

Futures at stake

Should business schools be “shut down[19],” as business professor Martin Parker[20] has said? Do they have a “sad history[21],” as stated by history professor Steven Conn[22]? Are they really a “big scam[23],” a question raised by Dartmouth management professor Sydney Finkelstein[24]?

Business schools, like any other set of institutions, have substantial room for growth and improvement. And some business schools do end up in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

For instance, a former Temple Business School dean was sentenced to 14 months in prison[25] in March 2022, for submitting false information about the business school’s programs to U.S. News & World Report to inflate the school’s rankings in the magazine. The idea behind the scheme[26], according to the U.S. Department of Justice, was to get more students to enroll and more donors to donate money to the school. Such cases do nothing to help the reputation of business schools.

But when you consider the many ways that business schools are involved in the improvement of the lives of others, as my book, the Financial Times and others have shown, in my view the criticism that has been leveled against business schools comes across as one-sided and overstated at best.

References

  1. ^ Shut Down the Business School: What’s Wrong with Management Education (www.plutobooks.com)
  2. ^ Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools (www.cornellpress.cornell.edu)
  3. ^ The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite (www.harpercollins.com)
  4. ^ criticizing schools for not producing research (www.aacsb.edu)
  5. ^ Seven Essentials for Business Success: Lessons from Legendary Professors (www.routledge.com)
  6. ^ Veritas Forum (www.veritas.org)
  7. ^ you are not your resume (www.dailyuw.com)
  8. ^ program has motivated her (mba.wharton.upenn.edu)
  9. ^ U.S. Competitiveness Project (www.harvardmagazine.com)
  10. ^ training the next generation of civic leaders (www.alumni.hbs.edu)
  11. ^ positive work environments (positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu)
  12. ^ use research produced by the center (positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu)
  13. ^ new venture program (polsky.uchicago.edu)
  14. ^ launched over 370 companies (polsky.uchicago.edu)
  15. ^ making a difference in people’s lives worldwide (www.ft.com)
  16. ^ accreditation standards (www.aacsb.edu)
  17. ^ criticized for focusing too much on individual achievement (doi.org)
  18. ^ highlight (www.positiveimpactrating.org)
  19. ^ shut down (www.plutobooks.com)
  20. ^ Martin Parker (research-information.bris.ac.uk)
  21. ^ sad history (www.cornellpress.cornell.edu)
  22. ^ Steven Conn (miamioh.edu)
  23. ^ big scam (www.aacsb.edu)
  24. ^ Sydney Finkelstein (faculty.tuck.dartmouth.edu)
  25. ^ sentenced to 14 months in prison (www.wsj.com)
  26. ^ idea behind the scheme (www.justice.gov)

Authors: George Siedel, Emeritus Professor of Business, University of Michigan

Read more https://theconversation.com/business-schools-get-a-bad-rap-but-a-closer-look-shows-theyre-often-a-force-for-good-184921

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Metropolitan Business News

What questions to ask a bankruptcy lawyer

Bankruptcy is nothing new in this world. Most people who live in debt come to this extreme point in a moment in their life. There is no more convenient time to contact an attorney. But what do you...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com

How to Rank Higher on Google: 4 Effective Tips

Ranking on Google is crucial in a lot of businesses, but this is something that a lot of people struggle with. Fortunately, ranking high on Google can be much easier than you think if you know wha...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com

What Are Lead Magnets in Marketing?

Email marketing is a great way to cultivate relationships with potential customers. In fact, for every $1 you spend on an email marketing campaign, you may be able to return $32. But how do you ac...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com

Crafting The Perfect Social Media Marketing Strategy

Small businesses often find it difficult to create and execute a successful social media marketing strategy. This is because they don't have the time or resources to devote to it, and they're not ...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com

7 Things You Need To Know About Applying For ETIAS Online

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) was created to reduce the number of irregular migrants who attempt to enter Europe by requiring citizens of certain countries to ob...

Metropolitan Digital - avatar Metropolitan Digital

UP CLOSE WITH BRAND BUILDER, PRODUCER, AUTHOR AND OVERALL “CREATIVE” TRICIA MESSEROUX

You have and continue to have tremendous success as a “Brand Builder”. Tell our readers about how you found yourself in this unique and immensely creative career. It’s  hard to answer this question...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com


NewsServices.com

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion