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Rethinking MBA pedagogy (from The Economist) September 30, 2009

Posted by Brian Payer in Design Thinking.

How much responsibility do Business Schools bear for the financial crisis? Given that MBAs make up 40% of the workforce on Wall Street, quite a bit.

Top business schools are quick to talk about “educating leaders who make a difference in the world,” but MBA core curricula and widely accepting management techniques have not changed significantly in recent decades. Platitudes about culture and leadership are plentiful, but real change is lacking. The author in this “Economist” article goes so far as to suggest scrapping the current business school curricula and starting from scratch.

There is an open question about MBA pedagogy, and our class is exploring the issue in depth. Perhaps we should invite the author to class, or at least send a letter to the editor. I’ve always wanted to write one of those letters that starts “Dear Sir:”…

What can we recommend? Exercises in design thinking, sketching, visualization, wicked problems, ethnographic research, improv and critical thinking are a start, but the key will be infusing design thinking tools and skills into the entire MBA program. Let’s make sure that the Haas difference goes beyond mission statements to create positive change in the education of future leaders.



1. milimittal - September 30, 2009

I agree with you…but I’d argue that so far, we don’t know which elements of design thinking ‘work’ (for us). I think we’ve got a ways to go here.

2. Emmanuel de Garsignies - October 4, 2009

Business schools certainly have some work to improve the curricular;

But newspapers also need to update their MBA ranking methodologies accordingly, to track and value the improvements made

For reference, salary related criterion can represent up to 40% of the total score at the Financial Times…

3. Carlos Lievano - October 8, 2009

I agree with Emmanuel. The MBA market is messed up, because many go for their MBA thinking only about getting more money, and that’s one of the reasons rankings take that into account. I would like to see more rankings that show other criteria, such as number of start-ups from alumni, percentage of graduates going into non-for-profit organizations, companies with a social mission, or into corporate social responsibility. Also, rankings such as the last BusinessWeek one, of the best design schools (we were ranked there!). It is about the difference we can make by having an informed and thoughtful approach at allocating resources and pursuing opportunities, not income increases and and average wages.

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