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The Evolution MBA Programs after The Economic Meltdown Published: Sunday, May 23, 2010 8:00 am By: Rafael Ríos, Executive Vice President

For more than a quarter century MBA programs and graduates have been the single most sources of state of the art business knowledge and skills.  MBA programs where riding a sort of bubble with exponential growth. And then came the meltdown and the business world changed.  And so did the expectations of the business relating to what MBA programs should produce. The bubble burst, and organizations began to question if our MBA programs evolved with the new reality. Three Harvard Business School scholars, Srikant M. Datar, David A. Garvin and Patrick G. Cullen, address this question in "Rethinking the M.B.A.  Business Education at a Crossroads," an examination of the curriculums that shape many top investment bankers, consultants and chief executives. After studying the nation's most prestigious business schools, the authors conclude that an excessive emphasis on quantitative and theoretical analysis has contributed to the making of too many robot MBA's.  The book states that these graduate school grads, haven't learned the importance of social responsibility, common-sense skepticism and respect for the dangers of taking risks with other people's money.

MBA courses have traditionally focused on the hard academic disciplines, with a nod towards presentation skills. However, whether today's MBA graduates are trained to get their messages across effectively is a matter of controversy.

Clear thinking and effective communication are closely linked. Unfortunately, MBAs are frequently weak in these areas," say the authors

The authors carried out in-depth interviews with more than 30 business school deans and an equal number of business executives. Communication is one of several areas of concern highlighted.

After this economic meltdown business leaders and educators have identified a number of weaknesses in MBA curriculums. These include risk management, internal governance, behavior of complex systems, regulation and business/government relations and socially responsible leadership. The authors "question whether business schools do a good job of alerting students to the imperfections and incompleteness of the models and frameworks they teach."

The professors identify two imperatives that every business school needs to address. One is thinking skills, creative, critical, integrative thinking. The second is to reflect deeply on the roles and responsibilities of business and business leaders in particular, the ethical quandaries that business leaders face. What exactly is the line between public and private responsibility? How does one weigh the occasional competing needs of multiple and diverse stakeholders: shareholders, debt holders, employees, customers, regulators, and the public at large?

Employers today need students that can operate in a global economy having the ability to integrate across boundaries. They expect schools to provide graduates with global perspectives and leadership skills that facilitate synchronizing organizational realities and power politics. They also want creative thinkers, good at oral and written communication.

These issues should play a key role in the development of new curriculums of graduate business education. Employers are expressing increased doubt about the value of a traditional M.B.A.

Organizations are finding creative ways to take advantage of their home-grown talent as a source of promoting from within. Many are actively discouraging their best young people from leaving lower-level positions for business school," say the authors, They are creating their own institutions of higher learning,  At the same time, organizations are taking non-MBAs at associate level from medical, law and other backgrounds. This bedrock of diverse backgrounds is enriching the creative mindset of their organizations. The non-MBA part of the mix is growing steadily. These trends challenge the traditional thought that a  MBA diploma is a must or a key requirement for vertical growth in the company. The authors say these changes were threatening the business schools even before the recession.

Organizations are developing state of the art executive development programs that are tailor made to the realities that the organization is facing. These programs stimulate the  imagination of business executives and challenge paradigms regarding management, leadership, innovation and transformation. We are seeing executive development program that incorporate avenues for co-creation and customization. This way the organization reduces the probability for loosing high potential candidates to full time MBA programs. 


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