Monday, April 28, 2008

MBA education- old wine in new bottle

I zoomed in on an article in today's ET by Yale Management School Dean , Joel Podolny, with high expectations. It's titled "Transforming the MBA for the 21st century". I must confess I was more than mildly disappointed. The problem Podolny identifies is familiar enough but I can't see anything novel or striking in the solutions he proposes.

The problem:

There are two fundamental drivers behind the demand for changes in business education and MBA curricula. The first is that the world of management has changed tremendously from the 1950s. Then, a typical manager could spend his or her entire career within a single function — say, marketing or finance — of a large bureaucratic organisation.

There was thus a strong alignment between these careers and MBA curricula that were siloed by related disciplines. But organisations have become increasingly flat, and the leaders of modern enterprises competing in the global economy are looking for managers who are capable of leading and managing across the boundaries of function, geography, and sometimes even organisation, industry, and sector....

The second driver is that today’s students learn in a way wholly different from the way students learned in the 1950s or even in the 1980s. The Internet, the 24-hour news cycle, the popularity of social networking, and almost instantaneous ‘on-demand’ access to knowledge have all contributed to a significant shift in the mindset and the learning process for the 20-somethings now entering our MBA programmes.

Okay, so what are the solutions? Podolny proposes two. One is a "raw case". This, it turns out, is not a case in a specific area- finance, marketing or production- but one that spans multiple areas and contains reams of text and material, perhaps running into a thousand pages! The other idea is to put the material online.

Sorry, I am not bowled over. The "raw case" that Podolny talks about is already there in many places, including, I daresay, IIMA. We call it an "integrated case" and we often have three or four faculty in the classroom teaching it together. If this is new to Yale, all I can say is IIMA is way ahead.

As for putting material online instead of giving it out as hard copy, that too has been practised by several b-schools for years now- and, yes, we have it this too at IIMA today.

If this is Yale's idea of "transforming the MBA", my suggestion to American (and overseas) students is that they consider applying to IIMA.


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deepaksns said...

The extent to what one may criticize on a viewpoint has no limits...often pointing out the "disappointing" part.You choose to keep your own limit and further polish the IIM brandname over its undoubtedly best teaching practices in India.
But the viewpoint can be extended for the other so called lower-rung colleges in India to think over the new changes if they are not as smart as the best ones to think of themselves.
Just like you say more IITs need to be set up for the good of many other deserving people in India for the region to uplift ( not considering brand value but the fundamental concerns to be addressed-brand will take care of itself ),more of such viewpoints ( like of Joel M Podolny )need to appear in newspapers.
I am an engineering second year student from a private college in Dehradun.I read your articles regularly in ET and your blogs to learn good things from your views as I am younger,so ignorant and inquisitive.
But now I find views of learned people clashing and contradictory.So I have started to introspect and choose to differ on points on which my views originate on account of my learning and experiences.

Sandeep said...

I fail to see how the internet, social-networking etc can be a "fundamental driver". Is it not just putting a bunch of information online (which has been happening for, what, 10 odd years now) and accessing other information sources (which have been available for 13 odd years now).

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