Corporate Eye

Bashing Business Schools, What To Do

In my book “Simple Stories for Leadership Insights”, which was published in late 2005, I expressed a criticism of business schools —

This Business School-Media-Corporate complex seems to have engaged in a group think of enormous proportions—professors, consultants, journalists, students and executives all feeding on their own diets of best practices, theories and what defines leadership.

  • Business schools taught Ethics as a sideline.
  • Many companies have lofty Mission Statements and Operating Practices statements that address ethics, but do little to enforce them.
  • Journalists give interviews to glitzy executives who brag about what they are doing to improve profits.
  • Executives courted Wall Street analysts who might improve their stock ratings.

Earlier that year, leadership doyen Warren Bennis (one of today’s most influential leadership thought leaders) and James O’Toole published their critique of business schools —

Too focused on “scientific” research, business schools are hiring professors with limited real-world experience and graduating students who are ill equipped to wrangle with complex, unquantifiable issues in other words, the stuff of management. “How Business Schools Lost Their Way”, Harvard Business Review May 2005

You would think that by 2008 business schools would get the message, but Peter Navarro, business professor at the University of California at Irvine, wrote in the April 22, 2008 issue of BusinessWeek

The more things change in the global business environment, the more U.S. business schools stay the same.

He chronicled the results of his survey of the curricula  of the top 50 U.S. business schools–

“…three major features of the ideal MBA curriculum—”…soft skill development, corporate social responsibility, and a global perspective—continue to get short shrift.” Leadership courses are also not featured and graduates are typically placed in leadership positions. This is troubling to business since many companies indicate they have significant gaps in their leadership pipeline.


There is an organization that is trying address the business schools shortcomings in the soft skills. It is the Aspen Institute and their innovative website BeyondGreyPinstripes, “Through dialogues and path-breaking research, we create opportunities for executives and educators to explore new pathways to sustainability and values-based leadership.” Business School deans should visit Aspen’s Teaching Innovation Program “Members of the network are each seeking to build the capacity of today’s MBA students to navigate the complex social, environmental, and ethical challenges of business.

Additional suggestions to improve business schools curricula–

Business schools no longer have a monopoly in business education. There are an increasing number of competitors. If business schools are to remain relevant they must adapt to the future otherwise–

If you don’t take the future sufficiently into account, may find that you wake up one day and are.

  • In the railroad business instead of the transportation business
  • In the music industry instead of the digital music industry
  • Selling SUVs in a Hybrid world
  • Obsolete

How Universities Can Transform and Adapt to a Changing Higher Education Environment , Peter J.Stokes, Ph.D.  Eduventures, Inc.

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Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.