Chapter 5: The MBA Myth: Welcome to Wizard School

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Chapter 5 acknowledges that business school strategy departments are at least worried about the relevance of what they do. Unfortunately, they are nearly powerless to do anything about it.

In the US at least, few strategy professors have any practical experience of strategy, and few even have a solid academic training in strategy – with backgrounds instead from economics, behavioural science, or other academically respectable disciplines. They try to back-fill the hole by bringing in adjunct teachers, but with no rigour to strategy classes, students get away with arm-waving journalism instead of tough, comprehensive work on real strategy challenges. And the case studies and books that are used mostly lack any substantive content on which anyone could actually work out anything meaningful about strategy for the firms they describe.

No wonder the strategy consulting firms find they can get just as good work out of direct recruits plus a few weeks training as they can out of MBAs. Things are little better in executive training, which too often favours entertainment over content.

Is this a fair reflection of strategy teaching and training in our business schools, or is there in fact a lot of solid, rigorous teaching going on? If so, where is it, what is it, and who is doing it? If you have examples, it would be a great service to point us towards such useful input to the profession. If you are in a business school, do you accept these criticisms, or do you have a counter-case to make? I know of outstanding teachers who are exceptions to this dire description, so it would be wonderful to hear what they do and how they give students and executives something useful in their learning.


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