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Rethinking MBA: Exclusive excerpts from book by HBS prof

Rich with examples and thoroughly researched, Rethinking the MBA reveals why and how business schools must define a better pathway for the future. MBAUniverse.com brings to you exclusive excerpts from the book.

The Harvard business Press has published the authoritative, timely, and thought-provoking book ‘Rethinking the MBA’.

The book — authored by Harvard business School professors Srikant M. Datar, David A. Garvin and researcher Patrick Cullen – documents a rising chorus of concerns about business schools, gleaned from extensive interviews with deans and executives’and from a detailed analysis of current curricula and emerging trends in graduate business education.

The authors also provide case studies showing how leading MBA programs have begun reinventing themselves for the better. The book offers concrete ideas as to how business schools can surmount the challenges that come with reinvention, including securing faculty with new skills and experimenting with new pedagogies.

For decades, MBA graduates from top-tier B-Schools set the standard for cutting-edge business knowledge and skills. Now the business world has changed, say the authors of Rethinking the MBA, and MBA programs must change with it. Increasingly, managers and recruiters are questioning conventional business education.

Their concerns? Among other things, MBA programs aren’t giving students the heightened cultural awareness and global perspectives they need. Newly minted MBAs lack essential leadership skills. Creative and critical thinking demand far more attention.

Rich with examples and thoroughly researched, Rethinking the MBA reveals why and how business schools must define a better pathway for the future.

MBAUniverse.com brings to you exclusive excerpts from the book. Today we bring to you the first part of the excerpts from the book:

‘On the one hand, the economic downturn has provided some schools with a temporary respite from the forces buffeting graduate business education. Because MBA programs are often viewed by young people, especially those with few other career options, as a safe harbor for weathering economic storms, business school applications have historically been countercyclical. This crisis is no exception. In its aftermath, applications at the higher-ranked schools rose, although typically in a far more muted fashion than during past recessions, as did the number of takers of the Graduate Management Admissions Test, a likely indicator of future increases in applicants. Mid-ranked schools, meanwhile, have been busy promoting their superior job placements with regional employers and their specializations in energy, brand management, supply-chain management, and human resources as ways of beefing up their applicant pools and class sizes.

These advantages, we believe, while real and possibly significant in the short-run, are likely to be temporary, for most of the other forces unleashed by the economic crisis add to the already long list of concerns and unmet needs cited repeatedly by critics, the trends already underway, and the curricular changes that have been steadily gathering momentum.

Consider, for example, one of the longstanding selling points of leading business schools ‘the access they provide to lucrative, highly selective careers. As chapter 2 notes, students have long come to business school to gain entry to high-paying jobs in investment banking, private equity, and hedge funds. Even before the crisis, our interviewees reported, companies in these fields were starting to shift their hiring away from MBAs. As a result of the economic meltdown, access to these fields has dropped even more dramatically. Many jobs have simply disappeared.

According to one estimate, in the 18-month period ending December 2008, 240,000 people were laid off on Wall Street. Compensation has fallen as well; in some cases, it is now capped by law. To respond to this shrinkage in the financial sector, business schools will have to alter orientations and direction. They will have to attract a new set of recruiters, develop graduates with a different set of skills, and offer a different mix of courses. All are likely to lead to adjustments in business school curricula much like those described in chapters 5 and 6 of this book.

Meanwhile, part-time and executive MBA programs, which fueled much of the growth in business school enrollments in recent years, are currently facing increasing pressure. For many students in these programs, as corporations reduce their support, the economic proposition looks less attractive. business schools are finding that this growth engine, which chapter 2 notes has sustained many programs, especially those in the middle tier, for much of the last decade is beginning to sputter. To attract and retain students, business schools will need to consider changes in curricula that enhance the value of MBA training in ways that are responsive to the criticisms and concerns described in chapter 4.

Increasingly, we believe, business schools are at a crossroads and will have to take a hard look at their value propositions. This was true before the economic crisis, but is even truer in its aftermath. The world has changed, and with it the security that used to come almost automatically with an MBA degree. As a recent report observed: ‘On the nation’s B-School campuses, hope used to spring eternal. No more.’ High-paying jobs are no longer guaranteed to graduates, and the opportunity costs of two years of training’ especially for those who still hold jobs and are not looking to change fields ‘loom ever larger. To remain relevant, business schools will have to rethink many of their most cherished assumptions. They will have to re-examine their curricula and move in new directions.’

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