Business Schools Must Adapt to an Ever-Changing World

The market for management training is no longer as certain as it was at the height of its 20th-century success—and business schools should plan their futures accordingly.
IN “WHAT’S RIGHT—AND STILL WRONG—with Business Schools,” an article that appeared in BizEd’s January/February 2007 issue, author Jeffrey Pfeffer noted that business schools were undertaking “serious self-examination.” At the time, business schools were making efforts to re-engage students in academics, through curricular redesigns that integrated more interactive educational experiences and placed more emphasis on critical thinking. But nine years later, business schools’ self-examination has only intensified, as administrators struggle to balance face-to-face with online, global with local, teaching with research, profit with purpose. In 2007, Pfeffer wrote that business schools were “engaging in the sorts of conversations…that can help them redefine and reinvigorate their purpose as business educators.” And schools are engaging in those same conversations today. We interviewed three prominent and outspoken educators about the issues they believe should drive the 21st-century discussion about the purpose and mission of business education. These professors include Pfeffer of the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California; Roger Martin of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management in Ontario, Canada; and Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. They reflect on pressing issues facing the industry and highlight strategies they think will help business schools stay relevant to 21st-century students and employers.

We Asked Roger Martin
What do you think is the biggest concern now facing business schools?
A particular problem is that too many business professors want to study and teach what’s convenient—it’s as simple as that. It’s convenient for finance professors to study and teach finance without considering anything other than financial issues or worrying about how finance interacts with areas such as marketing or operations. Continue reading.

We Asked Jeffrey Pfeffer
What do you think business schools get right?
Business education has done a fabulous job of marketing itself—and I don’t say that to be facetious. The fact that we now have more than 200,000 MBAs graduating each year is a result of very effective marketing. Business schools also have developed fabulous courses and important research, and they’ve contributed in important ways to the development of the social sciences. Continue reading.

We Asked Rosabeth Moss Kanter
What current trends do you think will have the most impact on business schools in the future?
The MBA became very popular after World War II, because an MBA degree seemed to lead directly to jobs. But when I look ahead, I think business schools at the middle and bottom of the market are going to have trouble surviving. Many skills taught in MBA programs now can be taught at the undergraduate level or online, so employers may not jump to hire people who have MBAs from less distinguished schools. Continue reading.