[Paleopsych] NYT: The B School Blues: A Case Study

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The B School Blues: A Case Study


    IN a scorching indictment, two widely known professors say the
    nation's business schools are too focused on research and are failing
    to prepare graduates to work in corporations.

    "Business schools are on the wrong track," Warren G. Bennis and James
    O'Toole, professors at the University of Southern California, conclude
    in this month's Harvard Business Review.

    "During the past several decades, many leading B schools have quietly
    adopted an inappropriate - and ultimately self-defeating - model of
    academic excellence," they write.

    "Instead of measuring themselves in terms of the competence of their
    graduates, or by how well their faculties understand important drivers
    of business performance, they measure themselves almost solely by the
    rigor of their scientific research."

    Business schools have gone that route in part to make sure they are
    seen as more than trade schools, the authors say, but also because
    they seem to suffer from "physics envy," and are bent on demonstrating
    that the study of business can be as disciplined and quantitative as
    the science of black holes, quarks and leptons.

    That decision feeds on itself, the authors write. Professors trained
    in quantitative research hire faculty members with the same
    inclination and make being published in technical journals a condition
    for continued employment.

    "Today it is possible to find tenured professors of management who
    have never set foot inside a real business, except as customers," they

    "By allowing the scientific research model to drive out all others,
    business schools are institutionalizing their own irrelevance," Mr.
    Bennis and Mr. O'Toole contend, adding that the concerns of the real
    world must - to some degree - find their way into the classroom.

    "Going back to the trade school paradigm would be a disaster," they
    write. "Still, we believe it is necessary to strike a new balance
    between scientific rigor and practical relevance."

    Of course, many of the executives - especially chief financial
    officers - enmeshed in the current corporate scandals are business
    school graduates.

    But ignoring the fact that some financial wizards have recently cooked
    the books with a creativity that would put Emeril Lagasse and Mario
    Batali to shame, the authors of "Not Your Father's C.F.O." concentrate
    on the good that chief financial officers can accomplish.

    In their article in strategy+business, a management magazine published
    by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, three Booz Allen vice
    presidents contend, after interviewing the top financial executives at
    [2]Pfizer, [3]FedEx and [4]Procter & Gamble, that the role of the
    C.F.O. has changed drastically - for the better.

    "The classic model - the C.F.O. as chief accountant and technical
    expert focused narrowly on the firm's financial statements and capital
    structure - has been passé for a decade or more," wrote the authors,
    Vinay Couto, Irmgard Heinz and Mark J. Moran. "The C.F.O. has long
    since operated as more of a business partner with the C.E.O., closely
    involved in designing and overseeing strategy, operations and

    The authors say the pace of the evolution has accelerated. Many
    companies are eliminating the position of chief operating officer,
    whose duties are then assigned to the C.F.O.

    But the best of the bunch, the authors contend, will go beyond simply
    picking up the slack.

    They will help their companies adhere to stricter financial reporting
    standards - regulations often imposed in light of sins committed by
    top financial executives - and the pressures caused by increasing
    globalization and technology changes.

    Indeed, the authors argue, these executives have no choice but to do
    more. And will do so, presumably, without manipulating the numbers.

    Final Take In the current (April/May/June) issue of Inventors' Digest,
    Paul Niemann asks, "Is Irony the Step-Monster of Innovation?"

    He points out that Mickey Mouse's creator, Walt Disney, was afraid of
    mice; that the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, established the
    Nobel Peace Prize; and that Rube Goldberg, whose name is synonymous
    with inventions, at least cartoon ones, never invented anything at


    1. http://www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/Business.xml

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