The Purpose of Business Schools

Yesterday was a great day. I visited Boeing Portland, and saw many old friends. I even made some new acquaintances. It appears that Boeing Portland has hired about 300 new people recently. The person that is doing the job I used to do, training employees, has been very busy, but does a great job. As I was driving home I thought about the fact that I miss the folks I used to work with, but I love my new job (teaching business) so much that I don’t think about the past. I continue to look forward trying to learn how to do my current job better.

To accomplish this I am a voracious reader. The books I read deal with various topics which help me think about how to teach better and with more comprehensive detail. One of the the books I am currently reading involves a discussion concerning the future of business schools. The section I have in mind talks about how to evaluate the effectiveness of a business school’s program, and where business schools need to go academically to ensure a stronger future. According to Onzono in “The Learning Curve” a business school program can be evaluated on the following principles:
1. Business schools are bridges between Academia and the Agora. Academia is the place where knowledge is generated, and the Agora is where business and trade happen.
2. Business schools are education hubs, whose function is to develop and train leaders, managers, directors, and entrepreneurs.
3. Business schools are catalysts in the process of transforming the local and global society.

I have to say I agree with this assessment. In my classes I try to take a scholar practitioner perspective. In other words I want my students to understand theory, but I also want them to be able to apply it. I want them to connect the theory with reality, and make a determination of what works and what doesn’t work.

I also believe that business schools need to challenge future leaders to be different. In other words, if employees feel that 40% of all companies are inadequately led, and we have more students studying management, then obviously we, as business teachers, must be doing something wrong? Therefore, we need to adjust our curriculum to provide better training for the future leaders of our community, nation, and world. This is also in line with Onzono’s 2nd and 3rd principle.

Richard Branson, of Virgin Enterprises, is a great example of what the new leader could look like. Although he is pretty big on himself, he does make a strong argument for innovative leadership and corporate altruism. Although I agree with reviews that his new book, “Screw Business As Usual,” is clunky, his argument for Capitalism 24902 is a good one. Branson describes his book as “the story of my seven year journey towards realizing that, while business has been a great vehicle for growth in the world, neither Virgin nor many other businesses have been doing anywhere near enough to stop the downward spiral we all find ourselves in.”

I think after many months of pondering the purpose of business education I have come to an important conclusion about the high calling of business programs. If Business is such an important part of our society, then how we do this endeavor is just as important as accomplishing economic growth. Subsequently, I want to make sure my students develop strong business acumen, an entrepreneurial desire, and an ethical concern for others and how they perform within the Agora. Therefore, I agree with Bell’s statement in “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism,” when he states, “The foundation of any liberal society is the willingness of all groups to compromise private ends for the public interest. The loss of civitas means either that interests become so polarized, and passions so inflamed, that terrorism and group fighting ensures, and political anomia prevails; or that every public exchange becomes a cynical deal in which the most powerful segments benefit at the expense of the weak. Yet even where a sense of civitas remains. . . the ruts into the future may have been cut so deep from the past – the constraints may be so large, the freedom to maneuver and change so narrow, the institutions, particularly the economic ones, so encrusted – that no regime can substantially stop the slide, and a sense of weariness and despair takes over.”

Business educators need to discuss an equilibrium in classrooms. This balance concerns the relationship of economic and social profit. Economic growth is critical to the advancement of our civitas, but how that profit is attained should be discussed in academia, both as a end and a process. The result will include better led businesses, and more benevolent enterprise in the Agora.

And that is my thought for the day!

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