Here’s the bottom line problem with cheating in business school. It doesn’t help you in business.
I can remember being just out of college, freshly installed in Providence, RI, dropping by Brown University to investigate their MFA program. I had graduated fully decorated, done graduate scholarship work abroad and had no reason to believe my academic record made me anything less than a desirable candidate. I was also living with my husband-to-be, sharing the day to day responsibility of his two-year-old. I was stunned when the woman behind the desk, with no knowledge of me beyond my physical presence - not even a transcript, mind you – announced officiously, as she eyed the baby girl grasping my hand, that there would be no way for me to pursue graduate work part time. I walked away from “formal” education that day because it didn’t fit my life.
There are an enormous number of American “knowledge” workers, companies and MBA programs whose work and whose professional standing is based solely on the agreed-upon script. They have long since stopped thinking, responding, understanding, questioning and interpreting. They can’t improvise to save their lives. It's a problem that might impact our country's competitiveness more than anything else.
HBS Working Knowledge recently celebrated its tenth birthday, and we mark the occasion by looking back and looking forward. We've asked HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and a number of faculty to both remark on what they view as the most significant business management ideas of the first decade of the twenty-first century, and then to tell us what they hope will be the most fertile areas of business research between now and 2020.
Often when we talk about the push for online education here, it's in terms of the entrepreneurial opportunities surrounding education technology. But online education might provide some other, different opportunities for entrepreneurs as more and more colleges start offering MBA programs online. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council's recent report on the trends for grad school applications, online or distance learning and flexible MBA programs have received an increase in applications for this school year over 2009. At the same time, "traditional," on-campus MBA programs have seen their numbers fall. Distance learning was once viewed as an "alternative" form of education, but Web-based learning is becoming more and more mainstream. It's credible, and importantly if you're after the MBA, accredited. Moreover, many schools are finding they need to offer courses online in order to attract students.
Stephanie Poole, 25 years old, spent last spring producing a 21-page social audit for Mr. Trapani and the Redwoods Group. Like a traditional financial audit, it focused on what the company is doing in the areas of the environment, ethics and its overall social impact. It's an effort a growing number of companies are undertaking, as they look to track the outcomes of social responsibility efforts and prove their value.
A decade ago, Roger Martin, the new dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, had an epiphany. The leadership at his son’s elementary school had asked him to meet with its retiring principal to figure out how it could replicate her success. He discovered that the principal thrived by thinking through clashing priorities and potential options, rather than hewing to any pre-planned strategy — the same approach taken by the managing partner of a successful international law firm in town. “The ‘Eureka’ moment was when I could draw a data point between a hotshot, investment bank-oriented star lawyer and an elementary school principal,” Mr. Martin recalls. “I thought: ‘Holy smokes. In completely different situations, these people are thinking in very similar ways, and there may be something special about this pattern of thinking.’ ”
We've all heard the news that the traditional MBA framework is broken, but adding courses on business ethics and financial crises won't solve the problem. And although Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, and the rest are all considering bringing new ways of thinking into their hallowed halls, a relatively small school in Canada is actually transforming the meaning of an MBA right before our eyes. The Rotman School of Management, helmed by Roger Martin, proposes a radical idea: to develop business leaders who are well-grounded in multiple disciplines. The Rotman faculty aim to mold managers who are equally comfortable and adept at using tools and frameworks from business, popular culture, and design to solve the most urgent challenges of the day--what Rotman calls integrative thinkers and what I call hybrid thinkers. He's a bit of a kindred spirit.
Actually, there isn't one, there are three choices that anyone offering higher education is going to have to make.
Former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch is putting his name and money behind a little-known educational entrepreneur, injecting some star power into the budding industry of online education.