Rethinking the MBA

30/04/2012 Barcelona


On April 26-27, IESE Business School hosted the international conference, "Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads," which was directed by Harvard professor Srikant Datar.

Datar's book, "Rethinking the MBA: Education at the Crossroads," (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2010) has become an important reference for improving the impact of MBA programs worldwide.

The 2-day event drew business school deans, academics, corporate recruiters and HR managers from all over the world to debate challenges they face in developing future leaders. A wide range of topics were covered, eliciting both corporate and academic perspectives. Business school deans and academics taking part in the conference came from INSEAD, IMD, Oxford, Cornell, HEC and IESE.

Corporate recruiters and representatives providing presentations on key topics were Michael Griffits, Roche; Sandy Khan, MBA Arena and Microsoft; Martin Danoesastro, BCG; Tim McNicholas, Siemens; and Duarte Braga, McKinsey. Providing insights from their experiences in the business schools world were Dean Peter Tufano, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; Dean Bernard Ramanatsoa, HEC School of Management; Dean Jordi Canals, IESE; Prof. Soumitra Dutta, INSEAD; and Prof. Martha Maznevki, IMD.

On the first day, Datar said that that business schools had not done enough to respond to the financial crisis and more changes are needed in curricula and teaching approaches. In 2008, he said, he began to investigate how to address problems faced by business schools such as drops in enrollment, increasing criticism about a lack of research relevance and the need to better balance the "knowing" and "doing."
"Business school students might know a lot, but can they actually do it?" said Datar. "Can they actually work in organizations and understand what the issues are? Can they act in ways that are innovative? Can they give critical feedback? These are doing skills."
Discussions, which included representatives from leading companies, focused on four central themes: globalization, leadership development, innovative thinking and action learning. IESE professors coordinating or leading sessions during the conference were Paddy Miller, Alejandro Lago, Pankaj Ghemawat, Mireia Las Heras, Carlos Garcia Pont and Sandra Sieber.

In a session on how schools can be more effective in developing managerial talent, Martin Danoesastro of BCG said his company looks for insight, impact and trust, when recruiting. Empathy and listening skills are also important. Sandy Khan of MBA Arena and Microsoft that there is often a mismatch in student expectations and corporate hiring processes. Business schools need to help students decide what they want and then develop a personal strategy. She also noted that many students do not know how to sell themselves.
Recommendations made in the closing session of the event included: taking advantage of MBA students’ activities and social networks outside the classroom to create more international synergies; gaining insights from teachers in other educational settings, including those who teach young children and employing spaces that are more conducive to creativity, such as Harvard’s i-lab.

In his closing remarks, IESE's Dean Jordi Canals thanked Datar for his strong drive to organize the Barcelona conference, and noted the “passion” that the participants all shared for improving business education and society at large.