I clicked over to MBAs Aim to Reinvent Management at BusinessWeek.com when I saw the headline. I expected to read about trends towards revising the standard MBA curriculum to deal better with community, environmental, and social concerns. Instead, it was MBA’s revising management:
As part of a contest, MBA students were asked to suggest game-changing management ideas. The winners might just change the way companies operate.
The problem is: Fresh MBAs tend to have an overabundance of arrogance. In the Business Week piece, program director Gary Hamel, a visiting professor at the London School of Business, talks about “old” and “musty” management practices. He says:
Management in most companies is rooted 100 years ago in the Industrial Revolution … Creating this contest was a way to get young people to think about the legacy of management they’re inheriting.
Of course he’s right about management. It does need a shot in the arm, and more leadership, and a lot of change. But focusing MBAs on reinventing management is something like focusing locusts on reinventing agriculture. That’s playing weakness to weakness, not strength to strength.
The consolation is the suggestion that won the contest:
To have teams of employees dedicate an entire day to focusing on turning ideas into proposals.
Notice that it says employees, not straight-out-of-school MBAs. Employees are supposed to team up to focus on proposals. At least.
I love the idea of change in MBA curriculums. I love new trends towards teaching more entrepreneurship, and social and ecological conscience, and even leadership as more art than science. And rewriting traditional management techniques is great. But maybe MBAs, while they’re still in school, need a bit more experience with what management actually is before they start reinventing.