Business Education And Training
Q: I have discussed the matter at some length with a Prof of Business Admin. He
makes a number of points - that in the UK and the commonwealth business
education has generally fought something of an uphill battle to achieve
respectability (and he says still doesn't get much respect in the UK). Being
rather tied to real world business there isn't much of discipline
independent of case studies in particular organisations (so few experiments,
and weak constraint on practice from evidence, given that many factors
operate simultaneously in the success of failure of any business). And
finally that MBA programmes, despite being at 'masters' level, actually take
in students with very various backgrounds.
A:Some years back the editors of the 'Economist magazine' wrote a book about business gurus called The New Witchdoctors. That book is something of an eye-opener -- the business consultant gurus constantly need to sell new ideas to businesses and so change their tune every few years so that they can start a new series of seminars and workshops and change programmes. The businesses in turn are so desperate for anything that will give them an edge that they become willing victims, dutifully laying off or restructuring or whatever as the consultant recommends, the only supporting evidence usually being a few case studies much hyped by the consultant. I am constantly amazed by the range of sources these gurus turn to - the latest being a book I saw called 'Jesus Christ, Inc.' I have wondered whether any downsized or restructured employee might have a legal case against the consultant who recommended his unemployment on such flimsy evidence... I suppose one solution would be to recognise that Business and Management studies need a proper disciplinary basis, and should seek closer ties with economics, sociology and social psychology. They should also seek to examine claims in a more leisurely fashion, away from the hurly burly of real business, for only by more rigorous research will they begin to start sorting out the truth from the transient. Of course in the present world the opposite is likely to happen - students will be introduced to real business environments at ever earlier stages of their education, their background in any kind of systematic study will be ever more restricted, and those that have a natural feel for business will prosper (and praise their education) while the rest will muddle along, and no-one will know what really works or why. As for consistency in education - I'm against it. As long as there is no consensus in a discipline about what the 'truth' is, students need to know that there is a range of opinion, and need to be shown the evidence for and against each of the possible positions. You can't have been involved in management then! A jolly is a company paid, tax exempt, visit/conference/training couse/etc/ in a nice place with good food, plenty of night life and no need to write any report when you get back to the office. Many people at various levels of management spend their entire strategic skills on maximising the number of jollies per year.