by Professor Richard Hall, Associate Dean, Management Education
When we were developing our MBA program, we went looking at as many different MBA programs as we could. What we found was interesting.
We saw immediately, and knew from our own experience, that there are three core elements to any good MBA program: Strategy, Management and Leadership.
However, the more we looked, the more we saw that those three learning elements were handled was actually part of the problem with even the most highly-regarded MBAs around the world. There was a huge emphasis on “knowing” – and not a lot of time or effort being put into giving MBA students actual, hands-on experience, or “doing”.
Even the best business schools in the world were turning out graduates with great technical knowledge in the three core areas, but who lacked the practical knowledge or experience to become great leaders or managers. This is the reality that Henry Mintzberg recognized some time ago in his book Managers, not MBAs and a core argument by Srikant Datar and his colleagues in Rethinking the MBA.
Our new MBA program does focus on those same core elements that need to be in an MBA, but we’ve taken huge steps in the evolution of how they are taught. By taking a far more practical approach, we can deliver a strong technical knowledge that is backed up with the personal and professional skills to make that knowledge really work.
When it comes to strategy, we believe that MBA students need to understand that the era of squeezing value out of existing products, markets and services is all but over. Strategy shouldn’t be about belt-tightening and wars of attrition with competitors. It should be about forward-thinking, market creation and innovation – finding new sources of value.
Likewise, management isn’t something that can be taught solely in a classroom, or from a book. The technical skills taught by a traditional MBA are still a requirement, but that knowledge needs to be developed in an environment where it can be immediately applied. It needs real-world business, not dated case studies. That’s why we’ve put in place the Capstone unit as the final subject of our MBA – real-life business problems provided by our industry partners, who are looking for real-world solutions.
Finally, leadership learning has been delivered in the past by exposing students to a series of models of ideal-type leadership, often backed up by more case studies of supposedly great business leaders. We believe that the future of education in this area is learning and teaching based on behavioural leadership development. It needs to focus on the actual development of competencies and skill sets around the practice of leadership. It should not just tell you how to lead – instead, it should show you where you are strong, where you have opportunities to develop and how to go about becoming the leader that you want to be.
That fundamental shift in the approach to these three core areas underpins our new MBA program. We are confident that a learning-by-doing approach will provide business and industry with the kind of leaders it desperately needs – graduates with both technical knowledge, and the necessary personal and human attributes that make for great leadership.