Growing the Impact of Management Education and Scholarship

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Management is not only taught in business schools. For more than 100 years it has also been taught by a special type of university that is ‘more than a business school’. An international group of university leaders trace the emergence, role and future contributions of ‘universities for business and management’

Some traditions remain vital while others are  fading. The various traditions of opera, for  example, maintain their rich heritage, yet have  evolved and synthesised with new developments  to extend and broaden their appeal. International  ensemble casts perform across the globe. Sets and  costumes incorporate designs inspired by different cultures and new technologies. Some observers  attribute opera’s revitalisation partly to Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carerras and Placido Domingo,  who banded together to form the “Three Tenors”  back in the 1990s.

Performing traditional and modern opera pieces at large concert venues, this pluralistic  approach expanded popular appreciation of  great composers, such as Wagner and Bizet. The  Three Tenors operatic renditions reached out to  and resonated with new and existing audiences  in cities around the world: Tokyo, Sao Paolo,  Seoul, Pretoria and Beijing – the list goes on.

The future of management education and scholarship

Just like opera, management education needs to balance tradition and innovation. Clearly, it is transforming its delivery and learning techniques to embrace new possibilities offered by technology and digitalisation. But is it being enriched by a renaissance of its own?

Many undergraduate business programmes remain too narrow and focused on management techniques and theories. But corporate leaders want management graduates with the ability to look beyond the obvious, to question assumptions, to be more creative – to understand how business is a part of society and not apart from society.

Few institutions continually experiment with preparing students for innovation, entrepreneurial thinking or navigating a business environment set in a global world that is culturally diverse, yet highly connected. Fewer institutions are committed to preparing graduate and undergraduate students to discharge their duties to society responsibly. There are serious implications to how the next generation of business leaders are cultivated.

The 2007-08 Financial Crisis, precipitated by gross corporate mismanagement and greed, eroded society’s confidence in business school graduates to dangerous lows. Indeed, the 2011 Rethinking undergraduate business education report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching highlighted this worrying perception held by the public.

Sophisticated students around the world, organised through social media networks such as the Post-Crash Economics Society, are demanding that management syllabi be rethought to equip them to make a better world – and not just deliver better short-term returns to shareholders at the expense of other legitimate stakeholders.

Industry and research funders should heed the type of “socially responsible scholarship” that bridges the science-practice gap described by Ann S Tsui in “Reconnecting with the business world” (Global Focus, 2015). We must raise the profile and positive impact of management education, scholarship and the institutions that provide hem if we are to avoid future economic calamity, restore confidence and strengthen public trust.

Before embarking on this journey, it may be useful to first survey some history of management education.

A diverse ecosystem for growth and sustainability

Comprehensive universities, dating back as early as 11th century Bologna, and technological universities, which developed in response to engineering and scientific needs in the 19th century, are among the earliest examples of educational institutions that have adapted to meet the changing needs of their times. Over time, such progressive universities expanded into the nascent social sciences, later on into economics and finally into management. As management education grew in significance, a spectrum of new institutions emerged.

Existing comprehensive and technological universities evolved to include management faculties and business schools. On the furthest end of this part of the spectrum are the independent business schools focusing almost entirely on graduate and executive education. What then lies at the other end of this spectrum?

Since the end of the 19th century, a third type of University emerged to meet globalisation’s imperative for Universities to provide an integrated understanding of different cultures, law, and various management techniques such as accounting, marketing, communications and so on. Some of these began as schools of commerce, and developed into what could be termed “Universities for Business and Management”.  Later institutions were conceived as specialised  universities from the outset. Examples are the  University of St. Gallen or Wirtschaftsuniversität  Vienna (both founded in 1898), the Copenhagen  Business School (1917), Renmin University of  China (1937) and later on Université Paris  Dauphine (1969) and Singapore Management  University (2000). These institutions were often  initiated in collaboration with trade associations.  Others, like Hitotsubashi University (1875) were  founded by patriotic statesmen.

Although these universities differ in terms of  the learning experience they provide students,  they all – without exception – embrace inter-,  multi- and trans-disciplinary curricula. They share  the understanding that the classical business  school disciplines should be enriched and  cross-reinforced by the broader social sciences  and humanities, e.g. law, political science,  socio-economics, geography, communication,  anthropology, psychology, foreign languages; as  well as by science, technology and mathematics.

These universities tend to have strong  engagement with practitioners, public agencies  and civil society; and inform professionals,  practitioners and policy-makers of the latest  research findings. Compared to technological  universities and engineering schools, these  Management Universities integrate quantitative  skills with a social science perspective. And unlike  comprehensive universities, they do not “silo” their  management schools into largely autonomous  faculties – and thus avoid treating these as isolated  and rather technical disciplines. A systematic  integration of related sciences in the form of  strong departments or highly interconnected  schools in these Management Universities is what  distinguishes them from pure Business Schools.

Stronger institutions to grow society’s trust

Managers cannot ignore the deep philosophical undercurrents running through the history of mankind and across cultures. If business is to truly be a part of society, then managers must understand and take into consideration how their decisions affect and are affected by our interconnected social fabrics. These are ancient ideas.

Aristotle’s prescience in matters of political economy was noted by Malcolm Macintosh in “Re-organising the Political Economy” (Global Focus, 2015). Aristotle also advocated phronesis as an intellectual virtue that is “reasoned and capable of action with regard to things that are good or bad for man”.

In early Western civilization, phronesis was recognised as that activity by which the analytical and instrumental rationality of episteme and techne is balanced by value-rationality. Phronesis would require business leaders to look beyond profits and growth as ends in themselves and better honour the trust bestowed by society.

Ancient eastern philosophy deeply influenced E F Schumacher, a protégé of John Maynard Keynes, who had advised the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma). In a collection of essays, Small is beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered, Schumacher expressed the function of work as giving people opportunities to utilise and develop their faculties; to overcome their ego-centeredness by joining in common tasks; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a meaningful human existence.

More recently, in Securing the future of management education (2014), Howard Thomas and Michelle Lee from the Singapore Management University and their co-authors have advocated nurturing “a holistic student perspective on management (not a silo-oriented one) that will encourage the development of integrative thinkers who, in management careers, will be more likely to make decisions with integrity, reflection, and an ethical and moral compass”.

Ulrike Landfester, from the University of St  Gallen, had noted in 2013 (during a workshop on  “Humanities and Social Sciences in Management  9  Education – Writing, Researching, Teaching”  hosted by Copenhagen Business School)  that “…there are more and more universities  who realise that there is something missing  in business education. As the blame for the  recent crisis continued to be laid at the door  of business schools and business universities,  these institutions try to find out whether they  did wrong or not – and if they did wrong,  why, and how can they remediate it. In this  development, I think there are huge dynamics  into the direction of integrating the humanities  and social sciences into business education”.

Thoughts like these prove that a broader  view on common issues at hand can generate  inspiring new ideas. At the specialised  universities, scholars from the social sciences,  humanities and adjacent disciplines collaborate  with, challenge and inspire their colleagues in  the traditional business disciplines.

Traditional business disciplines provide  a challenging context for social science  and humanities scholars to engage the key  economic, political and managerial questions  of our time; and influence the education  of future leaders in our economy.

This integration simultaneously gives these  institutions some of the vitality of liberal arts  colleges and the robustness of esteemed  centuries-old comprehensive universities. Such  integration revitalises fundamental and highly  pertinent questions about the interdependence  of business, markets, technology, culture and  politics. It also ensures a broad set of intellectual  explorations and educational capacities. For  example, a good strategy consultant has to  understand how technological and cultural  shifts impact the regulatory landscape; a  financial adviser has to understand markets  and therefore the psychology of market actors.

This integration of adjacent disciplines helps  ensure the continued societal relevance and  responsibility of management scholarship as  the world transforms.

Traditional business disciplines provide a challenging context for social science and humanities scholars to engage the key economic, political and managerial questions of our time; and influence the education of future leaders in our economy.

Contributing to the development of management education

Beyond honouring society’s trust and strengthening themselves as meaningful individual institutions, the aggregation and collaboration of Management Universities present tremendous possibilities. They have the collective potential to innovate and tangibly amplify the profile and impact of management education and scholarship for society by:

  1. Pursuing synergies across interdisciplinary education, research and practice-relevant scholarship by artfully enlisting technology
    These universities enlist the social sciences to help re-contextualise management scholarship and enhance local and practical relevance. Each university makes a unique contribution through deep integration of its own adjacent disciplinary strengths such as the humanities, public policy and information science. Complementary research disciplines also bridge quantitative and qualitative methodology, and their close relationships with practitioners enable researchers to collaborate and pursue high-impact interdisciplinary research projects. The possibilities promise to be distinct from, yet complementary to, the types of projects pursued by larger comprehensive universities. For example, researchers at Université Paris Dauphine’s LAMSADE, a CNRS-funded computer science and decision analytics research institute; and Singapore Management University’s School of Information Systems have begun an ambitious exploration of how analytics can inform appropriate organisational policies that support positive business changes, more effective consumer marketing and better urban living. Innovations in learning form a major focus of their pedagogy. These universities display a deep commitment to innovative management education and experiment with next-practices related to technology-enabled learning or nurturing, future-ready mindsets and competencies.

    They go beyond preparing young adults for professional or entry-level roles in today’s workforce. Such universities aspire to nurture active change makers who can help transform society, not just observe or analyse passively.

  2. Enhancing engagement with stakeholders  and contribute to local and regional social  and economic life
    Through the design of their campuses,  programmes and partnerships, these universities  embrace their inherent “embeddedness” within  the community and region, and pursue longterm  trust-filled relationships with stakeholders.  The hard-to-quantify social and economic  externalities they provide are felt and  communicated by word-of-mouth testimonials.  Each of these universities appreciates the  importance of supporting local and regional  companies with talent, and encourages students  to serve and be part of the community through  project-based work, volunteering and other  initiatives. The University of St Gallen in  Switzerland, which underwent the Business  School Impact Survey offered by the EFMD Global  Network and the French National Foundation for  Management Education (Global Focus, 2014),  seeks to embody this ethos.
  3. Enhancing the global mind-set and profile for students, faculty and the institution
    Management Universities generate possibilities for international collaboration and synergy distinct from the environment within any large comprehensive university given their common ethos and commitment to innovation, relevance and social responsibility. One example is the Singapore Management University-Copenhagen Business School structured bachelor exchange around Maritime Economics and International Shipping, which seeks to leverage and nurture special expertise within the context and practice of each university’s region, network of industry practitioners, government agencies and organisations; while paving the way for joint research and a host of other partnerships

Uncovering new value and sustainability for all

Mirroring the Three Tenors, emergent Management Universities, working together with business schools, could achieve “innovation within tradition”. They will help develop broader conceptions of effective and socially responsible education, and highimpact management research and scholarship. They will also further our understanding of how individual and organisational actors are embedded in their social environments, and how this shapes their repertoire of actions. Management education is denied its due merit when narrowly perceived as mostly a private good. Management Universities around the world are poised to amplify the recognition and appreciation of all our institutions as trusted creators, protectors and purveyors of both public value and private goods for society.
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