This video is streaming from The Wall Street Journal, the first 10-30 seconds may contain commercials from The Wall Street Journal. The article was originally written by Melissa Korn on March 18th, 2014, for The Wall Street Journal ‘Business Schools Flunk When CEOs Grade the Test,’ featuring the research findings of Hult Labs.
M.B.A.s might know their way around a PowerPoint deck and a regression model, but that’s about all they’re good for, suggests a new report from – wait for it – a business school.
Hult International Business School interviewed 90 CEOs and other executives from companies including Accenture PLC, Unilever PLC and Liberty Mutual Insurance to get their take on the current state of business education, and found that the reviews are far from glowing. Respondents said students lack self-awareness, can’t work in teams, have poor critical thinking skills and come up short on creativity.
The school initially planned to collect responses from 200 executives. “We were just hearing the same thing again and again. There was really no point in continuing the research much further,” says Hult President Stephen Hodges. He added that he was surprised by the consistency of those negative sentiments. The fault doesn’t lie entirely with students; some blame must go to the schools that purport to educate them, the report found. Employers felt b-schools don’t measure student progress and abilities rigorously enough and focus too much on theory and not enough on real-world situations. Overall, 32% of those interviewed had a positive impression of business schools, 23% were neutral, and a solid 44% had outright negative views on the institutions. Executives said that many business schools are “better structured for the Industrial Revolution rather than the Information Age,” according to a white paper detailing the interview findings. And if they don’t shape up soon, interviewees threatened to cut back on hiring from those schools.
One of the biggest problems executives cited was that schools don’t measure student success with the right metrics. Just 12% of those interviewed said M.B.A. grades actually matter in hiring, so students who take the easy A instead of challenging themselves academically gain little benefit. Instead, employers said they’d like to see more assessment of so-called soft skills like the ability to execute a plan, communication and critical thinking.
Case studies were another area of concern, with executives saying that tidy packages of problems and solutions impede any chance of students gaining comfort with ambiguity, incomplete data or uncertainty. And while they’ve mastered the basics of how to read data, the students don’t question it or brainstorm new ways to apply it, respondents lamented.
About one-third of those interviewed stated explicitly that students get too much theory and not enough opportunity for practical application of those theories in the real world. “I need people who can change and improve things, not people who can sit around and apply models all day long,” Muna Al Gurg, director of retail at Al Gurg Group, told Hult interviewers, according to the white paper. Also, while schools boast of diverse student bodies as a proxy for international exposure, respondents said that just sitting in a classroom with people from other countries isn’t enough to foster cross-cultural understanding. One CEO said, “I’m amazed at the lack of sophistication that so many M.B.A.s show about globalization and dealing in an increasingly global economy.” For its part, Hult is rebooting its curriculum next fall, adding more experiential learning and soft-skills training. And while it’ll keep the traditional GPA to measure academic abilities, the school has created another metric to assess competencies in professional skills like teamwork and communication.
All students will be rated at the start of the school year, based on a list of 27 behaviors that indicate good or bad performance in those areas, and their progress will be evaluated throughout the year. Students will be measured on a scale inspired by karate levels – white belt to black belt – and the emphasis is on moving up the ranks from whatever the base level rather than just focusing on reaching the top. “Hult is guilty of all the failings of business schools,” Hodges says. And while he doesn’t know if the school’s plans will all fix those problems, he says, they’ll at least try. Read the complete article here. Read the Hult Labs’ report findings at http://www.hult.edu/labs.