The Future of Business Education?

Ross Wirth, Dean of the College of Business at Franklin University is looking for a few good ideas.  He has undertaken to figure out what the future of business eduction – specifically the MBA program – will be so that he can begin designing program that will meet the need of our business community in the future.

Ross will be our guest at the October 20 Forum of the Columbus Futurists (Panera Bread Co, 875 Bethel Rd, 6:30 pm).  He has offered some thoughts to seed that conversation.  Consider:

The Future of Business Education – a facilitated discussion, by Ross Wirth

It has been 40 years since Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock and we are only now starting to understand the impact of living in the information era.  Business processes are changing, new ways of organizing are being tested, higher education is under increased regulatory review, and pressure is building on education productivity as family and governmental budgets are prioritized.  This session will surface a laundry list of issues likely to face business schools in the future as they adapt curriculum to meet evolving business needs and experiment with new learning models in response to just-in-time learning in the internet era.  Developing consensus on issues and direction will not be possible in the limited time available.  However, the desire will be to raise awareness of the issues and surface some of the responses that might be considered as business schools strategically look down the road five years.

Ross has participated in a number of discussion at Universitas as well – and the result has been terrific.  Please plan to attend and contribute your thought about how change might be managed for the better.

— Rich Bowers

2 thoughts on “The Future of Business Education?

  1. In future, MBA education may be less salient than it is commonly/routinely imagined to be by those currently involved in it. To begin with, it seems to me all but certain that the institutional turbulence and the uncertainty likely to emerge will create new and unanticipated (possibly unanticipatable) and interactive technical, managerial, and regulatory challenges which, if we should happen to survive them at all, we would do so only because most citizens agreed to learn how to attempt to learn how to survive the turmoil.

    That seems unlikely. In the 35+ years since Don Michael first helped me learn about learning organizations and how to address such challenges (through long-range social planning cast as future-responsive societal learning), I still see capitalist enterprises organized hierarchically, to control information flow, control staff, and overall to retain power for those whose munificence grows with their incomes. I daresay, Marx would recognize their ways.

    How different might things get? Well, that depends: I note that both Locke and Marx share a labor theory of value. If for some reason, the global economy were to go into a protracted downturn that raised unemployment levels to “Revolutionary Levels”, that might lead to some sort of regular but intermittent allocation of work,, accompanied by regular pay and benefits.

    I don’t believe in ‘human nature”; instead, i think that human action is a learned practice, and if we don’t start learning a different way to be human, we’ll need more than better MBA programs to have any hope of surviving.

  2. an actual proposal for future MBA programs, not acted upon and now long past…

    Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D.

    March 26, 2003

    Dean Joseph Alutto
    Fisher College of Business
    The Ohio State University
    201 Fisher Hall
    2100 Neil Avenue
    Columbus, Ohio 43210

    Dear Dean Alutto:

    Looking forward to our telephone conversation scheduled for April 2nd, it occurred to me that I could facilitate things a bit by further developing the three ways I suggested in my letter of March 12th that I could help you. To that end I offer the following program for applying the resources of Fisher College—primarily, your faculty and students—to the task of helping the University work through its budget woes. I imagine that some of my ideas will already have occurred to you; my hope is that you will still find some interesting new details we could discuss on April 2nd.
    You could apply Fisher College resources in two general ways. One would involve your faculty and students directly, as consultants to the University. I realize that the University may prohibit such arrangements; and I am also aware that if they are not prohibited, some such arrangements may already be in place. But have you considered making the University the focus of case study in classes?
    This could be done in several ways. It could be done as one case in any pertinent course that already includes a case study. As I see it, there would be many “pertinent” courses, including: finance, organization theory, strategic planning, human resources, government relations, and marketing. Students in such classes could also be directed to focus term projects on the University. Or, special sections of established classes, entirely new classes, independent study, honors seminars, and thesis work could be organized to focus on the University. Some of these efforts would focus on remedying the University’s short-term budget woes, while others would take a longer-term, more institutional approach. It is likely that some classes would invite participation by members of both non-Fisher student groups and non-student constituencies within the University.
    Practically, this multi-pronged investigation could be seen as a simulation. Freed from the constraint of having to come up with “the” solution, divergent thinking could be expected—and diverse solution strategies could be anticipated. As such, any and all such courses would immediately lend themselves both to applying organizational learning techniques and (in the process) to learning organizational learning techniques. This would be so at two levels: at the level of individual courses, and at the level of linking individual classes across the College. Indeed, the overall effort could be seen as turning the Fisher College itself into a learning organization, since techniques learned through all this would likely transform everyone involved, including the College itself.
    Beyond “business” advantages, such a transformation would constitute a significant response to the Boyer Commission’s (1999) recommendations for “Reinventing Undergraduate Education”. The College would enhance its reputation—for innovating, for organizational learning, for public service. The Ohio Legislature might be hard-pressed to overlook the College’s efforts at funding time.
    The second way you could apply Fisher College resources to remedying the University’s budget woes is indirectly, by facilitating expansion of the program I have just outlined to span the entire University. Of course, such an effort would involve far more diverse groups—and so, it could be expected to require more negotiation, engage a wider range of sensibilities, give rise to a greater need for coordination, and introduce both more complex assessments of just what the situation “is” and more complications in moving ahead with the many and no doubt diverse things learned. But that is also “real”—and so, it provides even further opportunities for organizational learning.
    And imagine the payoff! Across the campus, people would develop personal interest in remedying the challenge the University faces. They could talk about solutions, argue about them, commiserate over them. They could also be expected to transform themselves along the way—and one expected transformation could significantly alter the solution space: people would at least partially co-opt themselves, their work having vested them in remedying budget woes—so that some of them might no longer see themselves merely as members of a specific interest group invested in protecting its own interests. That could, for example, engender support for burden-sharing in the form of percentage reductions to pay and hours as an alternative to individual pink-slips.
    The Lantern would be sure to report about all this, adding to the excitement around the program. In time, it seems safe to presume, other media outlets would eventually pick up the story. And the University could bask in all the publicity—which, as I suggested above, might help to inoculate the University against further budget cuts.
    I hope this program interests you. I trust you will see the potential for applying a similar approach for remedying other challenges the University faces. I look forward to speaking with you on April 2nd.


    Robert A. Letcher

    cc: President Holbrook

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