Should Business Schools Be Like Medical Schools?

30 November 2006 at 1:25 am 8 comments

| Peter Klein |

Fabio Rojas at suggests that business schools require more field work. You wouldn’t trust a doctor who graduated from medical school without working on a real patient, so why hire an MBA student who hasn’t performed any “rotations,” in companies or in the business school itself?

Of course, as Fabio acknowledges, this model doesn’t work if business education is primarily a signal, a la Spence. On the other hand, gradute school seems a highly costly and inefficient signaling mechanism — why not just give prospective employees an IQ test? Or, if social networking is important, put students in one-year MBA programs or even shorter mini-programs with tough admission requirements and a lot of social events with alumni and local executives. A much cheaper signaling + networking mechanism, presumably. Any thoughts?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory, Teaching.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hakan  |  30 November 2006 at 5:36 am

    I agree with the need for more field work during an MBA, but the signal of graduating from business school is at least as important as the field work. Regarding Peter’s suggestion that a less expensive signaling mechanism may be better, I think there is some evidence to support it. For instance, the 1-year MBA program of INSEAD is being evaluated on par with the best of the 2-year MBA programs elsewhere. But still, INSEAD is a large business school with a strong research program, which means that providing a meaningful signal of its students’ quality requires a large investment upfront by the school. So, a truly inexpensive signal is probably not going to be very valuable for anyone, and the cost of useful signaling will remain relatively high.

  • 2. Bo  |  30 November 2006 at 12:16 pm

    I also agree with the need for more field work – not only for MBAs but also for PhDs. I see no reason why professors of management or organizational behavior should be locked away in an office for 30 years with only marginal contact to the “real” world via students. Many Org Behaviorist only do studies on their MBA students – what about venturing out into real organizations and ask what is going on – observe the phenomenon and go back and theorize about it and return to empirically test it? Perhaps a PhD rotation system or required 6 months internship every 5 years or less would be an idea? This may help reduce the often irrelevant theorizing going on in many fields.

    As a side note, some business schools discourage their academic staff from conducting consulting etc. Moreover, the academic system by and large discourages “field research” and particularly managerially relevant publications…food for thought..

  • 3. dw  |  30 November 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Seems to me that what Fabio was saying was that this model doesn’t work if business schools are content to be a signalling mechanism. If they started implementing programs like this, they obviously have the opportunity to move beyond that.

  • 4. B-school teaching companies « Conservation Finance  |  1 December 2006 at 6:49 am

    […] On Organizations and Markets Peter Klein asks, should business schools should be like medical schools? Fabio Rojas on suggest using the medical school as a model. He is right, but let us take it a step further. Medical schools have teaching hospitals. Let us have teaching companies in business schools. There are already student run coops and newspapers in many universities. […]

  • 5. simon  |  1 December 2006 at 9:13 pm

    I could not disagree more strongly.

    We have two different things we are comparing.

    An MBA is most appropriately used for those with 2-4 years work experience and are not business majors.

    Following the analogy would it be suggested that medical students be recuirted from those already practicing medicine at an entry level?

    The ‘soft” skills taught at business schools in my opinion are for familarity not mastery. The recent move to propose that mastery can be achieved in “soft” skills is wrong headed. As one in the business world who graduated from top tier institutions Ithink the emphasis should be on “hard” skills and project implementation.

    Finally, much of the critcism of MBAs is misplaced. We have watered down the degree by lowering the price. We have seen that it is more often sernior level executives who are mistaken in analysies than recent MBAs. We have seen that the focus in the US on soft skills and EQ over hard skills and IQ has not served US businesses well.

  • 6. Bo  |  3 December 2006 at 1:43 am

    Who are “WE” and where have you observed this?

  • 7. C. Grammich  |  4 December 2006 at 11:26 am

    I’d always been under the impression that b-schools looked more favorably on applicants who already had some work experience–or, as Simon notes, persons “with with 2-4 years work experience [who] are not business majors.”

    FWIW–and this is a very subjective and possibly misinformed opinion–the b-school students I’ve known who actually had work experience (including my father, who got his MBA at DePaul, but also some others I ran across in some of my own grad school work at U of Chicago) seemed happier, or at least had a better idea, about what they were doing with their studies than those who plowed straight through to an MBA.

    And I find it impossible to talk about my father and his MBA (the utility of which, to be sure, he did value) without noting he was the first one to explain to me that MBA stood for “More B[aloney?] for America” . . .

  • 8. Bo Nielsen  |  4 December 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Well, I too hold and MBA and some (albeit limited) industry experience – but then I decided that the models and theories were flawed and pursued a PhD (Pile-it-higher-and-deeper) in order to correct this – only to find out that we as researchers often are too far removed from reality to really have an impact..

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