Business Today

Perfect timing

The book addresses the gaps in B-school education and provokes thoughtful discussions, says Bala V. Balachandran.

Bala V. Balachandran        Print Edition: October 3, 2010

The US financial meltdown in 2008 and the spread of the contagion, the consequent clamour for new models of business education and India's steps to revamp the education system form the perfect backdrop for this timely and compelling book.

Datar et al. have put together comprehensive analyses of the world's six best-known B-schools - Chicago's Booth School of Business (discipline-based and flexible curriculum), INSEAD of France (globalisation and the fast-track programme), University of North Carolina (creative leadership development), Harvard (general management and practical case study), Yale (integrative approach and large-scale change) and Stanford (elite, customised programmes).

The book uses information from a host of sources, including interviews with deans, to present a comprehensive and constructive discussion on rethinking the MBA curriculum. For each of the B-schools examined in the book, there is a case study on its innovations, apart from analysis and interpretation. The chapters dealing with the MBA marketplace, the demand-supply equation, curriculum and pedagogy, identification of the concerns and gaps and meeting global and leadership challenges, have all been well researched.

My only mild gripe, if you want to call it that, is that Indian and Chinese schools have not found a place in the book. I truly believe that India and China are integral to any discussion with a global perspective. The IIM Ahmedabad is a case in point. The authors could have included a case study on the IIM-A, which boasts of a stellar list of alumni, including C.K. Prahalad and Datar himself.

But the book does address the gaps in MBA curriculum and its current needs, and provokes thoughtful discussions. Chapter 4 is perhaps the most important as it delves into all the value-additions that MBA courses must contain. These include:

  • The two-cultures problem - academic elegance vs business relevance
  • The balance between offering knowledge and placement opportunities
  • Understanding of the global perspective
  • Opportunities mapped with the unmet needs of a changing market
  • Leadership development vis-a-vis managerial emphasis

The authors summarise their research under three broad aspects: knowing, doing and being. These are seen as the crux of the New Age MBA. I am in complete agreement with all their arguments, but will go on to add that while we are at a crossroads, we may do well to integrate another level of meaning to the MBA or Master of Business Administration degree. The New Age MBA is about the Mind (integrated and innovative curriculum), Body (pedagogy and delivery) and Attitude (the ethos and value systems critical in today's world to keep away greed and profiteering).

The next model may not be a linear extension originating from the West, but may very well be suggested by the East and particularly India because of our strong heritage in value systems and principles.

The ease with which Datar et al. have articulated their thoughts is commendable. The format is an instant hit - the integration of the case studies to explain vital points is a great way to retain reader interest while ensuring an instant connect and understanding. A must-read for academics, practitioners and students.

- The reviewer is Founder and Dean of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai

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