Manifesto seeks to change MBA programs

Some educators say the programs have lost their relevance for the real world

A new educational manifesto challenges the status quo of management education.

The document, with a full title of Manifesto — Changing the Course of Management Development: Combining Excellence with Relevance, was presented at the recent the 26th CEEMAN conference.

The conference was co-organised and hosted by the University of New York in Prague.

Management education has hit an impasse, with some large schools closing their programs, while multinational companies have been favoring in-house education because what people have been learning in schools is not relevant.

CEEMAN, the International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies, has been working toward a new vision for management development education that better supports the needs of their member institutions and the rising economies that they serve.

Academia has become a self-serving system that is unresponsive to the real world’s needs and is a system that resists any sort of radical change, according to its critics.

Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotman School of Management at Toronto University, and renowned thought leader of the future of democratic capitalism said that the current attitudes were a big problem. Schools look at the volume of publications someone makes, and not whether they have any relevance or impact.

“If you write something that is specific to a non-academic audience, you might as well be sleeping with somebody out of wedlock,” Martin states. In the academic world, there is close to no open dialogue with non-academics, he says, adding that academic reform would be “unbelievably hard.”

He was not one of the authors of the Manifesto but said he agreed with it. Martin was at the CEEMAN conference as the keynote speaker.

Derek Abell, a founding board member of CEEMAN and principal author of the manifesto, says he believes change will not come from established markets but instead from the rising markets of the world.

“They have less money. They’re going to have to chase customers, and the customers are not other [academic] peers. Customers are the business community that will pay a lot of money for real advantage,” Abell states.

Danica Purg, founding president of CEEMAN, confirms that their goal with this manifesto is to offer a path forward that will more readily produce benefits and outcomes that these rising markets need.

Martin predicts there is going to be a decimation, at least in North America, of business schools and especially MBA programs unless there is a fundamental change.

The business programs are looked on as money generators, though this is often not true. But few other areas of academia will look on them as programs that deserve subsidies.

“The minute you lose 10 percent of students … universities aren’t willing to say, ‘We’re going to send money to save our business school,’ because all the other faculties will say ‘those are the rich people with the highest salaries, and you’re going to send money to save them?” he states.

Martin also says the whole education system needs to be revamped. He tells the story of a pilot program that a student of his ran with a grade 10 class at a girls’ school in Canada. Given an integrated thinking task similar to that taught in an MBA program, they were fascinated to discover that these teen girls were every bit as good as the MBA students.

“I came to believe that MBAs have already had their minds damaged and warped so we have to do more damage unwarping them. … We need to train learners to learn differently,” Martin states.

The manifesto aims to shine a light on the failings of management development and to offer a more holistic, relevant, and purposeful vision of management development education.

Three distinct requirements are outlined in the manifesto: relevance to management practice and to the executives charged with management and leadership responsibility; relevance to the specific and different needs of participants in the markets that any particular institution serves; and to be up-to-date or pre-emptive in regards to upcoming challenges.

This manifesto is a call to action for all CEEMAN member institutions, and the authors hope that a positive change will be made across the world of management education.

CEEMAN, which originally stood for Central and East European Management Development Association, is an international management development association established in 1993 with the aim of accelerating the growth in quality of management development in Central and Eastern Europe, according to its website.

It has expanded into a global network of management development institutions interested in the quality of education and innovations in this field, as well as in the broad area of subjects related to change, with more than 220 members from over 55 countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

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