Business schools prepare their graduates for the world of business. I first joined a business school two decades ago. I joined business school as a student ready to learn more about business. After a three-year stint at the workplace, I was ready for a career shift. When I enrolled for the MBA program, I was not accepted immediately because my undergraduate degree was not in business. I was first required to take several undergraduate business classes before acceptance into the MBA program. I had no option but to take a whole year of catching up in economics, management, marketing, accounting, finance, and information management. I am glad I did that because it gave me a good foundation in all aspects of business and made it easier to study business at an advanced level. By the time I was done with two and a half years of business school, I felt ready to immerse myself back into the world of business with a ton of new knowledge. I often wonder why some of the business schools especially in Africa do not offer MBA applicants without a business background this smooth transition. Are our business schools too commercial? Are they lagging behind in giving quality MBAs?
The world of business is evolving, what was taught 10 years ago might not be relevant at the workplace today. Occasionally, I flip through my MBA course text and realize just how much has changed. Nokia was once upon a time given the best example of an exemplary business in most case studies. Today, it is only be given as an example of a business that failed to adapt in changing times. I recall my fascination with the late Jack Welch then CEO and chair of General Electric. I recall a paper I wrote on Carly Fiorina the then Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO and the first woman to lead a Fortune Top-20 company now turned politician. The course material we used had no reference to the rest of the world. Why do business schools today still focus heavily on American businesses? What about the rest of the world? What about local case studies? Do we have management course texts with an African context for example?
Ten years ago, I rejoined business school. I did so not as a student but as an instructor in a public university. Most of the questions that crossed my mind then still bother me to this date. How motivated are our business school instructors? What resources do our instructors have? What is their level of exposure to the real world of business where theory meets practice? What are the resources available to the students? Is there an overreliance on Google and Wikipedia? Are the business instructors researching current trends in the world of business? How are business instructors preparing the graduates for the real world of business? Why are outdated courses still taught?
Business schools teach best practices in business. It is expected that business schools should in particular focus on addressing the challenges that businesses face. One such challenge is management. Management is not simply taught through theory, it is taught by challenging the students to think, to be analytical, to be empathetic, to have a bias for action, to be better communicators, to take charge, and much more. The weak link between academia and industry needs strengthening. It is time for academia to take more interest in what businesses need. It is also time for the industry to give business schools feedback on areas where there is a need for improvement.
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy