Last week and during a week in February, the top University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University business professors joined in a significant program on management development for about 40 middle managers.
Now, that may not sound exactly earth shattering, since management seminars can be found on every corner these days. However, this particular program was important because OU and OSU joined forces to produce it.
This could be a major first step in the thousand-mile journey of marshaling Oklahoma's education and business resources to diversify our economy. It will take us well into the 21st Century to complete that journey, if we take on the challenge now.
The program was led by Dr. Robrt L. Sandmeyer of OSU and Dr. Robert F. Lusch of OU, both business administration deans. Outstanding professors of both schools presented seminars on leadership, negotiating skills, management strategies, setting goals, achieving productivity, identifying markets, sharpening competitive positions and service quality, among other issues.
"As far as we know, it was the first time the two top universities of any state have joined for a program like this,'' said Jack Kasulis, director of executive programs and associate professor of business administration at OU.
What's so remarkable about all this.? It sounds like something we should have been doing for decades.
The fact is: we haven't, and this goes much deeper than just a joint seminar. It goes to the very heart of our entrenched feelings about separate educational institutions in Oklahoma and the traditional separation between education, business and government:
- Our higher education system was developed with the principle that each institution should provide some of almost everything. As a result, our natural human tendency to protect turf has assumed the upper hand. The rivalries between OU and OSU, and among the other colleges and universities, have gone far beyond football, basketball and other sports, bands, debate teams and the like.
We have had rivalries for funds and power. As a result, we have spread our financial and human resources so far we have provided mediocrity - some funds and leaders for each institution but few concentrations of excellence.
- Business, meanwhile, has tended to go its own way, hiring college graduates for potential leaders but ending the relationship there. That probably was partly because early government leaders were suspicious of business. It also was partly the result of a business community bent on getting established with little time to think about concepts and research for the long run.
"Most of our big business leaders in Oklahoma started as entrepreneurs,'' said Kusalis. "Men like Dean McGee and Frank Phillips built large companies from scratch. We are just now entering an era in which second and third generations of leaders are taking over most of our large companies, which are maturing.''
At the same time, we are entering the high techology information age - an era in which numerous Oklahoma companies must compete with the world, not just each other for companies in Tulsa and Dallas.
"We have to learn to think about what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we plan to do,'' said Kusalis, "instead of just tackling business from day to day. Companies have to learn from each other. We in education can provide forums, and we can learn as much from companies as they can from us.''
That means bringing our best minds together - the best of business, education and government in "centers of excellence.'' We have to overcome old petty rivalries and join forces if we are to spread the information we need to develop a balanced economy.
Only through a balanced economy can Oklahoma absorb world fluctuation of prices on oil and …