'We Need to Recover the Spirit of True Academia'
Finn, Widget, The Independent (London, England)
The dean of a Spanish business school argues that tutors have become too ensconced in their ivory towers and should be getting back to solving problems in the real world
Santiago Iiguez is well-suited to being the dean of Madrid's IE Business School. He describes the institution as "disruptive - in a positive way. In times of change, being disruptive implies being in the vanguard. When you come through the door at IE you feel the speed, the energy and the innovative spirit. We enjoy experimenting."
Iiguez avoided the archetypal academic background of those leading business schools. His colleague Paul Danos, dean of Tuck Business School, says he is not the "conventional drummer". Iiguez qualified as a lawyer and was a graduate researcher at Oxford University, where he gained inspiration and ideas from the concentration of eminent moral philosophers, including Sir Isaiah Berlin, who were there at that time. Their teachings have influenced his theories on the future of business education, crystallised in his recently published book The Learning Curve: How Business Schools are Re-thinking Education.
On the most basic level, what are business schools for? According to Iiguez, their main point is to develop people who can transform their environment in order to create a better world. "Good managers and entrepreneurs are the best antidotes to many of the world's ills" he argues. He examines in his book how business schools can become effective hubs for developing managers and entrepreneurs.
Iiguez believes in the need to pursue a traditional form of education that combines specialisation with the study of humanities and the social sciences. "This enhances the experience of the student," he says. "At IE, we have introduced modules in architectural design thinking, because we believe that by introducing basic architecture skills we will teach our MBA students to observe things in a more reflective way. Architects look at buildings from different angles. These skills can be developed in managers for assessing risk by observing it from different approaches."
He argues that management education in the broadest sense should embrace literature and history. "Through reading novels by Charles Dickens or plays by William Shakespeare you will understand human nature far better than by studying a pile of manuals on self- improvement. If you read history and understand what happened a century ago, you may avoid future crises by recognising that events are cyclical. In cultivating the humanities you develop well- rounded managers who can lead cross-cultural teams, understand diversity and work together with people from different cultures," says Iiguez.
Business schools, first established a century ago, are the new kids on the academic block. They have generated many management tools, golden rules, case studies and experiences that are applied to the world of business, yet are still depicted as being divorced from the reality of business. Iiguez sees pragmatism as key to the future of management education, defining a new breed of academics as "kangaroos".
"At IE, we encourage our faculty members to be engaged in the world of business. We don't just want wise people who can produce original knowledge - they should combine that with being good communicators in class and also good communicators with top management in the professional world. …