The Millionaire Mind: Implications for Business School Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 2001, University of California (UC) President Richard C. Atkinson began the push to eliminate the SAT as a requirement for admission to all eight of the university's undergraduate campuses (http://www.latimes.com/news/state/20010217/ toooo14387.html). His reasons reflected his belief that the test is "unfair" and "fails to measure" how much a student has learned in high school. While this may be true, there is a bigger issue for business schools. A high SAT score, as well as a high GPA, has no correlation with success in business or economic productivity (Stanley, 2001). Additionally, the curricula of business schools are coming under attack for being on the wrong track with their focus on selective admissions while "failing to impart useful skills" (Bennis and O'Toole, 2005). While modifications to the admission criteria and curricula have been proposed (Boyzatis and Kram, 1999; Ferris, 2002), they tend to build on existing frameworks and do not propose discontinuous changes (Weick and Quinn, 1999) to the selection or education of students.

We propose that business schools can be examined and compared using Porter's (1980) description of primary and secondary business activities. Some may argue that Porter's model developed in the 1980s is out dated in the context of today's interconnected, networked organizations (Black and Edwards, 2000). This argument holds water when applied to commercial enterprises, but the integrative nature of interconnected, networked organizations has not fully taken hold in academia. In fact, some argue that it should not take hold, specifically in the case of business schools (Campbell, Heriot, and Finney, 2006). Finally, it is Porter's theory of "transforming inputs" that is often used when discussing AACSB International-the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation standards (Hedin, Barnes, and Chen, 2005). Business schools are concerned with transforming inputs (raw materials) into outputs (products). Business schools receive students as unfinished materials (inputs), who come with the purpose of leaving a program (transformation) in a different state than when they entered (product).

Interestingly, business schools are most often spoken of and ranked based on the quality of their raw materials, i.e., the high GPA, SAT, and GMAT/GRE scores of applicants. While inputs are important, customers want a quality product (output), not necessarily defined by the condition of the raw material. This immediately raises two issues: (1) what kinds of inputs are necessary to produce a quality output, and (2) what standard should be used to judge the quality of the output? We will address these two issues in the remainder of the article as well as discuss the associated implications for business school recruitment and curriculum design. But first we must reach common ground on the mission of a business school.

Business Schools as Preparatory Systems

Van de Ven (1989) argues that the central mission of scholars and educators in professional schools (e.g., management, health, education, and social work) is two fold: (1) conduct research that advances "knowledge to a scientific discipline," and (2) engage in the application of that knowledge to practice. Zaleznik (1990) argues that business schools serve as "socialization plants" designed to prepare managers to fit into existing organizational processes and norms. Another (Beatty, 2004) advances the idea that while these missions may exist, professional education--especially that of business schools--has been commoditized as a result of pedagogical frameworks and practices embedded in the prevailing economic metaphors in professional education. Grades are perceived as "currency," thus objectifying education. Beatty (2004) believes that the focus on grades as an outcome of education distracts professors and students from "intrinsic and non-quantifiable goals such as personal development and the importance of relationships in teaching and learning" (188). …