Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Industry Should Help Redefine the Agenda for Technology Management Education

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Industry Should Help Redefine the Agenda for Technology Management Education

Article excerpt

Over the last several years, a silent revolution has been occurring in technology management, in addition to the overall globalization of businesses, newer technology and business management concepts such as open or distributed innovation, business process outsourcing, value creation networks, and "e-business on demand" have brought forth radical changes in the way technologies are developed, diffused, utilized, and managed.

A critical question, then, is whether technology management (TM) education programs have kept pace with these changes. Given the importance of TM programs in preparing the next generation of our technology and business leaders, it is imperative that this question be addressed not just by TM educators and program directors in schools and universities but also by TM practitioners and senior business managers who are critical stakeholders of TM programs. Our objective in this article is to set the context for a renewed debate on TM education in view of the above changes that have come to the global technology landscape, and more importantly, to call for the active participation of technologists and business managers who have largely been absent from this debate so far.

We have been studying the status of global TM education programs for the last five years through a series of surveys. We use the key insights from our studies so far on TM education themes and trends to initiate this debate and to identify some of the critical focus areas. We also briefly profile two recently revamped graduate TM programs (MIT Sloan School and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lally School) to highlight the emerging design elements of TM programs. We then discuss the varied nature of university--industry partnerships that will be needed to devise and promote the TM education agenda for the future, We start by taking a brief look at the history of TM education.

Generational Shifts in TM Education

Technology management education programs have been in existence for more than three decades. Over this period, one can identify at least three major shifts that have occurred in line nature and the agenda of TM programs. We believe the first shift occurred in the early 1980s when independent, degree-granting TM programs were created in several universities, most of them affiliated with either engineering schools or business schools. Prior to this (i.e., in the 1960s and '70s) there were few formal TM programs that students could join, and much of TM education was limited to the few courses offered by the different disciplines/schools with no overall coherent theme or focus. The formal institution of TM programs brought together these different courses under a common umbrella and gave the field a new identity that was critical for its initial growth.

The second major shift in TM programs could be traced to the early 1990s when it was becoming increasingly evident that technology is an integral part of most businesses, with the implication that the TM discipline has to be aligned more closely with the other business disciplines. Indeed, many of the changes that were brought into TM curricula were made to address a critical question that grew out of a National Academy of Sciences study (and that Weiner posed in this same journal in 1991, 1): How to integrate technology into the overall strategic objectives of the firm? The result was a strategic focus in technology management that was largely absent from TM programs before then.

Such a broader strategic focus also helped to differentiate TM programs from traditional engineering management (EM) programs. While EM programs primarily focus on the process of managing the engineering function itself, TM programs adopt an integrative, multidisciplinary approach and address the broader question of how organizations can maximize the gains from their technological assets (2).

We believe we are now in the midst of a third such major shift in TM education. …

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