technology science

Recently I wrote a short article in the Financial Times which said that Business Schools needed to change radically if they were to be fit for the 21st century.


I thought that all I would get from the schools would be pushback against the idea. Instead the wonderful Karthik Kannan, a Professor at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, contacted me to say that he agreed!

They are struggling with the fact that, while they have made MIS a core module that all students take, it’s hard to get students to be interested, they are either technology agnostic or advanced programmers already.

The student’s view is that technology moves so fast that whatever they learn now is not going to be relevant in the future. That is true but the important thing for them to learn it not the particular technology, which will be overtaken, but why technology is important and why they should stay up to date.

Clearly their approach to technology is not the only thing that business schools need to change but looking at the curriculum the sensible things to include would be:

  • How does technology disrupt?
  • Some examples from the history of disruption so that they can recognise disruption when it happens
  • The ability to understand enough technology to be able to understand its possibilities and its limitations and its potential applications to whatever business they are in
  • Creating a case study of the effects that current technologies may have in particular industries – for example what are the effects of drones and driverless vehicles in the logistics industry?
  • How to counter threats and exploit opportunities

It really comes down in the end to business schools teaching critical thinking about more than just balance sheets.

And that takes us to the second change that business schools need to make.

They need to get closer to business. There is far too big a gap between the corporate and the academic world. Almost all business schools are part of universities and academic thinking is driven by considerations of academic prestige that drives funding. The two worlds need to get much, much closer so that the work that universities do has its roots in the messy reality of business. Academics need to work in business, business people could usefully step back and look at the bigger picture from an academic perspective. Schools are spending far too much time teaching “stuff” when they should be teaching people to think.

Facts are universally available, thanks to the internet, but in this age of information overload how do you teach people to distinguish between good and bad information. What is needed are thinking frameworks that can create the sorts of outputs that can bring innovation and creativity to both the business and the academic world.