There is more to business than analytics

Written on April 28, 2011 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

By David Bach, dean of programmes at IE Business School

“Frame a challenging problem, then get out of the way!”

This is the best piece of advice I’ve ever received from a colleague about engaging senior executives in the classroom.

As business schools continue to grapple with how to adapt curricula to a world marked by the financial crisis, shifts in economic power, and tremendous uncertainty, the emphasis continues to be on content. Schools are busy introducing new ethics courses, revamping finance programmes, and adding modules on global strategy or business in emerging markets. The economic upheaval was a profoundly sobering experience for business schools. Yet we continue to believe that we can and ought to teach our students by identifying what they need to know and then doling it out in digestible bites. I believe we need a different direction – we should frame problems and get out of the way.

That’s what the world’s leading liberal arts colleges do. After going to high school in Germany – a country whose entire education system is predicated on the idea that ministries, universities and schools recognise what a student should know now and in the future – my first classes as a freshman at Yale were profoundly shocking. My professors, the smartest and most knowledgeable people I’d ever met, only cared about one thing: what did we think?

When people hear liberal arts, they – mistakenly – think of content, of literature, history or philosophy. They think of curricula without structure, of students mixing and matching courses from the arts and sciences seemingly without plan or direction. But liberal arts education is something more. It’s a way of looking at the world, a mode of inquiry. It is what Albert Einstein called “the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” And it should be compulsory in business schools.

Continue reading in Financial Times


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