We need to recover the spirit of true academia

Written on April 17, 2012 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

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 Iñiguez 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.”

Iñiguez 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”. Iñiguez 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 Iñiguez, 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.

Iñiguez 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 Iñiguez.

Continue reading in The Independent


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