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More Practice Less Theory: Is This a Justified Demand From Business Schools?

Posted By Vako Tamaklo, Thursday, October 01, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A previous GBSN blog entry entitled 'Can Business Schools Rebuild Their Image' referred to a 2008 article from the Harvard Business Review that grapples with the knowing-doing gap faced by business schools. In light of the findings that many high-level managers of major companies, that were severely distressed during the peak of the financial crisis, were also graduates of business schools, critics, and some employees of b-schools, have suggested that management education has become too theoretical, lacking the real-world application methods to help managers to effectively solve problems. Although many professors champion the case-study method as a solution to this practice problem, there remains a question that lies at the source: What level of practical experience is sufficient, as provided by b-schools?

Perhaps the answer might be found in a selected paper from the Graduate School of Business of the University of Chicago entitled 'Rethinking Management Education: A View from Chicago.' The paper constructs a model of the necessary elements needed to provide effective performance as a manager. The primary elements are conceptual and domain knowledge, and the combination of these lead to action skills which in turn produce action and then outcomes. The advanced form of this model figures in insight skills that come into play at the outcome stage, and feedback into action skills. According to the model, there are three players: business schools, companies and students. Each has a comparative advantage in a particular element: whereas business schools are more apt to creating conceptual knowledge, companies have a comparative advantage in producing domain knowledge; it is the responsibility of the student to harness their mental capacities to develop insight and action skills. The paper concludes with a recommendation that these three players work together to ensure effective outcomes in the marketplace.

Thus, is it possible that b-schools are doing all that they can do to develop effective managers and are placing emphasis in the right area. Or is the knowing-doing gap, the theory/practice dichotomy still one to be argued?


Vako Tamaklo is the Business Development Officer at Nyaho Medical Centre and serves as the co-chair of The West Indian and African Association at Hamilton College.

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