“In every profession,” writes Schumpeter in The Economist, “there are people who fail to practice what they preach: dentists with mouths full of rotten teeth, doctors who smoke 40 a day, accountants who forget to file their tax returns. But it is a rare profession where failure to obey its own rules is practically a condition of entry.”
Business schools are well aware of the threat of disruption. Everyone can see that deep change is looming. Business schools in emerging countries are on the rise. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can reach much larger numbers of students at much lower cost. Funding from government and industry is forcing greater attention to the practical impact of teaching and research. Results-oriented private schools are emerging to meet obvious pressing business needs.
And business schools themselves teach the very nature of the threat: the failure of businesses to respond to the competitive threat of disruption is a staple of the curriculum. So why don’t business schools themselves do something about the imminent threats of disruption that they themselves face?
Herds of academics
Schumpeter suggests two reasons:
“The first is that business schools have been captured by the academic guild. In 1959 two inquiries sponsored by the Carnegie and Ford Foundations argued that business schools were little better than trade schools and urged them to be more academic. Now they are little more than flags of convenience for academics. The surest way to get a tenured post is to write a PhD (on a subject only loosely related to business) and publish a string of articles in respected journals…. Oceans of papers with little genuine insight are published in obscure periodicals that no manager would ever dream of reading.
“The second problem is a herd mentality. Business schools suffer from a bad case of Harvard and Stanford envy: they dream of having fancy buildings and star professors.
But the cost of all this is going up, as business schools compete for stars, while the demand for an MBA is falling, with sharp declines in the number of people even taking the GMAT, the test for admission.