Medical schools turn out doctors. Business schools turn out managers. Or so the theory goes. I recently read an interesting article that got me thinking about these two forms of professional education.
A cardiologist wrote an article about how in medical school he was never taught about nutrition and its relationship to health and well-being. He was well schooled in medicines to counteract heart disease, but not about prevention through nutrition and exercise. And the chronic epidemic of heart disease in the US from obesity is genetic or accident caused, but a nutrition and lifestyle symptom.
We all know that the mind and body are connected. Just witness the spectacular demise of one of the world’s most gifted golfers, Tiger Woods, following his public humiliation and divorce. Did his talent just suddenly disappear, or was it his mental state that changed?
And we are rapidly learning about the connections between nutrition and human health and disease. What if medical schools took a more holistic approach and taught nutrition as an integral part of saving lives and healing the sick, along with modern advances in medicines, technology and surgical techniques? I for one refuse to go to a doctor who smokes or is grossly overweight. If they don’t care enough about themselves, why should they really care about me and my well-being? I am afraid they will just go through the routine motions and ignore me as an individual. That’s not healing, that’s textbook solutions!
Managers Not MBA’s
Could the same be true for Business Schools and MBA degrees? Several years ago Mark McCormack wrote a best-selling book entitled: What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. McCormack founded IMG (International Management Group), the first sports management company in the world, eventually becoming a multi-million dollar, worldwide corporation. McCormack’s book describes his business success as a result of non-traditional MBA issues such as analysing yourself and others, sales skills, negotiation skills, time management, decision-making and communication.
Several years later Professor Henry Mintzberg wrote a book entitled Managers, not MBAs, where he decries the lack of people skills and poor understanding of basic human psychology principles in the traditional MBA curriculum. After all, business gets done through people, not computers and spreadsheets.
It you deal with human beings, then being human is critical for success.
My field of expertise, corporate culture and its impact on performance, is a classic example of how narrowly academics and business people look at business performance. For much of the past 30+ years since Tom Peters and Bob Waterman wrote about culture in their global bestseller, In Search of Excellence, the field of corporate culture has focused mainly on the measurement of culture and top-down culture change workshops and seminars. Consulting firms are long on describing and measuring culture, but woefully short on reshaping it.
For example, most culture change programs are top-down, cascading and based on business logic: we will make more money and serve customers better with a culture of accountability, so everyone understand the value of accountability for the business. Great business logic, but lousy people logic. Understanding WHY people tend to blame other and shirt responsibility is the real key, and that takes an understanding of human psychology, not an understanding of balance sheets.
Organizations are not hierarchies, they are social networks. Information doesn’t flow top down and bottom up, it’s a jumbled network of links where the higher you are in the organization the less you know what is actually going on. Organizations are social networks based on human psychology principles of peer pressure, social acceptance and the desire to “fit in” with the group.
Corporate culture works on human logic, not business logic!
And a great number of managers, directors and executives I have met have pretty poor people skills. In contrast, those who understand themselves and the principles of human psychology, seem to be the better managers and leaders.
Time to rethink the MBA curriculum?
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
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John also writes thriller novels!