What they don’t teach in Med School and B-School

med school

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!

hammer nail

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.

social network2

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

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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1 Response to What they don’t teach in Med School and B-School

  1. When Einstein was asked once to describe genius, he replied it was the ability to recognize the obvious. In this post, John, you have recognized for us the obvious. Thank you.


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