Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Book review: How to reform a Business School – the Ivy League way

Ashish Jaiswal: Author

Ashish Jaiswal looks at MBA curriculum reform using a case study approach, given my own blogging and publishing interests on two topics close to my heart it is not then surprising to hear that the publishers contacted me offering a review copy of the text. Up front ethical disclosure covered. 

The text uses a recognisably academic research paper structure that is peppered with in text referencing which might not be to everyone’s liking, but a number of chapters stand alone on their own (case study method, curriculum history and MBA reform) and might be interesting to dip into thus. A useful read for business school professionals in management roles, there is a solid warts-and-all consideration of the MBA proposition, highlighting its rather controversial position in academia, with its predilection for drawing on un-evidenced popular normative industry publications. 

There is a detailed explanation of the experiential-versus-evidential approach to publishing research and industry management thinking. Whilst the critical academic put down ‘airport book’ is unpacked, more could have been made of ivory tower research methodological shortcomings and communications effectiveness, I feel. 

Using a detailed longitudinal case study of the Yale MBA the reader can gain helpful insights into the evolution of the infamous business masters degree. The north American MBA is quite different from the European model I know, spread over two (more costly) years, it offers a general introductory first year, summer sandwich internship filling and elective specialisms in the second year. European MBAs tend to require significant prior work experience and study is full time over a single year. Additionally it is hard to find other specialist business masters programmes stateside, thus underscoring the point that there is not a single homogeneous MBA format. It also helps explain the frequent US conflation of the notions of business school and MBA that are quite distinct in my mind.

Those from outside the sector might enjoy appreciating some of the challenging so-called democratic and consensual decision making strategies required in a community of head strong individuals who value their right to free speech. 

I wish I benefitted from this 2015 publication earlier, having just endured a years long and fairly arduous silo busting MBA curriculum redesign as lead, but I did feel comforted that many of the stages put forwards in the concluding theoretical contribution were elements I had indeed put in place in my own change programme. 

 Ideal reading for the rookie MBA Director and reflective business school Dean.