Disruptive Learnings of BSSE for Make Benefit Harvard School of Business

Alejandro asserts that most HBS students can be grouped into seven categories based on their career aspirations and motivations for attending business school. Which one are you?

In the second-year class Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise replica watches uk (BSSE), students read a case titled The Disruption of Management Education in which Professor Christensen paints the picture that cheaper, faster and better alternatives to the MBA will eventually displace even the illustrious Harvard Business School. At first, I was extremely skeptical that corporate universities and on-the-job training could ever replace HBS. However, as I considered my recent frustration with finding a job and saw former colleagues get promoted in my absence, I rethought my prior position. In BSSE, we also learn that no one ever wants a one-inch drill bit; what they really want is a one-inch hole. Thus, as much as we may pat ourselves on the back for being a part of the world’s most famous school, we need to remind ourselves of the real reasons why students and recruiters come here so that this institution-and our degree-do not become irrelevant.

I venture that we can place students into seven different categories based on their career aspirations and motivations for attending business school (please see sidebar). Since there is such an ample dispersion in student attitudes and desires, I see only two fundamental solutions to improving the learning experience and customer service for everyone: strengthen the core curriculum and create a more flexible elective curriculum.

Core Curriculum
Strengthening the core curriculum simply means insisting on the best cases and best professors. First and foremost, we should insist on only teaching the best performing cases to first-year students. Using historical student surveys and leaning on senior professors’ experience, we can identify the best cases to teach each concept. But we should not stop there. Each department needs to take a good look at its elective courses and figure out which concepts should be taught in the first year. For instance, I think the strategy department should teach BSSE’s theory of disruption. Why we would allow this groundbreaking theory to linger in an elective class and not incorporate it into the common body of knowledge every student graduates with is simply beyond me.

In cramming more concepts and great cases into the core curriculum, two things have to go: inexperienced cases and inexperienced professors. Now, if this institution did not continue to create new cases and new professors, it would only accelerate its decline. Thus, the question necessarily arises: how do cases and professors gain experience without adversely affecting the core curriculum? Perhaps elective courses can act as the proving grounds for cases before they migrate into the core curriculum and new faculty can team-teach with senior professors. In a more radical departure, perhaps this school could open a few classes for undergraduates and use them as guinea pigs for new faculty. In any event, while recognizing that the cases in the core curriculum can become stale and retiring faculty must be replaced by new professors, we should also acknowledge that untried cases and professors in the classroom severely inhibit the learning experience and the quality of student graduates.

Elective Curriculum replica breitling
I believe that three things should change to create a more effective and flexible elective curriculum: modularity, certifications, and internships.

Modularity means that the elective curriculum will be just that: elective. If someone wanted to graduate after finishing the core curriculum, no one would stop them. This would open a fantastic possibility for yuppies and some industrialists and born leaders because they could turbo charge their careers after only a one-year hiatus. At the same time, modularity also means that students would be able to choose the number and order of certifications and internships to pursue.

Certifications would designate that a student has met certain requirements to be considered as a specialist in a certain field or industry. For instance, a certification in finance might entail taking Business Analysis & Valuation and Dynamic Markets in addition to five other courses of one’s choosing, and the certification might only be awarded upon successful completion of a comprehensive exam. In another example, a healthcare certification might entail taking six classes involving healthcare and writing a 25-page thesis on a healthcare topic. Certifications benefit students and employers alike because they bridge information asymmetries. If a student is an industrialist or yuppie without prior experience, the certification allows them to prove their proficiency and passion for their newfound profession. Certifications could also benefit peace prizes by giving them a conduit to focus their energy without having to apply to KSG, and entrepreneurs might find it easier to raise venture capital with an entrepreneurship certification on their r‚sum‚s.

I propose that HBS broker semester-long, full-time internships with corporations and non-profits. To add an academic component, HBS could require writing a report or even a case, and I would also suggest enforcing regular meetings with a career coach. Lost souls would stand to gain the most because they could sample companies before committing to a certification or accepting a job offer. Party animals might also benefit from taking untraditional internships that delay their reentry into the rat race. Nonetheless, every student, even if they are certain which field they want to work in, can benefit from a trial period to test their assumptions. HBS could help broker internships through a matching program, much like US physician residencies, or even through case competitions. The bottom line here is that corporations cannot be given full reign to choose their interns because they are unlikely to risk hiring inexperienced students who need the internships the most. By forcing corporations to accept the results of a matching program or case competition, or perhaps by only allowing them to hire teams or portfolios of students, HBS can ensure that inexperienced students are given a chance to learn and grow. Over time, I would expect that despite the constraints imposed by HBS, corporations would realize that the internship program is the best way to create a talent pipeline from HBS into their organizations; by accepting internship costs up front, they could avoid the high attrition costs they suffer with MBA’s a few years after hiring. Eventually, campus recruiting could become more of a trial-and-error internship process rather than the dog-and-pony show it is today.

Naturally, there are more than seven types of students at HBS and even more ways to improve the learning experience than what I have outlined above. I believe that the key to keeping this institution healthy well into the future is to understand the role of HBS in brokering the motivations of students and recruiters and responding to their changing needs. Only by keeping focus on this priority will HBS be able to resist the current competition and survive the waves of disruption, both now and in the future.


Seven Types of Students

The yuppie wants a career in finance or consulting. They may have come from investment banking and want to switch to private equity, or they may be wannabes who have no prior experience but cannot wait until recruiting season begins to start brownnosing. The bottom line is that yuppies are motivated by prestige, money, and lack of sleep. They appear well served by HBS because the droves of consulting and finance recruiters are only equaled by the herds of students. However, the most coveted private equity jobs can only be obtained through networked searches, and less experienced candidates have little t
o no chance of obtaining these highly sought positions.

Party Animal
The party animal is sick of corporate America (or Europe or Asia) and desperately wants a break. They had a good career before school and are confident they can return when their self-imposed sabbatical is through. Their chief motivation is to relax, go wild, start a family, and/or find a spouse. They are well served by a two-year program that includes multiple extended weekends, Spring Break, Winter Break, and a lengthy summer vacation. They benefit from a lax second year, but suffer from a rigorous first year and reinstated grade disclosures.

Peace Prize
The peace prize wants to save the world, so they are here to learn how to run a non-profit like a business…and meet their future donors. Since they are ready to work for peanuts, they have more options open to them than any other type of student. Which non-profit could turn down an HBS minion with a salary below the poverty line? They are well served by joint degrees with KSG, but they are poorly served by being surrounded by hardnosed, cynical classmates at HBS. Many people begin as peace prizes and end up in another category, overwhelmed by talk of profits and an idealism vacuum.

The industrialist dreams of working in consumer packaged goods, technology, manufacturing, energy, or any number of industries-just not finance or consulting. They must be deeply passionate about their industry or possibly just bad at math, for the MBA does not produce an NPV windfall.

Born Leader
The born leader has no background in business, and thus has the most to gain from an MBA degree. They may be a doctor who wants to become an administrator; an engineer who wants to manage a project; or a ballerina that wants to run the ballet company. In any event, the MBA combined with their deep subject matter expertise immediately qualifies them to become a general manager in their chosen field, and they can expect a steep rise in compensation. Their downside? They may have preferred taking orders rather than giving them.

The diehard entrepreneur is a rare breed, for even the most staunch e-club members can be spotted donning a suit and stealing away to a corporate interview. Entrepreneurship at HBS is seen more as the BATNA to a job after school rather than an unquenchable calling in life. Nevertheless, a few hardy specimens survive at HBS, benefiting from networking opportunities of a lifetime and the ability to pursue independent studies in the second year.

Lost Soul
The lost soul thought they could find themselves at HBS. Attracted by a two-year program with a wide variety of case studies, little did they know that recruiting begins just weeks after setting foot on campus. With barely any time for self reflection in the grueling first year and only one summer to use as a real option for career exploration, their career choices end up feeling like Russian Roulette.

December 4, 2006
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