What the B-School surveys don't tell

The smartest thing about ET's latest B School survey is the timing. ET's made sure the survey is out at a time when everyone else (read Business Magazines) is still to come out with theirs for this year. This means the survey-clutter is minimal and so noticeability will be so much better.

As to the survey its the same old story. As usual, calls to ensure curriculum is global and industry oriented abound. So are calls to ethical business orientation being taught at business schools. Now I am confused about the latter. What does ethical mean in business? Does it mean businesses have to operate by the law? If yes, then its a question of legality, not ethics. If ethical means operating with a social consciousness, I hope it isn't socialism that's being taught at business schools. The way its done at the elite liberal b-schools in the West.

Also such surveys seem to conveniently miss mentioning the input-output cycle that keeps the top business schools in India afloat. Let me explain. The top schools attract the top companies with the best moolah. Which means the best of students wanna go there. Of course the best of moolah go to these schools because the best of talent reside there. Its the classic 'chicken n' egg' scene. Plus how much should the b-school process take credit to the output is debatable. Its like swiss chocolates. The best of cocoa, milk and sugar means you get tasty chocolates. Sure world class manufacturing helps. But is the manufacturing the real reason why the chocolates taste the way they do? Or as I mentioned, is it all those input ingredients?

In closing its pertinent that I mention that no one yet knows for sure what works in business. Now that is not to say the trade can't be taught. Just that claiming the trade's being taught in a superior manner at certain schools may not necessarily be the truth. In fact it could just be a biased myth everyone's comfortable with. To illustrate better what I mean, note what the legendary Theodore Levitt has said about success formulaes being taught by those who believe they know what makes businesses tick,

Nothing in business is so remarkable as the conflicting variety of success formulas offered by its numerous practitioners and professors. And if, in the case of practitioners, they're not exactly "formulas", they are explanations of "how we did it," implying with firm control over any fleeting tendencies toward modesty that "that's how you ought to do it." Practitioners, filled with pride and money, turn themselves into prescriptive philosophers, filled mostly with hot air.

Professors, on the other hand, know better than to deal merely in explanations. We traffic instead in higher goods, like "analysis", "concepts" and "theories'. In short, "truth". Filled with self-importance, we turn ourselves hopefully into wanted advisers, consultants filled with woolly congestion.

I do not wish to disparage either, but only to suggest that these two legitimately different and respectable professions usually diminish rather than enhance their reputations when intruding too much or with too little thought on each other's turf.

How often have we heard executives of venerable age and high repute or entrepreneurs flushed with recent wealth pronounce with lofty certainty and imperial recitude exactly what produces business success? All they really tell, however, in cleaned-up retrospection, is the story of how they themselves happen to have done it. Listen to ten, and generally you will get ten different pieces of advice.

Listen to ten professors, and you'll generally get advice by some multiple of ten. The difference is not that professors believe more firmly in abundance. Rather, besides teaching, professors are also paid to think. hence, lacking direct experience, each is likely to think up several different ways to get to the same place.'


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