I liked my MBA program a lot, but at times it digressed into a bunch of disconnected assignments. I wanted help seeing the big picture behind issues more than anything.
Learning why companies choose a particular HR strategy to hire & develop great talent is more interesting than knowing how each HR function works. Knowing which marketing techniques might be best for launching in a crowded space is more helpful than memorizing 15 marketing models. The former is wisdom. The latter is information. Throughout my studies, I wanted help thinking through my options, not necessarily learning each one. This is where traditional education fails. It tries to fill your mind with every possible bit of data and then often doesn’t paint a rich picture of how to use it.
In the book Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads, the authors offer eight unmet needs that business schools must focus on to better prepare future leaders. All relate to critical thinking.
Here are the book’s proposed unmet needs:
- Gaining a global perspective: identifying, analyzing, and practicing how best to manage when faced with economic, institutional, and cultural differences across countries.
- Developing leadership skills: understanding the responsibilities of leadership; developing alternative approaches to inspiring, influencing, and guiding others; learning such skills as conducting a performance review and giving critical feedback; and recognizing the impact of one’s actions and behaviors on others.
- Honing integration skills: thinking about issues from diverse, shifting angles to frame problems holistically; learning to make decisions based on multiple, often conflicting, functional perspectives; and building judgment and intuition into messy, unstructured situations.
- Understanding the role, responsibilities, and purpose of business: balancing financial and nonfinancial objectives while simultaneously juggling the demands of diverse constituencies such as shareholders, employees, customers, regulators, and society.
- Recognizing organizational realities and the challenges of implementation: influencing others and getting things done in the context of hidden agendas, unwritten rules, political coalitions, and competing points of view.
- Thinking creatively and innovatively: finding and framing problems;collecting, synthesizing, and distilling large volumes of ambiguous data; engaging in generative and lateral thinking; and constantly experimenting and learning.
- Thinking critically and communicating clearly: developing and articulating logical, coherent, and persuasive arguments; marshalling supporting evidence; and distinguishing fact from opinion.
- Understanding the limits of models and markets: asking tough questions about risk by questioning underlying assumptions and emerging patterns and seeking to understand what might go wrong; learning about the sources of errors that lead to flawed decision making and the organizational safeguards that reduce these risks; and understanding the tension between regulatory activities aimed at preventing social harm and market-based incentives designed to encourage innovation and efficiency.
(Book excerpts taken from http://www.mbauniverse.com/article/id/3380/Rethinking-MBA-Exc-Excerpts-II)
What do you think? Do you agree that these are unmet needs in current MBA programs?
To learn more about why critical thinking matters in the workplace, download the Critical Thinking Means Business white paper here.