Does your undergraduate major matter when you’re applying to MBA programs? Of course it does, but maybe not in the way you might think. Traditional thinking may suggest that an undergraduate degree in economics or other business-based focus might give you an edge in admissions – as this kind of degree might better prepare students for business school – but this might not actually be the case. Continue reading
The Aspen Institute’s recently updated Beyond Grey Pinstripes, the list of top 100 top socially- and environmentally- conscious MBA programs, has generated a lot of interest in how business schools are (or are not) developing curriculum that will foster socially sustainable thinking. Fast Company recently interviewed Judy Samuelson, Aspen’s director of business and society, who said that, while b-schools are providing a more ethical and socially-conscious framework for students, in general, they’re still not leading. That may be true, but if anything, Beyond Grey Pinstripes shows that many business schools are starting to take the ideas of corporate social responsibility (CSR) seriously, and that many students are being exposed to this thinking throughout their MBA programs.
So, is this kind of thinking rubbing off on students?
A glance at some recent projects and startups created by MBA students and recent graduates shows that this new type of thinking is indeed having a positive effect, and may be influencing a new breed of businesses that are, through innovation and the adoption of traditional business principles, tackling social and environmental problems.
Ever wanted to see what an MBA lecture was like, without paying thousands of dollars for it? Or are you curious to see if a popular business professor is really that great, or would you like to hear about some new research? Well, with iTunes, now you can.
Many business schools are starting to provide lectures, podcasts, and other resources for free or inexpensively through iTunes. Users can download them and engage them immediately, or put them on an iPad or iPhone and watch (or listen) on the go. Apart from being super convenient, these resources can also give potential students insight into what an MBA program is like from the inside, or just be rewarding to those simply seeking new ideas.
Keep in mind that these videos are not meant to replace the MBA experience (there is no infrastructure for interacting, at the very least;) but they can be extremely valuable nonetheless. Below you’ll find some of the best offerings from some top European MBA programs on iTunes. Note that to use these podcasts and videos, you’ll need to have iTunes installed on your computer, and to use them on the go, you’ll need an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.
If you’ve been looking for MBA programs, you might have come across the phrase “design thinking.” So, what exactly is this, and what does it mean?
Briefly, in terms of business, design thinking is a way of solving problems through the lens of design: using methodologies and strategies to see those problems in terms of an integrated system, and then finding solutions that make sense in terms of the larger system. Typically, design thinking is a human-centered approach, which means that by using insights into psychology and the social science, practitioners can develop solutions that meet the needs of people.
Design thinking generally goes hand-in-hand with MBA programs that are strong in innovation and entrepreneurship. It makes sense, really – if you want to create new, innovative products, you will need to think about design (and how consumers will use the products) from the very beginning. Honing this approach is one of the reasons why California College of the Arts’ MBA in Design Strategy is popular with entrepreneurial-driven students.
CCA’s program, along with those at other b-schools – including Stanford, Insead, and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto – show a widening adoption of design thinking and strategies into traditional business curriculum. By integrating design thinking, these programs tout an integrative, human-centered (and often multidisciplinary) approach to the traditionally by-the-numbers nature of business. Rotman’s website points out some of the core philosophies behind its program:
Whether the goal is to develop new products or services, create new ways of marketing to customers or reinvent an entire business model, ‘design thinking’ helps get bigger ideas, faster and more efficiently. We believe the mindset and methods behind great design are the same ingredients for successful Business Design. By incorporating the ‘design experience’ into our curriculum, we offer students a unique and valuable opportunity to learn new ways to tackle complex challenges in deeper and more holistic ways.
However, some observers aren’t sold on the benefits of design thinking, and believe that it means little more than adding a new coat of paint to an old product. Peter Merholz, in a post titled “Why Design Thinking Can’t Save You” on Hass Business Review’s Blog, calls recent media attention to design thinking “fetishistic,” and says that:
“Design thinking is trotted out as a salve for businesses who need help with innovation. The idea is that the left-brained, MBA-trained, spreadsheet-driven crowd has squeezed all the value they can out of their methods. To fix things, all you need to do is apply some right-brained turtleneck-wearing ‘creatives,’ ‘ideating’ tons of concepts and creating new opportunities for value out of whole cloth.”
Indeed, the turtleneck-wearing creative crowd sometimes gets a bad rap, because many assume that design is only concerned with outward aesthetics. In a TED talk, author Tim Brown (whose book “Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation” is required reading in some design-oriented MBA programs,) says that when designers (possibly while wearing turtlenecks) create new designs that simply repackage existing products, they are thinking small. He posits that design thinking should be much more than just reskinning a product – in fact, by thinking big and perceiving problems through a human-centered and design-oriented paradigm, we can solve some of our most pressing challenges, including climate change and access to healthcare.
Of course, these challenges require more than just a new coat of paint.
If you’re interested in learning more about design thinking, It’s definitely worth checking out Tim Brown’s TED talk:
In a recent story in the Independent, Diane Morgan, the associate dean of the London Business School, said that she hopes to recruit more women in this year’s MBA recruitment process – so that women represent 30% of the total intake. While the increase is somewhat marginal (LBS’ percentage of women students is currently at 28%,) Morgan’s announcement does reflect a larger trend where business schools are beginning to appreciate the idea of gender diversity, and taking proactive steps to equalize the playing field.
I caught the QS World MBA Tour last night in Berlin. There were a number of business school reps there, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to ask them something that’s on the minds of many in the FIND MBA community these days – applications and qualifications.
One of the questions that keeps coming up in our discussion board each year is “Why do I need work experience in order to get into business school?”
So, I asked around. Here’s what they said:
Marc Endrigat, Pepperdine University (Graziadio)
“If you don’t have any work experience, you’re not going to get as much out of the program. Until a couple of years ago, we used to not require work experience, but then the students and the professors said that the people who are in the program without work experience cannot contribute in the classroom, and they don’t get as much out of the classroom. If they don’t have any experience that they can relate the theories to, they’re not going to learn.”
“The work experience that someone brings into the program is usually going to be the biggest asset on their application…I would say that the quality and amount of work experience can supercede a lower GMAT score.”
Melissa Jones, INSEAD
“At INSEAD, you need a minimum of 2 years of work experience to get admitted to the program. The average of our students is 6 years. We just feel that bringing that experience to the classroom can bring so much more value than coming straight out of an undergrad. When you’re in the classroom, 50 percent of the learning comes from the professor and the other half comes from all your peers. So, if you have that experience, that’s when the learning really takes place.”
Spencer Altman, Alumni, HEC Paris
“It’s actually for everyone in the program, including the person who is applying … With all of the subjects that you cover in an MBA, it’s important – with 4, 5, 6, or in some cases 8 years (of work experience) – to be an expert in at least one of those subjects as some sort of reference point to apply to the rest. So, if you’re an accountant, to at least be able to say, okay, I know this.”
Hanne Jeppesen, Open University
“This is the leadership level, so you need to the actual experience to apply what we are teaching. If you go into a full-time MBA straight after university, you have no experience to apply it to, and you’ll come out at the end of it knowing all the theory about how to be a good manager and how to be a leader, but have no grip on about how to apply it to real life. When you learn theory, it’s important to have some idea in terms of how it applies to a real-life situation. You’ll be an expert on the theory of management, but you won’t be a manager.”