Monday, January 11, 2010

Multicultural Critical Theory: At B-School?

That insight led Mr. Martin to begin advocating what was then a radical idea in business education: that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.

In 1999, few others in the business-school world shared Mr. Martin’s view. But a decade and a seismic economic downturn later, things have changed. “I think there’s a feeling that people need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it’s questioning assumptions, or looking at problems from multiple points of view,” says David A. Garvin, a Harvard Business School professor who is co-author with Srikant M. Datar and Patrick G. Cullen of an upcoming book, “Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads.”

Learning how to think critically — how to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives — has historically been associated with a liberal arts education, not a business school curriculum, so this change represents something of a tectonic shift for business school leaders. Mr. Martin even describes his goal as a kind of “liberal arts M.B.A.”

“The liberal arts desire,” he says, is to produce “holistic thinkers who think broadly and make these important moral decisions. I have the same goal.”

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