During my studies in Business Administration at the University of Mannheim (Germany) and at KEDGE Business School (Bordeaux, France), I have realized that today’s business schools in many ways lack proper methods to transfer knowledge to students in a more effective and timely manner.
I have heard countless discussions of fellow students about the fact, that they had forgotten the major management concepts of their previous semesters. Others had sat in class and were not able to concentrate on what the professor was talking about. Many fellow students were questioning themselves if they would actually ever get to use the presented marketing concepts in practice.
Some professors would counter now, that today’s students just do not pay enough attention in class and are busy writing Facebook messages instead of listening to what is brought to them during class. Other academics might criticize the way students study and the fact that their methods are not able to capture the main insights of a course in the long run.
It is true that most students today are more busy consuming the flud of mass media’s offerings and busy coping with all the impulses that today’s environment has to offer. However it is the wrong approach to believe that the stated problem lies in the hands of the students.
It has to be the goal of today’s business education to find ways to drag the student’s attention to academic content and to be able to transfer that knowledge effectively in order to guarantee more competitive job prospects.
Norrowing it down to 3 key concepts
The following three concepts seek to reach students in a more appropriate and up-to-date manner, and would leverage results in today’s business education.
1 – Fewer concepts, but deeper insight
Many business students today sit in management and marketing lectures, and learn about at least five different concepts on how to motivate employees, how to mesure advertising success or how to form strong teams within a cooperation. These students might start asking themselves, while studying the eight benefits of the Contingency Theory: „Will I ever remember these eight benefits of this concept in the future. Once I work in the management department of a big firm, will I really be able to apply the Contingency Theory due to the benefits I have learned by heart 10 years ago?“ The answer is most likely: No!
This is what happens over and over again while learning different theoretical concepts during your studies at today’s business schools. The focus of the lecturer lies on revealing as much concepts and ideas to her subject as possible. Today’s academics haven’t realized that the most basic concept of so many different disciplines refers also to their’s in education: Less is sometimes more!
Why not focus on one or two key concepts, and guide the students through those most important and applicable concepts by working with case studies, showing interesting examples of companies that applied them, presenting different illustrative materials like videos etc..
In this way, students will understand the real sense behind the content of lectures. Due the fact, that they are shown areas of application for the key concepts, students will develop a greater practical knowledge and be more motivated in class.
2 – More involvement, more media usage
Today’s business school student take courses such as „public speech“ or „presentation technics“ to improve their skills to be more convincing in front of an audience.
Well, having a look at todays lecture PowerPoints, one will notice that most of them are lacking exactly those qualities of convincing and attracting an audience’s attention. Students hate, just like managers in a meeting, to be bored by lousy slides. A professor’s goal should be to „sell“ his knowledge to his audience in order to inspire or enthuse it. Otherwise she is wasting her time! The students will end up only learning the concepts at home for an exam, but not for their life as it was meant to be.
Most of today’s lecturers do not use enough illustrations like graphics, images, videos, webpages etc.. Today’s media landscape offers so much opportunities and access to so much material. The web is full of creative blogs, success stories, interesting YouTube videos and so on. Just as students wikipedia everything, one could expect from professors to youtube a video for illustrating a central concept. Why not show a short excerpt of a Dell documentation to analyse its supply chain management? Why not tell the students in front of their computers to go on Apple’s website to illustrate the principles of e-commerce and direct selling.
In today’s lecture rooms, you are competing as a professor with Facebook, Youtube, Twitter etc.. Why not use exactly these media sources to transfer your message?
3 – Push problem solving
Management courses offen times teach concepts that are older then the lecturer themselves. However to a certain degree they mostly still apply to today’s world. Porter’s Five Forces (1979) has become one of the key frameworks for business development analysis and deserves its recognition. Corporate Social Responsibility was celebrated to be the new, fair and sustainable business concept that could create a competitive advantage by doing good. Just 10-15 years after the creation of CSR, Creating Shared Value (2011 by Porter) turns out to be the even more desirable social concept for enterprises and for society.
Without going much deeper into these different concepts, Business Schools need to push their students towards a more analytical problem solving attitude. Frameworks such as mentioned should not be taken as given by God. The key has to be to let students derive these key concept themselves by working on case studies. Business students need to solve real corporate problem in order to understand why e.g. it makes sense for a corporation like Unilever to found a project called projectSunlight, that underlines their social responsibility or why it makes sense for Nestlé’s Nespresso to take deep care of its coffee suppliers in Africa.
By working on these cases, business school’s will not only get their students to gain a deeper understanding of major concepts, but also train their students to come up with other, more effective concepts or frameworks such as Creating Shared Value.