Archives for August 10, 2018

From Campus to Corporate: Do Business-School Teachings Really Affect Boardroom Decisions?

That’s a question each person must wrestle with given their own opportunities and interests, but now there’s a new study reporting that what is learned in MBA programs really affects corporate decisions and directions.

A report published Aug. 8 in the Harvard Business Review explores the question of whether or not business-school education really lasts after students have hung up their graduation gowns and mortarboards. When MBAs eventually climbed into positions of power at major corporations and financial institutions, did that education affect the decisions they make?

You might expect this answer from a publication affiliated with a famously expensive university, but the study says yes, those classes and lectures really do translate to corporate life.

Jiwook Jung, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and Taekjin Shin, an associate professor at San Diego State University collected data on more than 2,000 CEOs who ran 640 large American corporations between 1985 and 2015.

The researchers focused their interest on the CEOs’ decisions about corporate diversification, meaning the attempts of companies to branch beyond their core fields into other markets or industries. Their reasoning was that business scholars have “drastically changed their views” about the topic over three decades. This allowed them to determine if the students-turned-workers behaved differently based on what and when they were taught.

Why this topic? Corporate diversification was viewed as valuable up until the 1960s, the researchers state, then viewed skeptically in the 1970s and outright criticized in the 1980s. Many firms, however, remained committed to diversifying well into that neon-splashed decade. The researchers believe that accepted corporate strategy wouldn’t change until a new crop of younger decision makers, who’d been taught differently, rose to power.

And their theory proved correct: Compared with CEOs without MBAs, CEOs who earned MBAs before the 1970s were 17 percent more likely to pursue diversification; in short, adopting the theories they were taught in business school. As a younger crop of MBA-holders moved up, they were much less likely to pursue diversification at their companies than their non-MBA counterparts. Again, that’s reflecting what they’d been taught.

“Our findings are pertinent to those who teach in business schools and other professional programs,” the report says. “Although some academics deplore how little influence management theory has on business practices and society, our study demonstrates that it does seem to have an impact in the long run.”

The results aren’t instant — it takes time for former students to move up in the ranks. But there is a campus-to-corporate connection, the study says, for better or for worse. So as business professors shift what they’re teaching, the new lessons slowly spread into the corporate universe.

The study’s implications go well beyond the diversification topic. The professors cite the work of late scholar Sumantra Ghoshal, who warned that business schools have moved towards a scientific model that in some ways can remove individual morality from the equation. Doing so, Ghoshal wrote, may have contributed to major corporate scandals and crises. If this is so, perhaps an emphasis on corporate ethics at colleges and universities could affect the business world for the better.

“As more students, scholars, leaders, and pundits are now reflecting on the influence of business schools, it is precisely the time when business educators should realize their responsibility and potential,” the researchers conclude. “What they teach matters, and their impact on society becomes clear only after many years.”

A Starbucks Drive-Thru Customer Bought the Stranger Behind Her a Coffee. Then She Got an Astonishing Letter

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

We waft about our lives absorbed in our fascinating selves and assuming so much about others.

We don’t really have much time for others, do we? 

There’s so much to do and so much to post to Facebook.

Yet here’s the story of an Ohio student called Mackenzie Mauller. This week, she described a simple day when she pulled up at a Starbucks drive-thru.

Yesterday I bought coffee for the lady behind me at Starbucks.. later in the day I found this is my mailbox. Small acts can make a big difference folks, spread some kindness.

Paying it forward can mean paying it backward, you see.

The letter she received told a story she could have never expected. 

It began: 

Thank you for the coffee! I rarely go to Starbucks and treat myself, but the last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle. My father just passed away and he was also my babysitter. My family and my children have had a really hard time. This morning my babysitter called off sick and I had to take the day off work. I decided to buy my kids breakfast and get myself coffee with total guilt because I am going to become a stay-at-home mom for awhile. 

The words total guilt were underlined. 

The mom continued: 

Since I was not planning on going this route in my life, I was not emotionally and financially prepared to quit working. I cried when I found out you were so sweet to buy my coffee and thrilled to see you in a couple houses down from where I live. I felt it necessary to know that what you did for me was more than just a coffee. It was something that turned my whole day around, put tears in my eyes and a smile on my face and I feel so grateful.

More than just a coffee.

Because we have a lot of assumptive talent, we have no idea what others may be going through.

Faces reveal and mask in equal measure.

Sometimes, a gesture this simple can have a strong and lasting effect, and the mom felt it necessary that Mauller know the effect her gesture had had. 

I asked Mauller, who’s studying flight technology at Kent State University, what made her do what she did. 

“There wasn’t much thought behind it,” she told me. “I just felt like doing something nice.”

She also told me she’s offered to babysit for Mauller.

“She has a babysitter, but if she needs someone I told her I could,” she said.

Mauller’s tweet went, as they say in today’s world. viral. Principally, I suspect, because simple, generous humanity is in rather short supply in our currently fractious world.

Mauller told the mom — Nicole Clawson — about the story now having been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people.

This has been such a great learning opportunity for them, on how to treat others, no matter what. They are excited to pay it forward, and treat others with kindness and selflessness.

Oh, I know the business world isn’t built on the twin rocks of kindness and selflessness.

But perhaps if these elements were a little more prominent, more people would enjoy their jobs and even be more productive.

It’s a thought, isn’t it?