Deans’ Roundtable: Extract 2

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Della Bradshaw: Hello, I’m Della Bradshaw, Business Education Editor of the Financial Times. A round table discussion between the deans of 11 top business schools was hosted by the Chicago Graduate School of Business in London on July 10th. The FT will bring you four audio extracts of these discussions alongside transcripts on our website. Both the audio and transcripts can be found at www.ft.com/business education.

In the second extract, the discussion turned to the advantages and disadvantages of working in both a stand-alone and a university-based business school. Participants are: Edward Snyder, dean of the Chicago Graduate School of Business; Robert Joss, dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Graduate School of Business; Colin Mayer, dean of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford; Arnoud De Meyer, director of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge; Frank Brown, dean of Insead; Jordi Canals, dean of Iese Business School, and Peter Lorange, President of IMD.

Edward Snyder: I’m just struck by the diversity within Europe in terms of some of the schools that we’ve gotten to know from the US side, are university based, like Oxford and Cambridge and several of the European schools are not university based. And then you’ve got some that are in transition. But I was going to ask my colleague, Bob Joss, from Stanford, maybe there’s just talk about what he sees as the advantages of being a university based business school in the United States, because I think, of the US schools, Stanford really stands out as a school that has taken advantage of its home university.

Robert Joss: Thank you, Ted. I would say....we don’t think our school can be better than our university and we’re lucky to have a great university. It’s a university with five other professional schools, a medical school, a law school, business school, education school, engineering school; all top schools. There’s incredible breadth across those dimensions; arts and humanities and all the science and technology, and it’s all right there.

We see the role of a university in the 21st century as more and more, not just pushing the frontiers of knowledge, but also taking these incredible resources that the great universities have, and concentrating them on big problems: the health of the planet, human health, the health of international institutions, the health of kids through education, and bringing to bear these multiple ways of looking at those issues. Whether it’s the education school looking at education, or a management school looking at education, or an engineering school looking at education, how do we bring a multidisciplinary view to bear and seek better solutions to some of these big problems and challenges, and to do that you have to bring a school of management right into the centre of the university.

This has not been our origin or our history. The business schools evolved as very much a separate part of the university, almost autonomous part; sometimes a separate part across the river or across the street, or sometimes even in another city. We see it more as an incredibly important thing for a school of business and a school of management to be right at the heart of a modern university because a modern university, at least like ours as Stanford is very translational, very much interested in taking knowledge and bringing it to bear in a helpful way to society. And that’s not going to happen without a school that knows something about organisations or what it takes for organisations to perform and perform well, and we’re the repository of ideas and expertise on campus about that.

So, we see our school as a very critical part of the university and they see us the same way when it comes to environmental initiatives, human health initiatives, international initiative, educational initiatives, and so it’s an exciting evolution for what’s happening at our university. I think you’re going to see more of that, that great universities are beginning to realise they need great business schools. It’s interesting for us to look at great universities like Oxford and Cambridge which have been around 800 years. For us, as a young university only a little over 100 years old, it’s interesting, but only in the last 10 years have Oxford and Cambridge decided, we ought to have a business school. They still haven’t, perhaps, developed them in the way that I think they will develop, but I think this is an interesting trend to watch, is whether the rest of academia in Europe will embrace management education as a very legitimate, critical, central part of academia the way, I think, the great American universities have already embraced it, and you’re going to see it even more central.

When I was a doctoral student at Stanford many years ago, you had to take another language. It was thought you were not an educated person unless you at least studied another language. That regulation, or that requirement, has since been abandoned. Don’t ask me why. I think the language of the 21st century is that you need to know something about management and leadership and organisational effectiveness if you’re going to operate from any position of specialty. You just aren’t going to get things done unless you understand something about that, and I think that’s an evolution, in American universities, that may or may not happen in Europe. I don’t know.

Glenn Hubbard: If I can just add to that. I think this is an incredibly important point because there are two kinds of conversations that happen in business schools that don’t typically happen in other places. One is disciplines coming together. Bob talked about multidisciplinary problems. I came from an arts and sciences department to a business school and I can assure you I never talked to psychologists and sociologists when I was professor of economics. I do all the time in the business school. That’s one point. The second is the conversations with the real world. Very few people in the university talk to people in the world about big problems. Business schools do. And so I think, for that reason, the business school is the logical centre of the university.

Colin Mayer: If I could just add. It’s very interesting hearing Stanford talk in terms which are virtually identical to the way in which it’s talked about in my university. Coming from the oldest university with the youngest business school, we’re addressing exactly that question, and coming to precisely the same sort of conclusion, that what a business school can do is to act as a gateway between the intellectual knowledge that resides within a university and the outside world to the benefit both of the university and hopefully to the benefit of people outside of the university. And, something that’s really transforming the views of people in the university, and leading to great acceptance, is the realisation that there is immense value from having that link, and that the intellectual contribution that a business school can make to a university is very substantial. I think there’s immense potential in terms of doing exactly what you were talking about, addressing major questions of the 21st century using tools that are familiar within business schools, but also drawing on a much broader experience that comes across in the whole university. So, I think it’s a very valid one.

Robert Joss: And I think the interesting issue will be how long does that take? It’s interesting when you look at the American schools. We’re 82 years old, I think 90-something. Harvard is celebrating 100, I don’t know, Chicago...

Edward Snyder: A hundred plus.......

Robert Joss: A hundred plus. So, how long does it take...?

[overtalking]

Robert Joss: So, the interesting question is how long does it take to build a great business school in a great university? An interesting example, I think, in America, is Yale which has got a very good business school. They’ve been at it 25 years now. They were late to this game. For whatever reason Yale decided they didn’t need a business school and then 25 years ago they said, yes. And I think, even Yale, with all the resources of Yale, one of the great universities in America, close to New York City, an incredible alumni base, lots of capital, I think it’s been a bit humbling for them to see just how hard it was to build a great business school in 25 years. And, I think it will be interesting for Oxford, Cambridge, and Sorbonne. You just don’t flip a switch and build a great school. It doesn’t have to take 80 years. We took too long perhaps. But, it’s going to be a very interesting...

Edward Snyder: I predict a faster path for the schools represented here, and without being critical of Yale, I think they strategically made some mistakes. They tried to be a little bit too different, but... [tape fades]

Arnoud De Meyer:I would argue that as a small and fairly young business school we turn our weakness into an opportunity that because we’re so small and weak we need to work with the rest of the university, and probably can leapfrog a little bi that evolution of 80 years, you were referring to. But it is a challenge. I would agree.

Frank Brown: I’m not sure I’ll get an answer to this but just for fun, as a completely independent institution, do you guys in universities ever feel constrained by the governance issues?

[laughter]

Jordi Canals: The big characteristics that we all see when we observe business schools across the Atlantic, and other parts around the world, is that you’re going to have two single business schools. You have a diversity of institutions with a diversity of strategies. You can perhaps highlight that many of those institutions try to pursue academic excellence and research in one way or another, and serve the business world one way or another and try to be updated in terms of current developments, but in the same way as we try to teach our students in the MBA programme or in executive programmes that it’s not a good idea to imitate what your competitors are trying to do. I think that we see this case in a very clear way in this small world of business schools across the Atlantic, in the US and in Europe. So, I think you can have different models, not just business models but also organisational models. You can also try to develop a variety of programmes and each one of them could be very successful. You can have perhaps very young business schools being successful, and others that have been part of a very important university, taking more time.

So, I think that, at the end of the day, like we see here in the world of business schools, it’s the same type of, let’s say, dimensions and characteristics that you see in any organisation. At the end of the day the key success factors are different for each institution, and obviously perhaps it is something that we have been discussing quite a lot I think what is a very simple question which is how we attract the right faculty for us, and faculty constraints are a major source of concern for each one of us here. Also, how we try to get some of the best students. I don’t know if the best students, but some of the best students. You have to organise programmes so that both things actually make sense and also from a financial viewpoint you can make your institution sustainable. So, I do think that the success factors you were pointing out, Bob, and perhaps thinking about younger universities launching business schools, it will depend very much on their ability to attract the right faculty and also to position themselves to attract the right students with a good mix of programmes, and we’ll see some success cases and some failures as well, but this is part of what organisations are about.

Peter Lorange: I think in terms of critical success factors this links us back to the issue of governance also. My sense is that there’s a dramatic change going on and that many of the classical universities have problems with speed. Far too much structure, hierarchies, levels, departments, blah-blah-blah, and I think today’s business needs less of that. I think that’s going to be a key success factor for the winners, that they are minimalistic internally so that you can have speed and serve the modern students, and modern research.

Edward Snyder: I think you’re absolutely right, Peter, and to pick on Frank’s point, there are obviously advantages in being a university based business school, but for those of us who are university based one of the big competitive factors is the governance, and whether it plays out to be a net benefit or net disadvantage depends on factors such as the effect on speed. I have a new boss, as of 12 and a half months ago, and it’s a little bit like playing a game and the game is progressing and then the dog comes in and upsets the game, and you have to start all over again.

Frank Brown: Did you just call your boss a dog?

Edward Snyder: No, no I did not. But you have to forget and start all over and build a new relationship, and my new boss expects me to be very involved in the rest of the university, and that’s wonderful. But I think if you were to check each of our roles as dean, each of us has to respond to the market very quickly and every once in a while I want to say, Boss, by the way, I have to go run a business school, and it’s great to be involved in search committees and it’s great to think about policy for the university, but we’ve got other things to do. I actually believe that there are some university based business schools where it’s clear it’s a net disadvantage, and then, every once in a while, look at Insead and think, oh, what a wonderful situation, or IMD. So, I think it depends, and I think probably the worst situation would be to be in a university with bad governance...........

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