John Thain has one. So do Richard Fuld,Stanley ONeal and Vikram Pandit. For that matter,so does John Paulson,the hedge fund kingpin.
Yes,all five have fat bank accounts,even now,and all have made their share of headlines. But these current and former giants of finance also are all card-carrying MBAs.
The masters of business administration,a gateway credential throughout corporate America,is especially coveted on Wall Street; in recent years,top business schools have routinely sent more than 40 per cent of their graduates into the world of finance.
But with the economy in disarray and so many financial firms in free fall,analysts,and even educators themselves,are wondering if the way business students are taught may have contributed to the most serious economic crisis in decades.
It is so obvious that something big has failed, said Ángel Cabrera,dean of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale,Ariz. We can look the other way,but come on. The CEOs of those companies,those are people we used to brag about. We cannot say,Well,it wasnt our fault when there is such a systemic,widespread failure of leadership.
Critics of business education have many complaints. Some say the schools have become too scientific,too detached from real-world issues. Others say students are taught to come up with hasty solutions to complicated problems. Another group contends that schools give students a limited and distorted view of their role that they graduate with a focus on maximizing shareholder value and only a limited understanding of ethical and social considerations essential to business leadership. Such shortcomings may have left business school graduates inadequately prepared to make the decisions that,taken together,might have helped mitigate the financial crisis,critics say.
Some employers and recruiters also question the value of an MBA,and are telling young people they can get better training on the job than in business school. A growing number are setting up programs to help employees develop skills in-house.
Jay O Light,the dean of Harvard Business School,argues that there have been imbalances both on campuses and in the economy. We lived through an enormous extended period of financial good times,and people became less focused on risks and risk management and more focused on making money, he said. We need to move that focus back toward the center. Warren Bennis,a professor of management at the University of Southern California,says the schools suffer from an overemphasis on the rigor and an underemphasis on relevance. Business schools have forgotten that they are a professional school.
Henry Mintzberg,a professor of management studies at McGill University in Montreal,also argues that because students spend so much time developing quick responses to packaged versions of business problems,they do not learn enough about real-world experiences.