Capital Ideas - Summer 2013 - page 42

Summer 2013 | Capital Ideas
Following up on a notable research paper of the past
by Linda E. Ginzel
or me, “Rethinking Management Education: A
View from Chicago” is very much like its authors.
It is inspiring, challenging, and upon acquaintance
becomes a presence in one’s life that forever facilitates
personal growth.
I first read this paper the month it was published,
as I was settling in as a new Booth faculty member in
the summer of 1992. It showed me something I’d never
seen in my prior MBA teaching experience at Stanford
and Kellogg. With an approach that is still unique to
Booth, two faculty members­—
Harry L. Davis
was the
Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Professor of Creative
Management and deputy dean for the MBA programs,
Robin Hogarth
was Wallace W. Booth Professor of
Behavioral Science and director of the Center for De-
cision Research—had created a framework for what
they were trying to accomplish in the classroom: to
help students become self-sufficient learners in order
to achieve higher levels of personal performance.
In a description of traditional MBA education,
Davis and Hogarth explained that students arrived
with “domain knowledge,” which is the real-world
knowledge—such as knowing industry standards or
a company’s specific operating procedures—a person
acquires on the job. Faculty provided formal instruc-
tion to transmit “conceptual knowledge,” such as dis-
cipline-based theories. Those two different knowledge
types meshed in the classroom, and graduates went on
to use their combined knowledge to manage firms big
and small.
However, the authors argued that business schools
needed to challenge themselves in order to remain rel-
evant for an ever-changing business community. And
the paper contained a revelation: while MBA gradu-
ates were well-armed with domain knowledge and
conceptual knowledge, they needed certain skills in
order to make the most of what they had gained in
the classroom. Meeting this need would be the core
of a new approach that augmented Booth’s traditional
strengths by focusing on two new types of skills, what
Davis and Hogarth called “action” and “insight” skills.
By the paper’s description, action skills are similar
to those of negotiation and interpersonal influence.
The authors explained them as skills “that enable indi-
viduals to set goals, to ‘sell’ others on the value of those
goals, and to work with and through others in their
implementation.” There is no reason why the acquisi-
tion of action skills should be left to chance. “‘Hard’
science can still be used to impact ‘soft’ action skills,”
they wrote.
Insight skills, they explained, are reasoning skills
you need in order to learn from experience. The au-
thors asked readers to consider two scientists, Herbert
Spencer, an early proponent of evolution, and Charles
Darwin. Darwin used insight skills to learn from ex-
periences, and he exercised those skills when he took
note of data points that seemed to contradict his theo-
ries. Spencer, however, was unable to learn as much
from experience. Without the skills that would help
him to gain insights, he selectively accumulated data
that supported his theories. “Darwin’s insights have
endured. But how many have heard of Spencer?” the
authors asked.
The authors suggested that business schools could
arm students with an understanding of and apprecia-
tion for those skills, and they believed this could be
done in part by providing opportunities to acquire and
practice those skills in the classroom.
The genesis of the paper can actually be seen as an
example of its own framework in operation. To start, it
represents a synthesis of its authors’ considerable con-
ceptual and domain knowledge as both academics and
stewards of education. In filtering, shaping, and com-
municating these insights, the authors also relied on
lessons learned from their own experiences.
At the time, Davis and Hogarth were working with
colleagues including
Joshua Klayman,
now professor
emeritus of behavioral science, to develop what they
called “laboratory education,” which includes Lead-
ership Exploration and Development (LEAD), New
Product Laboratory, and Management Laboratory
where students work in teams, tackle real-world as-
signments for companies, and are coached by faculty
and alumni.
Davis and Hogarth continued to develop and pro-
mote their ideas beyond the Selected Paper Series,
Education: A
View from
Harry L. Davis
and Robin Hog-
arth, University of
Chicago Graduate
School of Busi-
ness Selected
Paper Number
72, June 1992.
Updated in 2013.
The paper will be
included in Why
Are You Here And
Not Somewhere
Else, a collection
of Davis’s essays
to be published
by the University
of Chicago
Lessons from life: Learning
to make experience count
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