Somehow, during the time I’ve been a professor, higher education slipped into being all about concepts. I remember a time when syllabi were built around topics. Some of those topics were what we call concepts today, but others were topics about actually being able to do things. Now courses in professional schools have been pushed by accreditation reviews to be so concept-laden that the practical application of those theories is often completely lost. And executives who hire graduates of these programs are not amused. A couple of years ago I spoke with the CEO of a major Wall Street bank who told me:
“Would you please just stop teaching finance in business schools. Sure, I want new hires to know the time-value of money and other basics, but generally the concepts taught are outmoded and the systems you use to teach them are a decade old. I have to retrain graduates. It’s more efficient to hire someone who wasn’t taught incorrectly in the first place.”
That is quite the indictment.
Yes, there are some concepts that are useful, but a lot of the time and effort and money spent on higher education is just “bunk” according to this CEO. And this is a sentiment widely shared by employers.
In our Interactive Learning eXperiences, we emphasize the practical application of theories. Sure, students still read and study, and if they don’t know the foundational concepts, they won’t do well on the game. But the point is: if a student can apply smart business thinking in appropriate ways, why does the authorship and minutia about the theory matter? Only the practice of business leads to profitability — for companies and employees — and isn’t that what management should be all about?