Thursday, October 10, 2019
Steven Conn (Miami University), Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools (Cornell University Press 2019):
Do business schools actually make good on their promises of "innovative," "outside-the-box" thinking to train business leaders who will put society ahead of money-making? Do they help society by making better business leaders? No, they don't, Steven Conn asserts, and what's more they never have.
In throwing down a gauntlet on the business of business schools, Conn's Nothing Succeeds Like Failure examines the frictions, conflicts, and contradictions at the heart of these enterprises and details the way business schools have failed to resolve them. Beginning with founding of the Wharton School in 1881, Conn measures these schools' aspirations against their actual accomplishments and tells the full and disappointing history of missed opportunities, unmet aspirations, and educational mistakes. Conn then poses a set of crucial questions about the role and function of American business schools. The results aren't pretty.
Posing a set of crucial questions about the function of American business schools, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure is pugnacious and controversial. Deeply researched and fun to read, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure argues that the impressive façades of business school buildings resemble nothing so much as collegiate versions of Oz. Conn pulls back the curtain to reveal a story of failure to meet the expectations of the public, their missions, their graduates, and their own lofty aspirations of producing moral and ethical business leaders.
Inside Higher Ed, ‘Nothing Succeeds Like Failure’:
Q: Will the current decline in M.B.A. enrollments change business schools?
A: I doubt it. It is certainly true that the precipitous decline in M.B.A. applications, not just at the B-list B-schools but at the upmarket places, too, has many deans losing sleep at night. But I doubt it will cause any real reckoning or self-reflection. In fact, I suspect that rather than rethink the M.B.A., many of those deans are secretly rooting for a recession. The evidence since the 1970s is clear: when the economy goes down, applications to business schools go up. Never mind the obvious irony about that -- students since the stagflation days have flocked to business schools as the best place to weather economic downturns. So I suspect that as far as business school administrators are concerned, nothing ails the B-school that a good recession can’t cure.