From relevance to relevate: How university-based business school can remain seats of “higher” learning and still contribute effectively to business
June 3, 2014 Editor 0
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to tease out the real value-adding contributions university-based business schools can make to the business community and to society at large without compromising in any way its own ethos of academic rigour and scholarship in seeking knowledge and understanding for its own sake. Design/methodology/approach – This is a discursive discussion piece that excavates and examines the philosophical and historical underpinnings of universities as places of “higher” learning with a view to interrogating and clarifying the unique role university business schools can play in straddling the university/industry nexus. It draws from the author’s extensive hands-on experiences in business, from the author’s philosophical interests honed in academia, and from the author’s wide-ranging experiences of being involved in bespoke executive education provision for senior business practitioners in large multinational corporations. Findings – The paper concludes with the view that paradoxically, university-based business schools must resist the temptation to capitulate to the demands to teach only what appears immediately “relevant” to the business world in order to be actually useful to business. Instead, they must rigourously seek to expand horizons of comprehension amongst students and business executives through the process of relevating the seemingly irrelevant. This way they can genuinely help prepare students and business executives for the challenges and exigencies of a dynamic and fast-changing world. Research limitations/implications – The paper points to a need for reframing and refocusing the aims and agenda of management education such that greater pedagogical priority is placed on refining perceptual sensibilities and expanding horizons of comprehension over that of content-knowledge dissemination. Practical implications – Business schools will have to revise their curriculum from a conventional emphasis on teaching functional business disciplines to include drawing from the wider humanities fields of study in order to emphasize the cultivation of aesthetic sensibilities and a deeper awareness of underlying global trends, patterns of relationships and social forces shaping business priorities and perceptions. Social implications – An enhanced sensitivity and awareness of the interrelatedness of socio-political, cultural and economic contexts, and managerial situations leads to more effective executive decision making that is economically sustainable, ethically informed and more attuned to the collective common good. Originality/value – There has been much debate surrounding the rigour/relevance issue within business schools. This paper shows that this false distinction is created by an insufficient examination of the underlying commonality mutually shared by both the very best of rigourous scholarship and the very best of business practices.
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