BOOK REVIEW: “Promises Fulfilled and Unfulfilled in Management Education” by Howard Thomas, Lynne Thomas and Alexander Wilson (2013)

Promises Fulfilled and Unfulfilled in Management EducationCommissioned by EFMD and Emerald, this book is an analysis of thirty-nine interviews of key stakeholders in management education.  It sets out some of the major issues and talking points, taking the reader through the history of management education to ongoing challenges.  Many of these issues are not new, such as the role and value of research, the relevance of teaching done in the classroom, and links to the corporate world.  Criticisms of business schools have been ongoing over the past ten years, most notably from within the industry.  In 2005, Chris Grey of Warwick Business School argued that they have become just finishing schools for elites to prepare them for well-paid positions in finance and consulting. 

Key words

Higher education, strategy, research, business schools, faculty, academia.


online courses

MOOCs on a roll.

Of course, the financial crisis from 2007 onwards has just heightened these concerns.  There is increasing talk about how funding models need to change.  There is a possibility of an industry shakeup with mergers and acquisitions between business schools and the impact of the so-called “monster under the bed” in the form of massively open online courses (MOOCs).


Promises fullfiled and unfulfiled

Business schools’ focus on rankings is rather backward.

According to many of the people interviewed, business schools need to look hard at the legitimacy of what they are doing.  There is no good teaching future generations how Dell or Canon or Apple got things right.  What is far more important is understanding how they can make the future iPhone or iPad.  Business schools seem to have a problem in doing this because ranking systems have drawn them into concentrating on pure research, which is often backward than forward looking.  Added to this is the fact that it is far easier to do research in the calm of an office rather than getting your hands dirty by going out to companies and seeing what is actually going on.  Similarly, there is criticism from many of the stakeholders interviewed that academia is far too specialized and does not encourage cooperation between different departments.  Neither does it encourage good teaching, since promotion is based on publication rather than being a good team teacher.

The book gives a good overall view of some of the challenges that we must all face within the management education industry, and some of the major changes that have taken place over the past few years. 

Interesting Quotes

Hamel comments: “What we continue to teach in the business schools is a little bit like being a mapmaker in an earthquake zone. Never before has the gap between our tools and the reality of emerging industry been large.

The biggest challenge I have is the government-imposed RAE or equivalent that pushes my faculty towards anything but relevance and impact. Some of the academics that are around don’t really understand the business world they’re talking about.


Teachers should be recognized as much as than great researchers.

I think that the snobbery of academia is not helpful. I think great teachers should be recognized and revered as much, if not more, than great researchers because I think that they have a longer-term impact on people.

In about 1985 or maybe 1988, BusinessWeek had an article about the death of the MBA and I swear if you go back and look they run articles every five to eight years that the MBA is dead.

At the centre of the criticisms and challenges facing management education is an apparent disconnect between the role of business schools and the expectations and experiences of stakeholders.

We teach this way because it’s the way the curriculum has been for the last 30 or 50 years. This is my course; this is my article, instead of team teaching and team research.


Faculty´s view is very narrow, very academic.

I think that the big challenge is how to educate the future business leaders and how to meet the future challenges between the academic and the business world. I think that the faculty should play a key role in this but most of faculty, especially full-time faculty, are trained by the functional discipline based view, which is very narrow, very academic.

It is the emergence of rankings that has influenced heavily the way a lot of business schools think about their strategy.

While globalization is seen as a significant influence in management education its promise is yet to be fully achieved. Student exchanges are now common but more needs to be one to bring global, cultural knowledge and intelligence into the curricula.

I think that we have to offer state-of-the art facilities, especially if want to compete for executive education.

Rankings vs Earnings

AACSB should have been able to control the low end of the industry and it is a mistake not to have done this. Now these (low-end) guys have 10,000 students with an MBA and, if you believe in the statistics they told me, the top 1% of the 10,000 guys who have the MBA will probably be the reservoir of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

People are still looking for tools from management education, rather than education.

A core problem with business school curricula is that they have a ‘follower’ attitude.

You cannot run a business school so disconnected from the business world in terms of programmes, research and staying in touch with the real world.

Business schools have the theoretical ability to be proactive and shape agendas, either by themselves or in consortia or through their societies. But really haven’t seized that at all. They’ve become, in my view, pretty complacent across Europe and that’s not helped by the fact that the top business schools in Europe have remained in the same small grouping for the last 30 or 40 years.

Change in Business schools' model       

See also:

Is innovation becoming less and less effective in business schools? 

Innovation Peter LorangeIn this week’s guest post, Peter Lorange, President and owner of the Lorange Institute of Business Zürich and former President of the IMD, Lausanne, asks if innovation in business schools is becoming less and less effective

French Management Schools: Stop apologizing!

Studying in FranceOver the past 20 years, management schools in France have led the way in providing young internationally minded graduates fit to work in modern business. They should recognize this and stop apologizing for what they have achieved.

On MBA programme pricing

Kai Peters on MBAPoets and Quants is a blog run by John Byrne, the man who originally brought business school rankings to the world in 1988 in Businessweek. Since everyone likes a list, he continues to compile them.

Business school performance culture. Are we targeting the right things?

cover pic publish or perishThose of us working in higher education at the moment must recognise that some of the targets to which are business schools work are leading to dysfunctional outcomes, for example staff being taken away from front line teaching and student support duties so that they can write articles for obscure academic journals.

From Harvard to GEM: Co-teaching on Strategic Management and Leadership

2012-11-30 14.02.39It was a great pleasure during the last semester to share a class at Grenoble EM with Dr. Gregg Glover. Gregg has been a good friend for many years (though he might deny this!) and I am delighted he accepted our invitation.

He did his doctorate in organization change at Harvard University and has worked there for over 25 years. He was able to bring his vast teaching and professional experience to the class and share some of the things he has learned and studied while working for the world’s most known university.

The Internationalisation of UK Universities – a progress report

Cover picThis week, Philip Warwick, Senior Teaching Fellow at Durham University Business School, UK, writes at guest blog on the state of internationalisation in British universities. Professor Warwick has been studying the international strategies of a number of universities in the UK and in other countries. He has found that approaches vary across countries. Within the UK he has identified four specific strategies to international development within the group of universities he studied.

Cover cover Cover pic
Sets out some of the challenges and external pressures on business schools today and the impact that may have for the coming years. The book is an “insider’s account” of why business schools have never gained the respectabilty they have searched for over the past century.
Philip Delves Broughton is critical of HBS omitting a sales course in MBA programs.


Filed under Book Review, Business Schools, Education, Higher Education, Leadership, Management, Rankings, Research, USA

3 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: “Promises Fulfilled and Unfulfilled in Management Education” by Howard Thomas, Lynne Thomas and Alexander Wilson (2013)

  1. Pingback: EFMD Annual Conference 2013: “Fasten Your Seatbelts” by David A. Wilson | GlobalEd

  2. Pingback: Harvard Business School: Degrees should be written in disappearing ink | GlobalEd

  3. Pingback: BOOK REVIEW: “Leverage: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture” by John R. Childress (2013) | GlobalEd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s