By MARY PATRICK
Universities that don’t expand business curriculum to educate the “whole person” run the risk of failing students, according to a column written by a college professor for Bloomberg Businessweek.
Derrick S. Boone Sr., the associate dean of the Master of Arts in Management program and as associate professor of marketing at Wake Forest University School of Business, argues that business schools need to go beyond teaching just the technical skills that lead to success in business.
“It’s time we take our own medicine and listen to the marketplace—time we started teaching business students what companies want them to know,” Boone wrote in the column.
Boone said the issue crystalized for him when he heard a story about the first day at work from a former student. The student said his boss told him right away that he needed to forget what he had learned in business school and that the company would teach him how things are done in the real world.
Boone points out that a doctor or a lawyer would not be told that the first day on the job. In talking to business leaders, he discovered that they believed students came out of business school with solid technical skills.
But, he wrote, “They all had a common refrain: ‘You do a great job teaching your students technical business skills. Can you work with them on how to dress? Be on time? Work in teams? Communicate? Be leaders?”
Boone wrote that such concerns need to be addressed better in business schools, which are not teaching students the wrong things, but aren’t teaching them everything they need to know, either.
Boone advocates three areas to focus on: conceptual knowledge involving all business disciplines, such as marketing, finance and operations; practical competence in business areas such as communication and teamwork; and strength of character, including the ability to use integrity to get results and provide leadership.
Boone wrote that this “three-legged-stool” approach is best approach. Most business schools, according to Boone, have only provided a “one-legged-stool” approach that teaches students technical skills such as reading financial statements and tracking projects, but does not provide leadership or practical skills.
He said that even those schools who have a “two-legged-stool” approach aren’t going far enough, because, for example, a student with good communication skills but no training in business ethics is not an attractive hire.
Schools need to teach the “whole person,” Boone wrote, and work with students both inside and outside the classroom to teach them the things that businesses want new hires to understand.
“Business schools that don’t focus on honing all the skills required to be successful are doing a disservice to their students,” Boone wrote. “We have an opportunity, or, as I see it, a responsibility to help educate the whole person.”