Lessons from life: Learning to make experience count

by Linda Ginzel, Capital Ideas

For me, “Rethinking Management Education: A View from Chicago” is very much like its authors. It is inspiring, challenging, and upon acquaintance becomes a presence in one’s life that forever facilitates personal growth.

I first read this paper the month it was published, as I was settling in as a new Booth faculty member in the summer of 1992. It showed me something I’d never seen in my prior MBA teaching experience at Stanford and Kellogg. With an approach that is still unique to Booth, two faculty members— Harry Davis was the Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Professor of Creative Management and deputy dean for the MBA Program, and Robin Hogarth was the Wallace W. Booth Professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Center for Decision Research—had created a framework for what they were trying to accomplish in the classroom: to help students become self-sufficient learners in order to achieve higher levels of personal performance.

In a description of traditional MBA education, Davis and Hogarth explained that students arrived with “domain knowledge,” which is the real-world knowledge—such as knowing industry standards or a company’s specific operating procedures—a person acquires on the job. Faculty provided formal instruction to transmit “conceptual knowledge,” such as discipline- based theories. Those two different knowledge types meshed in the classroom, and graduates went on to use their combined knowledge to manage firms big and small.

However, the authors argued that business schools needed to challenge themselves in order to remain relevant for an ever-changing business community. And the paper contained a revelation: while MBA graduates were well-armed with domain knowledge and conceptual knowledge, they needed certain skills in order to make the most of what they had gained in the classroom. Meeting this need would be the core of a new approach that augmented Booth’s traditional strengths by focusing on two new types of skills, what Davis and Hogarth called “action” and “insight” skills...

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