Archive for September, 2009

Business Schools and history lessons

September 1, 2009

Dan Muzyka, Dean of the Sauder school in Canada, on the challenges facing management education, the role of business schools and why teaching business history to MBAs might just have averted the economic crisis. Extracts from interview by George Bickerstaffe:

Do you think that the way business schools have taught business and management has any bearing on the current global economic crisis?

One area where I’m not sure that business schools have done a good enough job is in teaching business history. In other academic areas you have to go back and study the great works. You had to understand how the field evolved. It’s in the MBA textbooks in bits and bobs and in a PhD degree you really do have to go back and study these things. But in the average MBA programme we teach students the skills but we give them little if any sense of history.

You know, people say “the current situation is unprecedented”. Well, it’s unprecedented if you just look at the last 25 years. Do you remember 1975? (The beginning of a period of recession in response to rising oil prices.) That was pretty dramatic.

Is the current situation unprecedented compared to the Great Depression – running from the Wall Street crash of 1929 pretty much up to the second world war? Should all this be in our collective memory? I think the answer is probably yes.

So I think it’s important that we do bring in some history so that people realise what has happened before, what was driving it and think about how we can learn from it to today.

Also, we teach risk management as a technical subject but it’s clinical, it’s not integrative. So you might study systemic risk if you’re an economics major but I think we have to go back and look at whether we are teaching risk responsibly in a business context.

So business schools have some responsibility?

I think we are all looking at this is in one way or another. Again, I think it is about teaching risk systematically. Not teaching that properly is one of the big things we have probably done wrong. So I do think we have some responsibility. We have educated these people. We taught them about derivatives and algorithms and the rest of it.

The other side of this is that we should not only teach people these tools but we also need to educate them about their use, particularly with regard to the consequences and larger-scale risks. We are doing this in many areas such as sustainability and the impact of business on the environment. 

That’s been evolving over probably the last decade. It’s now in the curriculum and it’s getting stronger. So we are seeing some sort of impact. But I’m not sure we have done as well on the broader topic of risk.

Check for the full article:

For Danish readers – please check for further readings:

Kronik af Rolf Jensen “ En fremtidsforsker ser tilbage”

Berlingske Nyhedsmagasin nr. 22 – 2009 side 22-23


Povl Tiedemann

August 2009