According to this piece by the Dean of the Harvard Business School, B-schools need to "work harder to close the knowing-doing gap." Medical schools do much better on-the-job training, exposing future doctors to the realities of patient care through alliances with hospitals. But, the article points out, "medical schools...have an advantage: Every hospital has a constant influx of patients to whom it can expose students. Inserting business students into real-world managerial situations is much more challenging."
This month, Harvard Business School launched its new program to inculcate first-year b-school students in reality business. The school is sending the entire class, some 900 students, to developing markets, where they will work in multinational or local corporations on legitimate business tasks.
According to the article, "In Istanbul, Cape Town, São Paulo, Mumbai, Shanghai, and elsewhere, the students might be interviewing customers, meeting people in the supply chain, or visiting competitors. At the end of each day, much like hospital residents after rounds, they will gather with faculty members to discuss what they are learning."
One of the goals: "They'll gain contextual humility, realizing that the plans they conceived back on campus will meet unanticipated obstacles in the field." Contextual humility for Harvard students is probably only possible far outside the comforts and rationality of the ivory tower. In going beyond the boundries of case studies and classrooms, the students will be witnesses to - and participants in - the global frontier, where pretty business plans will not stand up to the vagaries of culture, governments, leadership and talent driving business.
I wish I could join them. I also hope communications schools will strive not only to provide students with real business experience, but also comprehension and context about this rapidly changing world.