Bruce Nussbaum, a well-known writer on innovation and design, is upset with the Financial Times’ global business school rankings. Everything wrong with business schools today—the greed, the blinkered vision, the inability to change—he writes, gets validation in FT’s recent Global MBA Ranking.
The schools that graduated the MBAs who went into banking and Wall Street to write the script for the devastating Great Recession of 2007–2009 are still at the top. The schools that graduated managers who proved totally unable to innovate are still at the top. The schools that gave Master of Nonprofit Administration degrees to people who went on to become CEOs and failed to deliver value for the past decade measured by stock price are still at the top.
The FT list of the best MBA programs is a testament to the inefficiency of markets and the inability of business schools to change their curricula, professors and teaching methods despite the rise of enormous complexity and uncertainty in the global economy.
Why haven’t business schools truly committed to creativity been rewarded? If CEOs around the world acknowledge innovation and creativity as the paths to glory in this, as he says, complex and uncertain global economy, shouldn’t the MBA rankings methodology adjust accordingly to a shifting paradigm?
Nussbaum certainly thinks so (as do I). He shakes his fist at the lack of presence, at the top of the ranks, of more schools like Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School (ranked at 41), which has been bridging the gaps between business, design and engineering for over a decade. He also notes the low-ish placement of schools like Berkeley’s Haas (25) and Northwestern’s Kellogg (21), both schools that have made meaningful curriculum changes, and which work hard to find and cultivate students and faculty devoted to discovering original answers to new problems. So, while Stanford ranks fourth, and the progressive Yale SOM, with its interdisciplinary and CSR-minded approach, comes in at 15, if the methodology doesn’t factor innovation or creativity into its calculations, then what does it matter?
Innovation and creativity aren’t easily quantifiable, sure. But given that FT’s methodology is so eccentric already, (John Byrne, of Poets & Quants, has said about FT’s ranking: “No ranking of MBA programs is without flaws, but the Financial Times methodology is especially peculiar among the most popular rankings of business schools.”) I’m sure there’s a way to factor innovation or creativity into one or many of the existing metrics.
As we know, MBA applicants, and applicants in general, often look to rankings as the first and main source in forming a list of schools to apply to. If management leaders have been saying repeatedly that what they need right now is to hire creative talent, that it’s a top priority, then the business schools best equipped to heed their calls should be given that recognition. And since it’s the rankings that, unfortunately, bestow that recognition, it only makes sense for the FT ranking to make a change.
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