Business School Educ LO5949
Sat, 2 Mar 1996 07:46:58 -0500

Replying to LO5929 --

Martin said:

>John commented:
>> What you are seeing goes back to the remarkable institution known as
>> the "business school". Here people believe in very simplistic ideas,
>> carefully stated, to preserve everything that already exists, except
>> the personnel in the company.
>John, this may be true for some US business schools, but please don't
>assume it universally applies to all MBAs.

Martin, it seems clear from your message that the UK business schools are
unaware (or perhaps contemptuous of) a game regularly played on this side
of the Atlantic. It is called "musical management fads". The way this
game is played, a new fad is introduced at about the same time as an old
one is giving way. The new fad is offered as the panacea for corporate
ills. As soon as this occurs, many people accept the new fad, since it
identifies troubles with the old fads. As the old fads give way, people
scramble to replace them with the new fad. Music plays all the while,
except when people are trying to do the replacement operation.

Two articles discuss this phenomenon (without using the colorful name that
I have cited above, which some regard as offensive. Both of them are in
the Wiley journal Systems Research 12(1), March, 1995:

Michael C. Jackson (a fellow Brit): Beyond the Fads: Systems Thinking
for Managers, 25-42.

Russell Ackoff (not a fellow Brit): Whole-ing the Parts and Righting the
Wrongs, 43-46.

Ackoff lists 21 "alleged panaceas" and says that "managers suffer from
panacea overload". The general theme of his paper is that people are
striving very hard to optimize the wrong variables and also trying to
avoid mistakes. He prefers that people work on the right thing, even if
they do it wrong; because they can learn from that and improve their
performance the next time.

Jackson doesn't pull any punches. He names names and describes
shortcomings in selected areas.

As for me, I play a game with myself called "musical prejudices". At
least once a month I choose a selected prejudice (such as the current one
against business schools), turn on the music, and pull out that prejudice
only to replace it with a new one. In this instance, I decided to keep my
prejudice against business schools, but to narrow it in scope to those
with which I am familiar. In doing this I did not take out any from the
U. S., and I added a few new ones from Europe, but I deleted all those in
the UK of which I have no knowledge whatever, including the one that you
represent. I hope this will be of interest to the LO list (although it's
mostly about my prejudices), perhaps to induce others to play "musical
prejudices". It might even become a management fad!

John N. Warfield


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