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Practicing Humanities and Social Sciences in Management Education

abstract In the history of higher education, the position of the business school at universities has becomes increasingly prominent, yet also considerably questioned and contested. In recent times, there seems to be at least one so-called “crisis” per decennium that calls provocatively for “a debate” (Willmott, 1994), points at “the end of business schools” (Pfeffer and Fong, 2002), proposes “a hard look” at management education (Mintzberg, 2004), or suggests that business schools have “lost their way” (Bennis and O’Toole, 2005) or sees them “in ruins” (Starkey and Tempest, 2006), followed then by calls for rethinking management education (French and Grey, 1996), for linking to the Social Sciences and Humanities (Zald, 1996) or developing new agendas (Clegg, Dany and Grey, 2011). These concerns with the identity of business schools and the future outlook of management education are also fed by successive financial crises, ethical scandals and ecological disasters.

Against this background of critical attention, there is an increasing inquiry into the historic conditions and the development over time of the business school and management education (Augier and March, 2011; Colby, Ehrlich, Sullivan and Dolle, 2011; Khurana, 2007; O’Connor, 2012; Starkey and Tiratsoo, 2007). These studies also provide the current debate with new routes to consider as they call for an intensified reliance on Liberal Education, giving new prominence to the Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences. One of the main ideas concerning the direction and outlook of the educational philosophy, programmes and practices that ground the future of management education is to look at and find solutions to the tension between offering a general, academic education in the tradition of the Liberal Arts that orients learning at ethical responsibility within a broader socio-cultural framework and the need for a specialist and practice-oriented learner profile that can draw upon technical skills and practical wisdom. The scope and direction of management education becomes then a subject matter of great importance as it connects the future of the business school university to the shaping of tomorrow’s society and organizations.

In this debate, the Carnegie II Report on “The Future of Business Education” (Colby, Ehrlich, Sullivan and Dolle, 2011) brings the integration of Liberal learning into Undergraduate (and Graduate) Business Education as one of the central challenges for Business Universities. Giving a clear answer, the Carnegie Report proposes that dealing with the complexities of a globalized world market and societies under transition requires various essential competencies: analytical skills, multi-perspectivism and personal growth and mastery, which are related through an integrative practical skill of a future employee or entrepreneur thrown into the cultural and technical dynamics of worldwide capitalism.

The questions arising from the description that globally accelerated socio-cultural and economic changes call for different qualities and thus a different kind of education have different layers. As a first approximation, once could separate three of them. The first is the general strategy in coping with the challenges, which could range from a clear focus on disciplinary formations (i.e. only Banking & Finance, e.g.) to the construction of a broader and more integrative curriculum. The second layer pertains to the implementation of Bachelor and Master Degree programs within the given framework of established norms (such as the Bologna-reform in Europe) which vary considerably across countries and continents, notwithstanding globalization, commercialization and standardization of knowledge. The third and most practical level is the organization, pedagogical models and didactics of courses that make the ends meet: Linking theories and research methods of the Humanities and the Social Sciences to problems that Business students are familiar with through their studies. The challenge of this last layer is to overcome the implicit binarism of “add-on” concerns of the Humanities and the Social Sciences and hegemonic knowledge of the “core” classes by integrating multi-faceted dimensions into the lecture format.

Goal setting of the current workshop
This workshop continues a series of conversations which have taken momentum following the Carnegie Report, such as the Copenhagen Roundtable in October 2011 at the Copenhagen Business School, the Aspen Institute Conference in March 2012, the Professional Development Workshop on “Integrating liberal learning and business education: Putting the Carnegie Report into practice” at the Academy of Management in Boston in August 2012. To organize the next conversation at the University of St Gallen is no coincidence as this public university has a long tradition in thinking Management Education in broader frameworks. From Hans Ulrich’s cybernetically informed, ‘holistic’ Management Model of the 1960ies to the Contextual Studies Program implemented as a result of the Bologna reform process in 2002/2003, the idea of a Management Education embedded in larger concerns, ways of thinking and methodologies has a unique and rich history in St Gallen.
For this workshop, we have identified three goals:

1. Continue the momentum of the series of meetings by providing a platform where key contributions of the debate so far are in conversation with the prominent actors engaged with this theme at the University of St Gallen.
2. Develop reflexive examples of interesting, successful and innovative course concepts, pedagogical models and program philosophies that can help to make more concrete our commitment to the shared purpose of rethinking Business Education for the 21st century.
3. Consider the continuation of this debate in terms of publication strategies, and the potential development of a Compendium to the Humanities and Social Sciences in Management Education.

The discussions will be continued in Copenhagen in June 2013 (5.-7.6.2013)
keywords Humanities, Social Sciences, Management Education, Handbook
partner Geschwister Horstmann Stiftung, Haniel Stiftung
type other project type
status ongoing
start of project 2012
end of project 2016
additional informations
topics Contextual studies, Humanities and Social Sciences in Management Education, Teaching tools,
methods Presentations and discussion
contact Jörg Metelmann