Friday, June 5, 2009

Meet the Dean - Roger Martin and Integrative Thinking

I figure I'll take a short CFA study break to write about an encounter I had at the Meet the Dean session at Rotman early last week. I thought it was an invitational event for those of us who were accepted, but it turns out there were some people who were still applying, waiting for acceptances or deciding.

Dean Martin spoke about how Rotman is different from other MBA programs and for once, I was actually impressed with the Rotman presentation. This may seem kind of odd, coming from someone who has already "sampled" the proverbial kool-aid so to speak by accepting my offer letter to start in September, but the truth of the matter is that I was more sold on Rotman by my colleagues and friends currently enrolled (or graduated) than I was from the Faculty administration. I'm quite embarrassed to say that the admin simply made it seem like just an MBA program whereas my friends were raving about their experiences.

The reason I bring up this point is that Dean Roger Martin brought it up and addressed it as well. Now from ANY MBA program, you would expect some pomp and circumstance regarding why their program is so fantastic. One of the major issues facing MBA programs today is their incremental value add. For instance, there are some top schools for which recruiting companies have stated they would rather hire students who were accepted, rather than students that had graduated. The reason? Top schools who accept good candidates are simply validating their position as top performers, whereas the marginal benefit of attending a top school doesn't necessarily justify the exorbitant increase in salary.

Dean Martin reframed this postulate as top schools resting on their laurels and not affecting the changes required by society in light of the financial crisis in the markets. He put up a rather simple diagram of a three dimensional box with the dimensions described as depth, breadth and flexibility. He called the current state of MBA education, shallow, narrow and static where it should be deep, broad and dynamic. I can't remember who he was quoting off hand, but he mentioned: "There aren't marketing or finance problems. Only business problems" (reflecting the interdisciplinary relationships).

He used the example of the Blacks-Scholes models for derivatives valuation and that stated limitations in the model made it inappropriate for use in many circumstances. However, this model is widely used in ALL derivatives valuations and therefore leaves models with large vulnerabilities in their assumptions.

The punch line?

Integrative thinking is a framework which systematically creates people who ask the right questions to make the right decisions.

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