The Learning Curve Book – Santiago Iniguez

The Learning Curve Book - Santiago Iniguez

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Book Review: “The Learning Curve – how Business Schools are Re-Inventing Educations” by Santiago Iniguez

July 27, 2012

Book Review: “The Learning Curve – how Business Schools are Re-Inventing Education”

MBA Channel Barbara Bierach, 24 July, 2012

by Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011

How do you create world-class educational institutions that are academically rigorous and vocationally relevant? How do you combine the best of traditional academia with the modern market to meet the need of both? Are business schools the blueprint for institutions of the future, or an educational experiment gone wrong? How can we develop good managers and entrepreneurs in business schools? Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, president of Spain’s IE University, dean of IE business school and a member of the awarding body of accreditation agency EQUIS, tackles all these questions in his book “The Learning Curve”.

ImageSantiago Iñiguez de Onzoño

To report on all of the author’s answers to these questions would mean to re-create the whole book. Let’s therefore concentrate on what he has to say about business schools as institutions and the question if they are up to the task to develop good managers and entrepreneurs.

First of all the author states that “management can still be one of the noblest vocations in the world” since he regards good management as one of the best antidotes to most of the world’s ills. Therefore business schools have to produce managers, and not MBAs. That’s not the same thing, he acknowledges, referring to the critics who claim that business schools attract the wrong people, teach them in the wrong way and produce graduates who are arrogant and overconfident.

Iñiguez de Onzoño ponders the criticism, but he still believes that good management and righteous behaviour can be taught, if education is a “personal transformation process”. “Business schools can provide a valuable platform for cultivating a series of virtues such as hard work, endurance, self-organisation, modesty and common sense.” Good managers, though, are forged over the course of their career, based on the repeated practice of the basic skills. The book is called “The Learning Curve” after all and the analogy is valid: in the end good management is the result of continued learning over a period of time.

Business school can only be a stepping stone, though, but an important one nevertheless. As a result, Iñiguez de Onzoño believes that business schools should provide a more “integrated and rounded education”. Too much specialization has undesirable consequences, he feels: the “silo syndrome” and a narrowed perspective. IE Business School already introduced a number of humanities’ courses as core part of the curriculum. The author also supports the idea of INSEAD’s former dean Frank Brown who suggested “refresher” courses to be given every five years after graduation from an MBA. Wharton and Harvard already provide free top-up training to MBA alumni after seven years.”Other business schools will follow suit,” expects the author.

Iñiguez de Onzoño’s book is no surprise. He spends his life teaching management at a business school and must believe that good managers can be taught and that business schools are the place to do that. Nevertheless, the book is a worthwhile read. Firstly, he sums up all the challenges for business schools and then, secondly, gives an honest account what he feels must be done to keep schools abreast of the learning curve.

If you expect a hands-on report on how to get into a prestigious school and to thrive in it, you will be disappointed. Iñiguez de Onzoño’s book digs far deeper, challenging the future of business education as such, if many universities continue to bow to the commercial interests of the companies that finance their research, if they continue to treat students as “customers” and not as students and if their business schools do not manage to deal with the notion that they foster greed and arrogance.

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Reviews by Management Education stakeholders

October 10, 2011

Download press release from Palgrave Macmillan

“This book is a must read for those who want a succinct analysis of what created the vast current world of management education and who want views and opinions from a key global participant in that world who does not match to the conventional drummer.” – Paul Danos, Dean of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and author of the book’s Foreword

“In this far-ranging assessment, Santiago Iñiguez, returns to the core question of how business schools can accelerate the development of spirited leaders, those who learn, fight, and proceed with passion and virtue.” – Ted Snyder, Dean, Yale School of Management

“Few Institutions are likely to make as many changes over the next few years than business schools – and this book brilliantly addresses this, i.e. what fundamental changes we can expect and why. Making good executive
development even better is what this book is all about!” – Peter Lorange, President, Lorange Institute of Business, Zurich (previous President of IMD)

“Santiago has actively debated his ideas on business education through a series of blogs and digital media posts over the last five or six years. Using this material as a base, he provides here a synthesis of his evolving views about the nature of business education. He also develops some comprehensive projections about the future of business schools. It is, in essence, a thorough and insightful treatment of Santiago’s passage and ‘learning curve’ from MBA student to Dean to President of a leading European business school. It is a welcome addition to the field.” – Howard Thomas, Dean and LKCSB Chair in Strategic Management, Lee Kong Chian School of Business

“Today, says Santiago Iñiguez, is a critical time for higher education generally.
It faces novel challenges in the form of new technologies, globalization, and ‘Generation Y’. The Learning Curve is based on the concept that business schools (relatively new arrivals on the higher education scene) are useful models of how to respond. This timely, comprehensive, and constructive book examines the key issues now facing all educators through the prism of the past, present, and future of the world’s leading business schools.” – Eric Cornuel, Director General and CEO, EFMD

“The Learning Curve is a must-read for anyone who believes, like I do, that quality management education is essential to a productive, healthy, and sustainable society. Professor Iñiguez draws comfortably from art, history and philosophy, as well as business strategy, to discuss the issues facing business schools as they enter an exciting, but still undefined, new era. The result is a book of crystal clear explanations, creative models, and inspired solutions.” – Dan Le Clair, Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer, AACSB International