Learning by Doing: Harvard Reinvents the MBA

Forget about class lectures and theoretical case study analysis. The new MBA is a hands-on degree.

Forget about MBA programs stuck in a 20th-century model of class lectures and theoretical case study analysis: Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria is championing an experimental first-year course called Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership, which takes an innovative learning-by-doing approach that could make practical, hands-on education the new normal for MBA curricula.

Nohria told The Economist that one of the shortcomings of business school is that it doesn't help students gain practical experience that they can apply in real-world situations. And given the complex nature of the global economy and the needs of businesses, modern MBA graduates need to "master a body of knowledge" while also being able to "apply that knowledge with some measure of judgment," he says. A summer internship, Nohria adds, simply isn’t enough to help facilitate that process.

The FIELD method includes three modules, which all revolve around ensuring students become "leaders who make a difference in the world." The first module, "leadership," uses team-building exercises and group projects to help students learn to consult, collaborate, and give and receive feedback. The second, "globalization," matches each student with one of 140 companies in 11 countries to work on new products or services in an emerging market. Each student also travels to the company's physical location for one week. Finally, in the "integrate" module, students are each given $8,000 to start a company, and their peers at HBS can vote for the business most deserving of more capital.

But will FIELD actually better prepare MBA grads for the workforce? Management guru Pankaj Ghemawat is skeptical of the immersion experience. He says leading research indicates that such experiences should "be at least two to three weeks and be backed up with time in the classroom." And Nohria admits that not all HBS faculty members are thrilled with FIELD. But they've agreed to run the program "for three-to-five years to see if we can move the needle."

Harvard is not the only MBA program trying to figure out how it can make its $84,000-a-year degree more worthwhile: Plenty of other programs are experimenting with hands-on, common-sense learning. But HBS is an undeniable leader in the field, so it's particularly significant that this kind of shift away from the case-study model is finally happening there.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

via International Monetary Fund / Flickr and Streetsblog Denver / Flickr

Seventeen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg made a dramatic speech Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In her address, she called for a public and private sector divestment from fossil fuel companies

"Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don't want these things done by 2050, or 2030 or even 2021 — we want this done now," she said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin mocked the teenager on Thursday during a press briefing in Davos.

Keep Reading
The Planet

Even though marathon running is on the decline, half a million people signed up to participate in the 2020 London Marathon. It seems wild that someone would voluntarily sign up to run 26.2 miles, but those half a million people might actually be on to something. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running a marathon can help reverse signs of aging.

Researchers at Barts and University College London looked at 138 first-time marathon runners between the ages of 21 and 69. "We wanted to look at novice athletes. We didn't include people who said they ran for more than two hours a week," Dr. Charlotte Manisty, the study's senior author and cardiologist at University College London, said per CNN.

Keep Reading
via David Leavitt / Twitter and RealTargetTori / Twitter

Last Friday, GOOD reported on an infuriating incident that went down at a Massachusetts Target.

A Target manager who's come to be known as "Target Tori," was harassed by Twitter troll David Leavitt for not selling him an $89 Oral-B Pro 5000 toothbrush for a penny.

He describes himself as a "multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others."

Keep Reading