As pictures of handcuffed former MBA-wielding heroes fill our TV screens, louder and more insistent questions are being asked about the culture of business and the institutions where some of the most notorious exponents of corrupt practices acquired their management spurs.
Distinguished voices, including that of leadership guru Warren Bennis, have joined the debate. In a Harvard Business Review article in May, Bennis asked why business schools have 'lost their way'. His view? Too much obscure, pseudo-scientific research is being pursued by unworldly academics living in a 'publish or perish' culture. The students emerging from these schools are ill-equipped to deal with the real, messy world of management. They have theories and flowcharts and quaint analysis coming out of their ears, but little experience, poor judgment and questionable values.
The late Sumantra Ghoshal explored the same question in one of his last essays, published just before his death. With characteristic honesty, he argued that business schools themselves had much to answer for. 'It is our theories and ideas that have done much to strengthen the management practices that we are all now so loudly condemning,' he wrote.