This post is my rant about business schools as of 2017. Admittedly I can only speak from my experiences at one university, but I believe some of this rant will applies to all business schools all over the world.
Learning Physics in Airline Flight School
Imagine a new, eager kid going to his pilot training school. He thinks that once he gets in, he will learn how to fly a plane (hardly an unrealistic expectation). However, once he started studying, he realized that what he’ll be doing in that school is learning aerodynamic equations and theories.
That’s how I feel when I started studying business at my university. I thought that I’d learn how to create a functional business and understand how it works inside out. Instead, I was taught about theories. So, I console myself by saying “It’s no problem. I can use this theory to create and understand businesses.”
Supervising Manual Worker in the Age of Machine Programming
Now here’s the real problem. A lot of the theories are obsolete.
I learn about management theories that are relevant once upon a time when cars are built with hands. And once we start to get close to management theories that are relevant to today service-based knowledge worker management, the semester ended. I learn more practical things from reading Peopleware and Mythical Man Month than from one semester of management.
I console myself by saying “Well at least I learn some terminologies that I probably wouldn’t use that much.”
Fine Art in Practical School
And that’s not even that bad. The one that gets me really pissed off is managerial economics.
A semester-long of reading and creating summaries converges to a key chapter about pricing. That chapter says that to price something, you need to get supply and demand data, input that data into this fancy formula, feed the output into this other fancy formula, and then you’ll get the optimal price. Wow. Amazing. A question though: how the hell do we get this supply and demand data?
The textbook doesn’t answer my question. Instead after that key chapter, at the end of the book, there is another chapter on cost-plus pricing. It says that because sometimes (which really means most of the time) it is too difficult or even impossible to obtain reliable estimates of the demand and marginal cost functions, business owner just add a desired margin of profit to their cost to determine the price of a product.
The lecturer doesn’t even bother covering this cost-plus pricing chapter.
I study managerial economics really seriously, only to find out that it’s a fine art. It is theoretically beautiful and practically useless. Take only the practically useful stuffs and you can compress that 14 weeks material into 1 week. Add in the somewhat useful stuffs and it’ll take 2-3 weeks.
I console myself by saying “Well at least I know this other fancy pricing techniques that I’d probably never use ever.”
There’s this one lecturer who insists that all the students write the assignments (no typing). Which is fine. Writing improves memory retention. Maybe.
The real problem is how he grades the assignment.
I’ve setup an experiment with one of my classmates. He’d write 4 pages (A4 size) for his assignment and I’d write only 2 pages (A4 size) for my assignment. The catch here was that my friend will give non-answers to that assignment and I’ll give thoughtful answers that correctly match the questions (I check the textbook). My friend got 86 and I got 75.
And then there’s this diligent girl (another classmate of mine) who turn in 8 pages (A4 size) for her assignment. What she does essentially is copy-pasting the materials from the textbook to her paper. The materials/answers she wrote was not even relevant to the questions (I check all 8 pages). She got 95 for her assignment.
One semester I attend 3 classes with this lecturer (A diligent lecturer, no?). I also heard that he taught 3 other class that semester (wth? Is he even human?). Now there was of course this mystery: 3 classes at any given time with 40 students each giving (on average) 4 pages (A4 size) of assignments every week.
3 * 40 * 4 = 480 pages of assignment per week
How does he grade those assignments? By “efforts” obviously. The one who can write as much as possible (even if the output is trash) get the most points. And the aforementioned girl turned in 22-23 pages (A4 size) every week. No kidding.
I console myself by saying “Well, at least in real life, people care about output and performance rather than ‘efforts.’ And by learning web development rather than slogging through busywork, I’d get my reward in the real world.”
But, damn, writing 9 pages (A4 size) of assignments every week really took a toll on my hands. By the way, that girl got a hand problem afterward (and need to see the doctor). See, what you’ve done here, lecturer? You pushed a diligent girl so hard to write a lot, that for the next few months she couldn’t even write a thing. Be careful with your incentive structure, lecturer.