The Business School Model: A Flawed Design?

22 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2013

See all articles by J.-C. Spender

J.-C. Spender

affiliation not provided to SSRN; Kozminski University

Date Written: October 25, 2013


The business school business has grown rapidly over recent decades and is now firmly embedded in the top tier recruitment process. But business schools are still unsure of why they teach what gets taught. The curriculum drives the business school’s design, and vice versa. Both are fairly standardized around the world but have little connection with management practice or firms' design. Decades of anxiety about this rigor and relevance gap have generated little change. This paper suggests the curriculum’s fundamental weakness derives from its implicit theory of the firm, or rather the absence of a viable theory. In spite of most business school members being perfectly comfortable about what they presume a firm to be Ronald Coase’s famous questions about the ‘nature of the firm’, posed in 1937, have yet to be answered. Herbert Simon’s 1967 paper on the design of the business school is worthy of close reconsideration and shows today’s emphasis on analysis badly needs to be complemented by helping students synthesize the disparate materials they are being fed. The present paper urges that rhetoric be restored to the center of the curriculum and that case teaching be used to develop the students’ rhetorical and synthesizing skills.

Keywords: Managerial rhetoric, managerial judgment, synthesis, theory of the firm

JEL Classification: A00

Suggested Citation

Spender, J.-C. and Spender, J.-C., The Business School Model: A Flawed Design? (October 25, 2013). ESADE Business School Research Paper No. 251, Available at SSRN:

J.-C. Spender (Contact Author)

Kozminski University ( email )

ul. JagielloDska 57/59
Warsaw, 03-303


affiliation not provided to SSRN

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