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Your Turn Building a Better Business Student In the wake of the global financial crisis, the need to reshape business education has been a widespread topic of discussion. Experts sug- gest that, to get to the root of the problems in business, we need to take a close look at b-schools. Consequently, established pro- grams have been retrofitted, and new programs are emerging. I serve as dean at the Johns Hop- kins Carey Business School, which offers one of those new programs. It's laudable to want to change the way business is taught in order to change the way business is practiced. But we can't just look at business programs; we have to look at business students. After all, they will be the purveyors of the new knowledge we create at our schools, carrying it into a business world sorely in need of productive innovations. Shouldn't we focus as much on our concept of the business student as we do on our vision of the business curriculum? Suppose the dean of a business school could somehow create the ideal student for the challenges of the 21st century. Imagine, if you will, a b-school dean in the mold of Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein. Of course, this doctor would have a PhD in management or market- ing, not a medical degree, and his model creature presumably wouldn't feature a bolted neck. How might "Dean Frankenstein" organize his business school to build the essential business student and create the perfect business leader of the future? The first ingredient Dean Frank enstein would require would 62 BizEd NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 be intellectual flexibility. This attribute is a given in many other academic disciplines, but it is not readily associated with the study of business. Any bright student can master the bedrock topics of business education—the so-called hard skills, such as finance and accounting—which Dean Frank- enstein could hardly overlook. But intellectually flexible students pos- sess an even more critical skill: They can put together disparate ideas and data in an ever-broaden- ing global context. Consider the example of Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man: an engineer, an artist, a botanist, an anato- mist, a mathematician, and much more. Da Vinci had the ability to observe, grasp, and pull together ideas from a wide range of fields. In today's terminology, we would describe him as someone who had fully developed both his right- brain and left-brain skills. It's truly a worthy goal to instill a bit of the Renaissance man into today's business students. It's up to b-schools to nurture our students' intellectual flexibility so they can approach business problems from all conceivable angles. One way to achieve this would be through an integrated curriculum that provides the business essentials, but also broadens each student's horizons with courses from the humanities and social sciences. For instance, at the Carey Business School, we require Global MBA students to attend a weekly program titled "Thought and Discourse Semi- nars," in which they develop their skills in analytical thinking, persua- sive communication, and creative expression as they discuss important business issues. Next on the list of ingredients is what I would call cultural lit- eracy. Successful businesspeople understand not only the material needs and desires of their custom- ers, but also their culture, their history, their geography, and other factors. In short, they understand that customers are human beings, not merely consumers of whatever products a company is offering. Some might deride this as a "soft skill," but I maintain that the soft skills can be the hardest to teach and to learn—and perhaps the most important. In fact, I believe cultural liter- acy will become even more essen- tial as more business is conducted abroad, particularly in emerging nations that are unfamiliar to executives more accustomed to the United States and Europe. At Johns Hopkins, we develop by Yash Gupta

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