Hult: Disruptive, Entrepreneurial Innovator

23 10 2012

Came across this article in Forbes regarding Hult from Giovanni Rodriguez, who recently guest-lectured at the San Francisco campus:

Hult Breeds Disruption in the MBA Market

Seems that Mr. Rodriguez understood what Hult is about:

“Walk onto one of the campuses and you will be struck by the physical elements.  Open, clean, and driven by the most advanced ideas in work/leisure space that first inspired companies like Starbucks and, later, workplaces like Facebook.   Long desks, where people sit side-by-side (instead of opposite one other).  Classrooms in a mostly crescent formation, adding a light touch of theatricality (just enough) to learning and teaching.  Administrative offices behind clear glass and accessible to anyone. The faculty member who invited me to speak introduced me to the Dean within minutes after our class.”

Some think that these qualities are a bug, rather than a feature… yet I beg to differ. Business schools need to adapt to reflect the modern workplace; transparency (quite literally in Hult’s glass-walled case), flattened hierarchies, fast-moving ad-hoc teams rather than traditional establishment organizations- these are characteristics that are all reflected in Hult’s 21st-century approach to B-school.

“But third is the less obvious yet-more-important message that the world of business happens outside the four walls of any school. MBA programs have struggled with their reputation for breeding entrepreneurs; they are better known for — and perhaps more capable of — breeding managers.  And with Hult’s dedication to social entrepreneurship, the school may be positioning itself to serve a new market for business students.”

Business schools have traditionally been “management” schools, and management theorists like Peter Drucker (all due respect to the brilliant man; Post-Capitalist Society is a book that never ceases to amaze me in it’s precognition) often pointed out that there’s little difference, really, between public administration and business administration. But there’s a lot more to business than administration, and even the nature of administration has been changing greatly in recent years. Today, your boss might not be down the hall- he might be sitting in a café or apartment in another country. Your co-workers might be at a desk next to you- or on the other side of the planet. You’re not going to work in the same function for the next decade; you might not even work the same function from day-to-day. This is the new reality

Some critics of business schools don’t think them suitable to entrepreneurship at all; b-school critic Josh Kaufman being a key example. Kaufman points out, rightly, that business school is often a costly investment, and not even necessary for would-be entrepreneurs. To some extent, I completely agree with him. It is expensive. Many business schools do teach models and curricula that aren’t helpful to entrepreneurs; and, lastly, there are plenty of businesses that you can easily start by yourself, out of your home, with no credentials at all- for which a business education wouldn’t be an asset at all.

On the other hand, however, losing your shirt with a business that could have otherwise succeeded had you had a balanced education in entrepreneurship is pretty costly, too. Having ready access to a network of fellow entrepreneurs who are currently devoting all their efforts to their future career, being able to take a year to just develop your skills in a conducive setting where everyone shares your goals… these are the sort of things that can make the difference between success and failure, and change your career for the rest of your life.

There’s definitely a case to be made for entrepreneurship education. Over the course of the coming year, I’ll be talking to entrepreneurs at Hult and beyond, and hope to tell you more here.



2 responses

27 10 2012
Staff Reports

Fascinating and perceptive article. Given the need for a new generation of entrepreneurs to tackle China’s business challenges, I would be very interested to see how Hult’s Shanghai campus is handling the gulf between conventional B-school methods and dynamic, disruptive startup culture.

30 10 2012

One unfortunate thing about the Shanghai campus is that, at present, they don’t take mainland Chinese students. I’m not sure why this is… it may be a legal issue involving the school’s partnership with the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. They accept Chinese students at any of the other four campuses, however, and I hope that the policy at the Shanghai campus will be changed in the future. It would be difficult even then, however- Hult only accepts a very limited number of students from any given country; in my class of 67, for instance, I believe there are only six or seven Americans, despite the school being based in the US. Out of the full Shanghai contingent, the Indian delegation appears to be the largest- about 17 students out of approximately 250. From what I understand, other international MBA programs in Shanghai (like Jiaotong and Fudan’s international MBAs, CEIBS, etc.) solve this by strictly limiting the quota of Chinese students who can enter; if there are no legal hurdles, it seems that it would behoove Hult to do the same. I’ll have to ask why the current limits are in place…

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