Please enquire

Professor Colin Mayer, the dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, says that business schools have failed to instil a sense of inquisitiveness into their students (see article) and that is one reason for the corporate failures we have seen in recent months. After all, many of the problems that the banks faced came around because senior managers simply didn’t understand the nature of what they were selling.

But is inquisitiveness something that can be taught? Are business schools, which often grade students on class participation, producing graduates with the self-belief to say “I don’t understand.” Or does the battle for “airtime” in lecture theatres work against this?

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2 Responses to “Please enquire”

  1. Joshua Kaye Says:

    It’s interesting that you pose the question that way, as Oxford’s business school explicitly does not grade on class participation. Instead, by interviewing every serious candidate, they try to assess prior to admission whether the prospective student is likely to be a worthy contributor to in-class discussion.

    Surely the tools and habits that lead to the sort of inquisitiveness under discussion can be taught and fostered. Beyond that, it is incumbent on the admissions committees to favor intellectually curious applicants who do not by temperament incline toward easy answers or heedless narcissism.

  2. Amy Says:

    Joshua’s point needs to be extended to the company environment. When questions imply either that you don’t know (which makes you look stupid in comparision with co-workers, not a good thing in a competitive promotion environment), or that you doubt/disagree with management direction, there are no benefits to asking. The business news had stories of people being forced out of Lehman Bros. and Citibank as the financial bubble started to go.

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