One aim of Lincoln Center Institute’s Imagination Conversations is to demonstrate to audiences that imagination is not only the province of artists but, rather, is central to the fields of education, science, government, and business. A recent New York Times article by Lane Wallace, “Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?”, reveals that some thought leaders in the business world share our perspective. The piece focuses mainly on Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, whose guiding principle is that business students need to learn more than number-crunching if they are to succeed in the 21st century—they must also be able to think critically and creatively.
Martin’s idea, Wallace explains, is to weave skills traditionally associated with the liberal arts—for instance, the ability “to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives”—into the business school curriculum. Other institutions besides Toronto that have expanded the scope of their M.B.A. programs in the last few years include Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and the Yale School of Management. Many of these programs are now offering “design thinking” classes that send students into the field to find problems, to which they then propose solutions. Martin and his like-minded peers are wisely responding to one of the lessons of the current financial crisis: businesspeople with basic knowhow aren’t enough to keep our economy thriving. The new era demands workers who can “think … nimbly across multiple frameworks, cultures and disciplines.”
Developing the minds of M.B.A. students holistically is an exciting step in the right—that is, the imaginative—direction.
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