We Don’t Need No Education—Or Do We?

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How does management education impact practice in the real world? Paula Jarzabkowski of Aston University, Monica Giulietti of the University of Warwick, Bruno Oliveira of of Aston University, and Nii Amoo of Leeds Metropolitan University set out to find the answers in “‘We Don’t Need No Education’—Or Do We? Management Education and Alumni Adoption of Strategy Tools,” published on October 29, 2012 in the Journal of Management Inquiry. The authors kindly provided the following responses about their article.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

There has been an intense debate about the relevance of management education to management practice. Some authors emphasise the multiple benefits of management education while others fiercely criticize the inability of management education to have a real impact in management practice.

However, most of this debate has been supported by theoretical arguments and personal opinions and little robust empirical research has been conducted to assess the impact of management education in practitioners’ activities.

This lack of empirical data to support the ongoing debate inspired us to take action and conduct a piece of research that could help us understand what is the real impact of management education in management practice. Hence, we designed our research to better understand the effects of management education in the use of strategic management tools, which are widely taught in business schools.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Given the intense criticism towards the impact of management education in practice, we were quite surprised by the magnitude of the impact that management education and management training had on the use of strategic management tools. In particular, it was quite unexpected to find out that managers with a postgraduate degree and regular management training can use up to four times the number of tools that managers with only an undergraduate degree would do. This is a highly significant difference, which clearly tells us that management education does have an impact on management practice.

It was also a bit surprising that the specificity of the education (e.g. having specific strategic management education) is not as important as the amount and level of education achieved. In other words, most of the benefits of education were gained by increasing the level of general management education and not by having more focused education in strategy for example.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

From a research standpoint, this study can have profound impact because it tells use that we need to spend more time discussing what management education does achieve instead of continuously questioning if it has any impact at all. Hence, future research will need to explore the different ways that management education impacts practice.

From a practice standpoint, this research sends a clear message that managers will be better prepared to do their job when they reach higher levels of education and when they invest in regular management training.

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