Approaching MIT Sloan’s Pre-Interview Questions

How Business Schools Teach Decision Making

Decision making plays a small, but integral role in the overall responsibilities of a business executive.

“Decision making is only one of the tasks of an executive,” Peter F. Drucker, an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, famously wrote for Harvard Business Review. “It usually takes but a small fraction of his or her time. But to make the important decisions is the specific executive task. Only an executive makes such decisions.”

For many MBAs, learning how to be a good decision -aker may be a tough feat—something that cannot easily be learned simply by reading a textbook. Peter Klein, an executive MBA professor and department chair of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation at Baylor University, recently explained how exactly it is MBA programs teach such a skill.

SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

One of the benefits of being in business school is the access to an incredibly diverse network. Each student has vast knowledge in a specialized field—from marketing to consulting. That diversity, Klein says, is central to allowing students to develop their weak spots to advance their knowledge and skill—and ultimately be able to make wise decisions at the executive level.

“We are trying to get them to see the big picture, to figure out how they integrate different bits of knowledge from different business functions or different aspects of their company, to take the CEO’s perspective,” Klein says. “We say, ‘We are trying to train you to be the CEO, who has to deal with accounting and finance and marketing and management and HR and operations—and figure out how to pull all those things together to make a decision that’s in the best interest of the organization as a whole.’”

REAL COLLABORATION

Learning in B-school relies heavily on collaborative and interactive methods such as the cohort model. Simply having the opportunity to interact with classmates offers a strong foundation for learning about decision making.

“Of course we are emphasizing skills, frameworks, techniques and building up your knowledge base in a program like this,” Klein says. “But the social aspect, the horizontal learning aspect cannot be overemphasized. It is different than some undergraduate courses in a lecture hall listening to somebody giving a speech. Our classes are not like that. Everything is interactive. There is a lot of peer-to-peer learning.”

And once students are placed in teams to work together on solving a problem, Klein says, the possibilities are endless.

“It creates an environment within which people can grow and learn and build relationships,” Klein says. “We are guiding and steering and helping create that environment. That is where the real value lies.”

Sources: Baylor University, Harvard Business Review