b-school + d-school = c-school?

Berlin_school_i The business school is broken.  If the first business of business is innovation, the first task of management reinventing the corporation continually, the first order of problem solving broad and powerful pattern recognition, the "b-school" will not serve us. We know at a minimum that b-schools do not confer the cultural literacy, the intellectual foundations, or the conceptual tools that capitalism now prizes and requires. 

There is evidence of experiment, the design school at Stanford, the integrative program at the Rotman school, the Wieden + Kennedy 12 school, the Miami Ad School, associated with Crispin Porter + Bogusky), and the VCU adcenter.  Somewhat more whimsically, Russell Davies and I have proposed innovations, with Russell founding the Account Planning School of the Web and me contemplating a Blogger’s Business School (XBS).  (We are still waiting for the $240 million we need to get these started.)

So it was with real interest that I discovered an education enterprise: the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. 

By bringing together top creative executives and international leadership experts, the Berlin School will pave the way for new standards in communication and leadership, fostering global discourse on creative leadership in entertainment, journalism, media, advertising and marketing.

At its heart is the Executive MBA in Creative Leadership, an 80-day part-time program comfortably spread over 18 months, taking place in Berlin with study trips to Chicago, New York and Tokyo.

Berlin_school_ii_2 I don’t know if it’s any good, but it is an interesting experiment.  But they have some heavy hitters including Sir John Hegarty, Nina DiSesa, David Droga, Stefan Sagmeister, and creative participants  from India, Brazil and Japan.   

The danger is that this will be another jolly club, where pals appoint pals, and the odor of self congratulation extinguishes the possibility of fresh thinking. Creatives may have the Canadian problem I was talking about this week: people who are brilliant as individuals and small groups working in agency circumstances find themselves diminished by still larger groups and the scale, to say nothing of the pretensions, of university life. 

I guess the real challenge is how you get the academics and the creatives to play together  This is not a famously productive relationship and it will take some  tremendously good mediation to make these two parties mutually useful, let alone mutually inspirational.  No one has a Rosetta Stone for these two communities, and it is hard for me to imagine an ExEd program that manages to install a linga franca even over 18 months. 

The other challenge is building cultural literacy into this program.  Executive Education programs are great place to do this.  Building in study trips to Chicago, New York, and Tokyo, this is a very good idea.   But the bschool is resistant to taking popular culture seriously, and unless the creatives come well armed with this cultural intelligence , it can’t see how it can be made a part of the program.  And in my experience, creatives are better at figuring and refiguring contemporary culture than they are at thinking about in a systematic way.  I could be wrong.   

Still every new model is useful, an inspiration or an object lesson, valuable learning while Russell and I await our $240 million. 


McCracken, Grant.  2005.  The Bloggers’ Business School (XBS 1).  This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. here

McCracken, Grant.  2008.  Canada, The Martin paradox, and the Opposable Mind. This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics.  here

13 thoughts on “b-school + d-school = c-school?

  1. Tom Guarriello

    This creative leadership model is what I was talking about the other day in our discussion about IQ (technical smarts), EQ (emotional connectivity) and NQ (iNnovative capability; the creative spark). If I knew calculus I could put this more effectively, I’m sure, but it’s something like Creative Leadership is a function of IQ (operational insights) shone through the dis/enabling prism of EQ, aiming at challenge emerging from NQ. Good to see Berlin’s initiative.

    And, who said it would take $240 million?

  2. Mark Vanderbeeken

    It’s basically a very Berlin business school aimed at professionals active in the worlds of entertainment, journalism, media, advertising and marketing.
    See also
    – this post on Putting People First: http://www.experientia.com/blog/new-berlin-school-of-creative-leadership/
    – my interview with the Dean: http://www.iedc.si/newsroom/newsletter/interviews/interview_casse.pdf
    – the school’s blog is also worth a look: http://blog.berlin-school.com/

  3. peter

    Berlin, Chicago, New York and Tokyo! Hmmmm. Rather, 20th century, don’t you think

    For 21st-entury leadership, how about spending time in: Cairo, Cape Town, Sao Paulo, Mumbai and Chongqing.

  4. Pingback: Quotulatiousness

  5. jkh

    peter, brilliant. – i wanted to say this already about another one of yoour last comments but did not get to it.
    i also thought of how to debunk the sad beisheim business school without draging too much background info onto the plate here… thanks for giving me the words, peter: rather 20th century!!!! – that is exactly it.
    no need to look to germany for that sad show, grant.

  6. jkh

    sorry, not beisheim – steinbeiss!
    whereas other schools on the intersection of business and creativity start with the questions, the ‘Berlin School of Creative Leadership’ pretends to have answers… LOL.. – this is A) so NOT berlin and B) just a little bit too much last century…
    i am all with peter here.

  7. Katie Konrath

    I actually just completed a masters degree in creativity and innovation at the end of last year. That was through the University of Malta’s Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking. It was quite interesting, although the program’s still new and still needs some development.

    There’s also a program in Denmark at Aalborg University that some of my friends attended. That one is supposed to be quite good.

    It looks like some universities are starting to realize the value of creativity. Should be promising for the future.

  8. srp

    Perhaps I am mildly out of sorts because I just got out of seven hours teaching back-to-back business strategy classes. The focus of the case was the problem of a company making high-quality plastic injection molding machines facing new lower-cost competition. We walked through value drivers and calculated the impact of various performance attributes on willingness to pay. We examined other topics related to the firm’s strategic positioning. The only place where anything like ethnography or culture really came up was the passing notion of understanding how sales departments see the world as opposed to production people, and even there incentives play a large role.

    My guess is that the kind of thing Grant wants from a C-school is useful primarily in consumer products and services industries, especially those where much of the value of the product comes from mental associations rather than physical attributes (e.g., beer, TV shows, apparel, etc.). I’d sure hate to tell an injection-molding-machine exec that I couldn’t help him figure out how to get to minimum efficient scale in a saturated niche unless he understood the meaning of Brittney Spears’s latest meltdown and the media response to it.

    It isn’t contempt for popular culture that limits the discussion of popular culture at B schools–it’s relevance and permanence of knowledge. There’s no point investing in an academic understanding of this week’s popular culture, because it will change next week. Unless we can find some stable and useful principles that hold beneath the cultural flux, all there will be to teach about popular culture is the method of ethnography. Everything else will still be stamp collecting.

  9. Vincent LaConte

    First, to the comment above, whose author I respect greatly, I would point out that the need isn’t to replace teaching practical MBA methods that hold up despite cultural flux (although that flux is only going to get faster, harder and deeper, baby). It’s to teach NEW methods that give companies some sort of intelligent way to respond to that flux. Some of these will come from anthro, some from design, some from who knows where.

    Second, to Grant: I’m saddened not to have my alma mater listed among the institutions like Stanford and Rotman. IIT was quietly initiating this d-school/b-school/c-school “experiment” in a Mies-ian basement in the 1950s, before David Kelley or Roger Martin or Bruce Nussbaum et al (all of whom I respect to pieces of course) had even stopped wetting the bed. And we’re still the only place in the US where you can get a double masters in design AND business, not some watered-down hybrid of the two.

    And oh yes, IIT’s roots may be the modernist, process-obsessed German Bauhaus, but our fastest growing student and faculty pools today are Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. I can’t tell you how invigorating that is.


  10. Charles Kouns

    As a former professor at the VCU Adcenter, Rick Boyko asked me to design the curriculum for a new track that is now called Creative Brand Management. You will have to be the judge of how well it accomplishes its mission, but it was an interesting challenge trying to design a two year curriculum that taught future brand managers how to put a creative idea into the marketplace and still give them enough financial education.

    As I conducted research into MBA programs around the country, it became very clear that a) creativity was not being taught in any form other than one class at a few schools, b) that most mba’s in brand management or marketing did not understand the concept of branding (many programs taught branding near the end of a student’s time in their program and not first as a foundation for all that was to come) and c) that most mba students were learning an old notion of how to manage a brand in the marketplace.

    As a result, I came away thinking that most mba programs taught students how to be mechanics, not inventors. This distinction is huge in light of the need for rapid innovation and the shift – as Daniel Pink writes – from the information age to the conceptual age. Teaching a creative thinking class is not the answer. Today’s brand managers must understand how to develop creative ideas that connect in a meaningful way with people. They also have to know how to manage that idea through the many layers, steps, political landmines, etc. in order to protect the integrity of the idea and thus give it the best chance of having an impact in the marketplace.

    I was fortunate that the Adcenter was totally experiential, so we could build all of these precepts into an evolving curriculum, thus allowing graduates to be able to hit the ground running. Where I really struggled was how to give the students enough financial education as well. In the end, I centered the entire curriculum around the idea of brand development as it related to creativity, culture (internal and external), marketing and finance ( choosing to see finance as fuel for brand ideas rather than as the reason why a brand is created and implemented).

    The truth is that it would be great to turn out students who had a balance of creative driven brand experience as well as financial know-how. I think that while many companies are ready for this type of brand manager, they are not structured for it, instead having systems and procedures that destroy creativity rather than enhance it. AXE deodorant is a classic example. They literally had to declare themselves a separate entity from Unilever (not legally, but in mindset), ignore their policies and become a renegade group within the company in order to develop the brand identity. The results were so incredible, that other Unilever departments began to study their efforts. Most likely without that type of creative leadership, it would not have transformed the entire category.

    Great ideas often are launched at great risk. We desperately need academia to begin to take great risks in the development of innovative curriculum.

  11. Andrew Taylor

    Great thoughts, Grant. Although, I think the general understanding that business schools haven’t delivered on innovative leadership development doesn’t mean that they can’t do so. It seems more an issue of not knowing how to properly use the tool. Of course, as I work in a School of Business, I’ll admit that such comments carry a rather self-serving bias.

    As others have suggested, a unique opportunity of higher education is the potential to take risk. Strangely, we’ve constructed a system in which such institutions, and their leaders, are increasingly risk averse. Inverting that system with some focused and thoughtful effort is certainly improbable, but not impossible.

  12. Ralf Beuker

    I step in quite late into this interesting and passionate conversation. Let me add the following points:

    Ever since I’m working as a lecturer in the world’s first MBA Design Management (UK) programme (1998) & later on as a co-founder of a Master in Design Management (NL) one of the core aims and goals has been to bridge the gap between Logic & Emotion (in the style of Blogger David Armano) or as Grant is describing it: ‘a linga franca’. While this could end in a longer discussion I do think that in general we’ve succeeded at least in terms of that we’ve created a common understanding of what is driving each clique and accordingly know the some of the (relevant) questions as well as some (offerings for) answers 😉

    However the world turns fast and while Design Management (addressing among others several topics covered by schools mentioned here in this thread already) is on its early maturity stage of the Creative Education Industry Life Cycle new programmes with fancy lables enter the market in order to attract new ‘early adopters’ … , but the recent demise for example of Zollverein School here in Germany backed up with several million Euros EU funding money clearly shows that it takes more than great architecture, fancy city names or closed pal networks to make a unique and sustainable offer which survives turbulent times.

    BTW: The Berlin School is still heavily promoting their programme scheduled to start in February (which means tomorrow) I just got another email in my inbox 😉

Comments are closed.