Interdisciplinary Management Education

Warren Bennie and James O’Toole in their Harvard Business Review article—How Business Schools Lost Their Way—critiqued the current model of B-schools and argued: “The entire MBA curriculum must be infused with multi-disciplinary, practical and ethical questions and analyses reflecting the complex challenges business leaders face.”

Interdisciplinary approach builds on the foundations of disciplinary knowledge to create new knowledge and solve complex problems. This approach aims at developing competencies like adaptability, critical thinking and innovation.

Some of the interdisciplinary research and curricular approaches include:
Professional Science Masters
Service Science supported by IBM
MD/MBA at Dartmouth
Stanford GSB and Law school for energy policy
Columbia Business School
IE Business School and Brown University

Indian B-schools have to broaden their own mindset by accepting that they are not in the business of offering MBA degrees. Instead they are in the business of developing talent, which innovates, improves and provides solutions to business and societal problems. Thus, one approach to make B-schools relevant is to consider some of the biggest challenges faced by the Indian society and collaborate to offer programmes, which go beyond disciplinary boundaries. Read more.


  1. Rahul, Having experimented with this idea in India (and with a goal to establish an institute of interdisciplinary studies), I'm glad we're finally talking about interdisciplinary education. I had a chance to view Harvard Business School's announcement in November 2008 to go interdisciplinary, and believe interdisciplinary education is still somewhat limited in its definition. HBS's premise at that time was that its MBAs were increasingly becoming irrelevant in a globalizing world. The more important reason is that once a school can systematically trigger and inspire original thinking in a student, the thought must not be restricted by academic walls, which were built by academic systems for their convenience.

    For too long, we've focused on the content, not the method of delivery as the issue. Building–not delivering–relevant content through shared learning should be the key to interdisciplinary classes. Offering courses from multiple disciplines also needs a systematic method of linking them. A school must first learn to break down the disciplinary walls in the minds of the students and help the student understand why a subject is important to his or her project.

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