Developing paradigmatic awareness in university business schools: the challenge for executive education

Harrison, R. and Leitch, C. and Chia, R. (2007) Developing paradigmatic awareness in university business schools: the challenge for executive education. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 6 (3). pp. 1-12. ISSN 1537-260X

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The question of how university-based forms of executive education can effectively contribute to the enhancement of practitioner capabilities using the insights of the humanities remains underexplored. The sustained pressure in business schools to adopt a teaching curriculum and pedagogical approach that appears immediately relevant to the perceived needs of practitioners is overwhelming. Yet, universities are distinct from consultancies or other professional management institutes in that traditionally they provide well-established forums for intellectual exchange and encourage crossfertilization among academic disciplines. We maintain that university-based business schools are uniquely positioned to use their internal university-wide expertise and core capabilities to inculcate paradigmatic awareness among business executives to enable them to enlarge their horizons of understanding and hence extend their decisional possibilities. For us, this is the true competitive advantage of university-based business schools over corporate universities, management training institutes, and consultancies. We maintain that university-based business schools can paradoxically be invaluable to business and industry, not by becoming overly anxious about immediate relevance, but by recognizing that the education and development of the individual as a whole through exposure to a plurality of paradigms and perspectives, is what sets universities apart and makes them distinct from other executive education providers. Their real value to the practitioner world is in offering truly fresh insights and genuine radical alternatives to executive problem situations through novel interpretations that are counterintuitive to received wisdom and best practice.