Technological Innovation and the Paradigm Shift In Management Education

by Jason Frand and William Broesamle

Reprinted from Selections, Spring 1996, pages 1 - 7

By most accounts, management in the twenty-first century will be enormously information-intensive. Information technology (hardware, software, communications, and data availability) has already created an environment that inundates managers with data. Conceptual understanding, while essential, is not enough. To compete effectively, managers must be able to use models to structure and summarize relevant data and to make better business decisions. In other words, managers must be sufficiently versatile with data and models to be able to access, interpret, and analyze them, and to relate them-through a deep, conceptual understanding-to their particular competitive circumstances.

Further, today's successful managers must be sensitive to the ways in which information technology alters fundamental relationships both within and outside their organizations. In the wake of unfettered communications, tradition hierarchical relationships evaporate and are replaced by more fluid associations based on the potential for constant contact and interaction. Our long-standing concepts of power, control, authority, and the nature of management must necessarily evolved to accommodate new technological circumstances.

For more than a decade, graduate business schools have struggled with what information revolution means for management education. While we are in the business of training managers, not technocrats, we are very aware that technology becomes more important all the time and that it has the potential to make the education we provide more powerful, relevant, and accessible than we could have imagined possible even a few short years ago.

Educating Managers for the Twenty-First Century

The information age, the information revolution, the information superhighway-these and a host of other catch phrases refer to the evolution of existing technologies and the arrival of unprecedented capabilities. Computer hardware, software, networks, and available data have transformed the business environment and the nature of competition, and thus the demands of management.

The ability of a manager and an organization to locate, acquire, analyze, and use information has a great impact on the organizations' competitive advantage and its sustainable competitive position. Management methods based solely on experience and intuition are unsuccessful in a world in which information and analysis create competitive advantage. Success in the global business environment belongs to managers who can organize, analyze, and interpret large quantities of information to inform their decisions, and who can manage the changing business relationships that result from new communication technologies.

Management schools are under tremendous pressure to prepare business leaders who can deal with complex and ambiguous problems, consider the full context of a problem or situation quickly and accurately, and use both qualitative and quantitative information and analyses to inform their decisions. The very technologies that have created a global business environment now enable business schools to prepare students to function in this fast-moving, highly competitive, interdependent, global economy.

At UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management, the convergence of state-of-the-art computing and communication technologies is making possible the transformation of MBA education and the modeling of new technologies for the professional practice of management. These technologies include the following: