McGill Introduces a Different Kind of Business Education

The International Masters Program in Practical Management is not your typical MBA program. It doesn’t follow in the hallowed footsteps of Harvard Bu siness School or London School of Economics. As a matter of fact, Dr. Henry Mintzberg, a management professor at McGill University, and one of the IMPM’s founders, believes that the typical approach to business education in America and beyond is destructive, counterproductive and demeaning.

Dr. Mintzberg holds two graduate degrees in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But since at least 2004, when he published his book “Managers Not M.B.A.s,” he has acquired a hard-earned reputation as the scourge of conventional management education. The rise of the business-school-trained M.B.A., he says, is “a menace to society.”

Even before hitting the books, the students who enroll in IMPM can’t help but see the difference. Instead of providing reading lists that include traditional business texts and case-studies poured over by MBA students all around the world, IMPM students are asked to read Wordsworth’s “The Prelude,” and reminded to pack their woolies, their wellies and a waterproof jacket.

Smart tips, considering that the latest session of the 16-months course is taking place during the English summer of Britain’s Lake District and will include not only nature hikes, but some time spent in reflection at a Quaker meeting.

While traditional MBA programs look for students with minimal experience in the workplace who are aged between 20 and 30, IMPM requires at least 10 years of business and management experience even to apply.

Rather than focusing on functional skills like accounting, marketing or finance, the program is devoted to what it calls “management mind-sets”: it encourages students to consider their own business difficulties and ambitions from a variety of perspectives. In contrast to the use of case studies to develop analytical tools under the tutelage of a professor, Dr. Mintzberg’s students are expected to “share competences” with each other based on their own experience as managers.

The course, co-founded with Jonathan Gosling, currently at Exeter University, is made up of five ten-day units that take place in Brazil, Britain, Canada, China and India. Administered through Montreal’s McGill University, it is also a partnership between various institutions throughout the world, with each one running their local unit. Lancaster University Management School is offering the latest session, that will focus on honing the “reflective mind-set.” Although the program offered is engrossing, and includes discussions of business ethics, and a detailed study of the great sociological research including the infamous Milgram experiment, considering the continually rainy weather, students can’t be blamed for wistfully turning their thoughts to the future ten-day Brazil unit which will consist of samba lessons and meditation on the beach.

But the course is not all fun and games. It produces management candidates that are highly desired by the most successful companies in the world. The latest class includes representatives from Lufthansa, Brazilian Development Bank, Kenyon Red Cross and Panasonic.