Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?


Learning how to think critically has traditionally been associated with a liberal arts education, but in the aftermath of our nation’s economic crisis, many business schools are realizing the value of approaching problems from many perspectives and finding innovative solutions. The New York Times article below cites ring leader, Roger Martin, the new dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, who had an epiphany after observing his son’s elementary school principal’s success with the success of people who run top corporations. He was surprised that this retired principal exhibited the same quality components of an international law firm in his town—questioning assumptions, looking at things from multiple points of view, coming to the table with solutions, keeping an open mind, etc.

“As a result [of Mr. Martin’s recommendations], a number of prominent business schools have re-evaluated and, in some cases, redesigned their M.B.A. programs in the last few years. And while few talk explicitly about taking a liberal arts approach to business, many of the changes are moving business schools into territory more traditionally associated with the liberal arts: multidisciplinary approaches, an understanding of global and historical context and perspectives, a greater focus on leadership and social responsibility and, yes, learning how to think critically.”

One big question: Will a liberal arts approach to teaching business create a different breed of M.B.A. graduates? Steve McConnell, a managing partner of NBBJ, an architecture firm based in Seattle, thinks so. McConnell noticed that the students he hired who went to school at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto exhibited fundamentally different approaches to problem solving. McConnell said, “They seemed to be naturally free of the bias or predisposition that so many of us seem to carry into any situation and they brought a set of skills in how you query and look into an issue without moving toward biased or predetermined conclusions that has led to unexpected discoveries of opportunity and potential innovation.”

Critical and analytical thinking skills are not just for liberal arts degrees or those seeking master’s degrees in business. LifeBound’s title Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers lays the ground work for helping high school students develop these skills early so they are better prepared for future college, career and life success. Additionally, LifeBound’s academic coaches training helps educators integrate these skills into their own teaching paradigm. For more information about our programs or training, please call toll free 1.877.737.8510 or send an email to:


The New York Times
January 10, 2010
Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?

A DECADE ago, Roger Martin, the new dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, had an epiphany. The leadership at his son’s elementary school had asked him to meet with its retiring principal to figure out how it could replicate her success.

He discovered that the principal thrived by thinking through clashing priorities and potential options, rather than hewing to any pre-planned strategy — the same approach taken by the managing partner of a successful international law firm in town.

“The ‘Eureka’ moment was when I could draw a data point between a hotshot, investment bank-oriented star lawyer and an elementary school principal,” Mr. Martin recalls. “I thought: ‘Holy smokes. In completely different situations, these people are thinking in very similar ways, and there may be something special about this pattern of thinking.’ ”

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