Santiago Iniguez, Dean of IE Business School.
Some careers, like medicine or education, are truly vocational. Many professionals who decide to dedicate themselves to education can root their calling back to feelings and experiences that happen sometimes very early in life. That is my case, since I learnt early-on that I wanted to be a professor. When I was ten years old I decided to set up a school at home and adopted my younger sister and brother as my students –how patient they were to me! I arranged classes for them in the evenings of several weekdays, which included geography, literature and –a bizarre subject- “the streets of Madrid”, my native city. Strangely, at my parents’ house there were two copies of two different pieces of literature: Sigmund Freud’s “Jokes and Their Relation with the Subconscious” and Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus”. This extra stock allowed to have separate copies for the “professor” and the students and to read aloud and follow the same passages. I remember asking my sister Cristina to read a given axiom of the “Tractatus” and then demand its meaning. You can guess what an authoritative academic I was, particularly on the matters covered in that philosophical monument. I have not even dared to try and remember what came out from those lessons. Fortunately, I believe, I did not cause any trauma on my students.
I am sharing with you this personal flashback because I believe that the call to academia is sometimes felt genuinely very early and, in any case, it entails a disposition and frequently a passion, for both the development and the transmission of knowledge. Both facets, the generation and the diffusion of ideas, are valuable by themselves and inevitably interdependent. Indeed, research and teaching are both consubstantial to academic careers and when I meet a scholar who disregards or abandons any of the two I think I am in front of a lame academic.
Teaching and the interaction with students provide a unique opportunity to test the validity of knowledge. In addition, it can be one of the most self-fulfilling activities practised by academics. As far as management education is concerned, the direct interface with managers is particularly important, since their behaviour and their experiences are actually the object of management research. Is there really any other way to develop business research than by dealing with the major business stakeholders?
If both research and teaching are two essential and fulfilling activities of academic careers, why do PhDs in management programmes at most business schools focus mainly –if not solely- on the development of research skills? In fact, the reduction of PhD programmes to the training of research skills is a malaise that has been criticised in different reports on both sides of the Atlantic. I hope that, if institutions do not react and solve this problem, PhD students will overcome their estrangement and demand a complete education: PhDs of The World, Unite!