'We need to recover the spirit of true academia'

The dean of a Spanish business school argues that tutors have become too ensconced in their ivory towers and should be getting back to solving problems in the real world

Santiago Iñiguez is well-suited to being the dean of Madrid's IE Business School. He describes the institution as "disruptive – in a positive way. In times of change, being disruptive implies being in the vanguard. When you come through the door at IE you feel the speed, the energy and the innovative spirit. We enjoy experimenting."

Iñiguez avoided the archetypal academic background of those leading business schools. His colleague Paul Danos, dean of Tuck Business School, says he is not the "conventional drummer". Iñiguez qualified as a lawyer and was a graduate researcher at Oxford University, where he gained inspiration and ideas from the concentration of eminent moral philosophers, including Sir Isaiah Berlin, who were there at that time. Their teachings have influenced his theories on the future of business education, crystallised in his recently published book The Learning Curve: How Business Schools are Re-thinking Education.

On the most basic level, what are business schools for? According to Iñiguez, their main point is to develop people who can transform their environment in order to create a better world. "Good managers and entrepreneurs are the best antidotes to many of the world's ills" he argues. He examines in his book how business schools can become effective hubs for developing managers and entrepreneurs.

Iñiguez believes in the need to pursue a traditional form of education that combines specialisation with the study of humanities and the social sciences. "This enhances the experience of the student," he says. "At IE, we have introduced modules in architectural design thinking, because we believe that by introducing basic architecture skills we will teach our MBA students to observe things in a more reflective way. Architects look at buildings from different angles. These skills can be developed in managers for assessing risk by observing it from different approaches."

He argues that management education in the broadest sense should embrace literature and history. "Through reading novels by Charles Dickens or plays by William Shakespeare you will understand human nature far better than by studying a pile of manuals on self-improvement. If you read history and understand what happened a century ago, you may avoid future crises by recognising that events are cyclical. In cultivating the humanities you develop well-rounded managers who can lead cross-cultural teams, understand diversity and work together with people from different cultures," says Iñiguez.

Business schools, first established a century ago, are the new kids on the academic block. They have generated many management tools, golden rules, case studies and experiences that are applied to the world of business, yet are still depicted as being divorced from the reality of business. Iñiguez sees pragmatism as key to the future of management education, defining a new breed of academics as "kangaroos".

"At IE, we encourage our faculty members to be engaged in the world of business. We don't just want wise people who can produce original knowledge – they should combine that with being good communicators in class and also good communicators with top management in the professional world. We want kangaroos that can jump from one of these fields to another with equal excellence. These academic kangaroos will bring closer the worlds of university and business. For too long we have cultivated processes that nurtured the ivory tower existence of academe, and we need to recover the spirit of true academic institutions, which are close to the world of business and aim to solve real problems."

Iñiguez sees competent and honest entrepreneurs and managers as the architects of social structure. Therefore, he suggests that business schools should be focusing on teaching and developing "managerial virtues". Ethics plays a major part in the research and teaching at IE. "Instead of having specific modules on sustainability or business ethics, we look at them in the context of every subject where you encounter dilemmas or ethical issues."

But in a global economy, surely this brings Westerners into conflict with emerging countries who don't share the same values? Iñiguez counters this with the example of Brazil, which is more committed to sustainability through legislation than the US. "A truly entrepreneurial culture depends on having human rights embedded. You can fly professors into business schools in an emerging economy, but to generate true knowledge and develop complete managers you need to have the conditions for innovation, experimentation and freedom."

What is the main challenge that keeps Iñiguez awake at night? "It is undoubtedly how to search and retain talent." Iñiguez sees the newly established business schools in China as a serious threat. "They are trying to drain the resources from US and European business schools, and are sometimes succeeding, because they pay more than we can afford. China has become a centre of gravity in business and the economy on a global scale."

The world is full of books on business education. What does he hope The Learning Curve will achieve? "Business education is a very conservative, traditional industry and change comes slowly. Some of my proposals can be implemented swiftly. For example, the reforms which are necessary to create a single market for higher education, as was intended by the Bologna Process. Implementation needs consensus between academics and many different stakeholders across borders, but I believe that the will is there. We are already seeing a number of institutions which are transforming the way we teach, and reaching out to embrace innovation."

Iñiguez champions what he calls "blended lives". "We are all going to have to work longer and retire later. Our professions will change beyond recognition, so continuous education should be a reference. I enjoy jumping from one field to another, and we encourage it at IE. For example, we have sociologist and maths graduates who teach strategy – bridging subjects rather than thinking in silos, which were the norm in academia in the past." But it won't be until Shakespeare and Dickens enter the curriculum for managers that Professor Iñiguez will have achieved his aim of making the humanities an integral part of business education.

Suggested Topics
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Biology Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently recruiting...

Biology Teacher

Main Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Biology Teacher to A Level - Female...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering