A scientist in a B school

People are curious about my ongoing Executive MBA experience at the Goizueta Business School. What is a scientist doing there with those business types, they ask. Having a great time, really. Chemistry is great fun, loved NMR and liquid crystals, but now as a Dean, I deal with numbers, people, projects, budgets, and administration more than glycolipids. I have enjoyed the courses, been challenged at times, and been really excited to learn about a completely new world, where everything has the powerful $$$ before and after it. And yes, it has been extremely useful already.

Take Organizations Structures course. Prof. Robert Drazin pointed me in the direction of a great paper that compares organization model of universities to a, get this, “garbage can model.” They refer to decision making in universities as organized anarchy. Ideas, people, solutions, and problems are dumped into a “garbage can” and solutions emerge, without a rational process. (Contrast that with the “Star” model of Galbraith for example where organization’s structure is designed with a careful balance of strategy, people, structure rewards and processes.) Those of you in higher ed admin will appreciate the reference to “organized anarchy” especially when you try to propose a rational way to solve a problem or make a change and before you know it someone has proposed something else and someone else has agreed for all sorts of incomprehensible reasons and finally something evolves that has noting to do with the original problem. My project for the course, take an existing problem and propose a solution with the garbage can model and contrast that to the rational “Star” model. Love it.
(Cohen, M. D., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1972). A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly 17(1): 1-25.) Galbraith, Designing Organizations, (http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Organizations-Executive-Strategy-Structure/dp/0787957453)

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About Preetha Ram

I am an educator (Dean for PreHealth and Science Education at Emory), social entrepreneur (Cofounder of OpenStudy, a global study group to connect learners) and visionary (let's build a classroom for the world to study together). A chemist by training (Yale), I like to solve problems by building bridges at the edges and interstices of disciplinary boundaries.

Posted on July 10, 2009, in Business and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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