HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.


For some time now, management education scholars have called for constructivist learning environments which position student experience as primary in order to help students learn how to learn from their experience. Such learning better prepares practitioners for the realities of practice than the comprehension of theory and conceptual frameworks might. However, the literature continuously calling on schools to integrate such courses into MBA, overlooks the fact that the Yale School of Management originally designed such a program but terminated it after 12 years. The course Individual and Group Behavior was central to SOM’s early curriculum. It was celebrated by students, alumni and employers from 1976 to 1988, but was also a source of major contention among a divided faculty. Yale University chose to end disagreements about SOM’s mission and purpose by terminating its Organizational Behavior department and eliminating coursework deemed too “soft” and “touchy-feely.” This essay exploring that case reveals a pattern of collective ambivalence for courses that prioritize learning from experience. Despite acclaim with students, alumni, and employers SOM’s emphasis on practice created a contradiction for traditional faculty. This tension was resolved by firing instructors, eliminating courses, and prioritizing traditional methods. The paper concludes with implications for schools today.


O'Brien, Timothy. "Why Management Schools May Never Change: Insights from the Early Years at Yale School of Management." Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings 2022.1 (August 2022).