Dean Schmittlein talks action learning, HBS in broadcast

Published: April 18, 2013

Full report from BBC World Service available for streaming

MIT Sloan Dean David SchmittleinMIT Sloan Dean David Schmittlein


It’s not all case method anymore.

Business and management schools are changing how they prepare the world’s future leaders, putting more emphasis on action learning.

BBC’s Peter Day visited Cambridge recently to learn more at two of the world’s top business schools, MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School.

The radio report, “Battle of the Business Schools,” can be streamed online.

Day spoke with MIT Sloan Dean David Schmittlein, who explained the school’s action learning labs, a series of experience-based courses where students translate classroom knowledge and theory into practical solutions. Students travel around the globe to conduct specialized projects in companies of all sizes.

“Giving them opportunities to pull and push levers in organizations is a very different way to learn,” Schmittlein said. “It's different from cases, it's different from lectures. Over the last 20 years, that's really transformed the experience here.”

Action learning has been part of the MIT Sloan curriculum since the 1960s, with today’s hallmark programs, such as Entrepreneurship Lab and Global Entrepreneurship Lab, arriving in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Schmittlein also discussed MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School’s unique co-location along the Charles River.

“Certainly we compete with each other for students, we compete with each other for faculty, but more fundamentally, it's important for America and, I think, for the world, that there be hubs of innovation that are lively, that are active and that are substantial in scale,” he said.

Also interviewed in the program are Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, who received his PhD at MIT Sloan, as well as students at MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School.