HOW TO HUMANIZE MBAS Business schools should admit students who look like leaders, not just winners, and stress cooperation.
By CURTIS W. TARR CURTIS W. TARR is dean of the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Executives of major corporations are increasingly worried about the men and women coming out of U.S. business schools. As a friend put it to me recently, ''Something has happened. Those young people seem intent on destroying each other to get to the top.'' Unfortunately my friend's observation seems justified. Often these young graduates are overly aggressive and opportunistic. A recent Cornell survey of chief executives of FORTUNE 500 companies substantiates this concern. Although most of the respondents said they believed business schools do a good job of preparing students, nearly 80% said greater emphasis should be placed on teaching human values as they apply to the workplace. Because MBAs will fill many of the leadership posts in American business in the coming decades, today's business leaders and educators have an obligation to ensure that the students accepted at business schools are the best available. Equally important, business schools must give those students all the training and tools the leaders of business and society require. For the most part the admissions process at graduate business schools is based on a written record. Applicants take standard tests, complete forms, submit transcripts of undergraduate performance, and solicit letters of recommendation. That is not enough. The written record provides the basis for predicting academic success, but it is not adequate for measuring leadership , qualities. When I applied for admission to an MBA program, I traveled across the country in a DC-4 to be interviewed. Professors questioned my goals, asked about my preparation, and tried to assess how I might contribute to the experience of classmates. Today's MBA applicants should have to go through the same process. No manager would hire an executive, or even a trainee, without a personal interview. Might not the MBA selection be improved if we admitted students with similar care and evaluation? In theory the goal of a graduate school should be to encourage each student to succeed. But in practice the grading curve often rules. A few students will be judged outstanding, but most will be average and some will fail. In such an environment students realize they must win, sometimes at someone else's cost. Cooperation gives way to tactics that guarantee success. This is inappropriate preparation if the primary goal of management is to advance the enterprise by making each subordinate a winner. As the president of a major manufacturing company says, ''MBAs are not team players.'' Upon leaving the campus, graduates of many MBA programs have difficulty obtaining references from their professors. This is because few have had the opportunity to become fully acquainted with their instructors, inside or outside the classroom. As with admissions, human contact is minimal. Most business school professors have heavy workloads. They must read extensively to remain on the cutting edge of their profession. They must do research to get tenure and maintain the respect of their peers. And they must prepare up-to-date material for their classes. These demands limit the time professors have to meet with students, and this is wrong. Business schools should strive to limit the demands on professors, and faculty members should consider the time they spend with students the most important dimension of their professional lives. Beginning in the Fifties, research caused a dramatic shift in the orientation of business education and changed dramatically what business schools sought to do. The research showed that managers could do their jobs better if they put greater emphasis on objective, mathematical processes. As a result courses in finance, marketing, production, economics, and accounting have increasingly stressed the value of mathematics. The ability to evaluate statistical data has become a basic skill of the MBA, and most business leaders appreciate the degree to which MBAs can crunch numbers. But in their effort to strengthen technical scholarship, business schools have allowed concern for human skills to slip. Faculty members who deal with quantitative techniques often have little regard for the work of humanists. The academic rigor that has added legitimacy to business education has also helped to dehumanize it. Backing up his accusation that MBAs have ''too little people sensitivity,'' the president of a large transportation company says that ''many seem to believe that good analytical skills coupled with knowledge of computers is sufficient.'' It is not. WHAT should be done? The MBA experience must be converted into a more personal, humane preparation for business life. Schools should screen applicants for the necessary skills for interaction and leadership. Young people entering management must learn to work with and help fellow students in an atmosphere of mutual support. Graduate business schools must have a clear mandate for change if they are to revitalize and humanize their curricula. Such a mandate is emerging, as the response of chief executives to the Cornell survey demonstrates. But the message is not yet forceful enough to have a meaningful impact on how the next generation of managers is trained. Unconstructive criticism of MBAs will not help. Business leaders should seek out and support institutions whose goals are most compatible with the corporate cultures they are trying to foster. In doing so executives will not only alter MBA education in America but also improve the nation's chance of retaining world leadership in business.