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Authenticity: A Key to Management Education

Authenticity: A Key to Management Education
Photograph by Martin Barraud

Warren Bennis
Writing this blog today, Aug. 3, 2012, excavated a memory almost seven decades old. It was my four-month training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Ft. Benning, Ga. In 120 days I would become a “shave-tail,” a 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry, a “replacement officer,” U.S. Army, headed for combat in Germany. It was 1944 and I was 19 and when my commanding officer pinned that gold-colored strip of brass on my epaulets, I felt like shouting, even more than the day of my bar mitzvah: “Today I am a Man!” For many years after, I would often refer to my Benning days as the “best education” I ever had. Now I know why. OCS exposed and prepared me for the future I would soon face; as close and proximate to the “actual” experience of leading an infantry platoon in southern Germany. If you define a good education as that which prepares you for your next step in life, Benning was as good as it gets.

I singled out Dean Nitin Nohria’s initiatives at the Harvard Business School in my last blog post. I was totally unaware of the OCS connection. What seized my attention were the changes made to the traditional core curriculum with various forms of “field experiential” bustle, such as the unprecedented required course where the MBAs, working in teams of six to eight, create, organize, and manage the enterprises they invent.