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Business School Deans on the Future

Top business school deans weigh in on how they see the next frontier. Plus, we hear more about a federal judge’s ruling on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Left to right: Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business School; Sally Blount of Kellogg at Northwestern; Rich Lyons of Haas at UC-Berkeley.

American business schools – “B-schools” – got a checkered reputation in the last decade. Enron and Worldcom scandals had people asking what kind of ethics they were teaching. The crash of ’08 left people asking what kind of business they were teaching.

Now, a new generation of leaders is moving into top slots at the country’s top B-schools. We hear from the heads of Harvard Business School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School and Berkeley’s Haas School, on the US economy now – and their role.

Plus, we look ahead from the big new injunction on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

-Tom Ashbrook


Sally Blount, dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Rich Lyons, dean of Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School.

Closing segment:

A federal judge has told the U.S. military to stop enforcing its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay servicemembers. We hear about the implications.

John Schwartz, national legal correspondent for the New York Times.

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  • Nick

    My impression of the kids coming out of business schools today is that the business they are taught is not how to make a good product, how to sell it, or provied good business service but instead are being taught how to weed every little percentile out of their customers which doesn’t provide good business.

    No one is interested in manufacturing or making anything – just passing that piece of paper or bundle of mortgages and credit card debt around and around like magical chairs until the last person holding gets burnt.

    I don’t have much respect or confidence for our business school graduates today.

  • twenty-niner

    Learn business the real way. Start one.

  • wavre

    No one is interested in manufacturing or making anything – just passing that piece of paper or bundle of mortgages and credit card debt around and around like magical chairs until the last person holding gets burnt

    Well said, Nick

    It’s also time for the government to implement some” Patriotically oriented economic policies” and redefine Globalization like the Asians and the Europeans. The problem is that our American millionaires, who control the politicians have no patriotism at all, just unbelievable greed.They keep taking the tax breaks but still ship the jobs oversea

  • bob

    Buisness school deans are probably the last people in this country to be giving advice on anything considering what’s happened inour econmy.

    When will they throw away the incompetent ecnomic models they use and start talking about how labor outsourcing (which they have promoted) has destroyed jobs and how the government is bought by big money to satisfy greed.

    Talk about the middle class, not the stock market.

  • Ann


    Have we moved so SUBSTANTIALLY into a branch of Capitalism that might be called “Financial Capitalism” that there is NO GOING BACK?

    By “Financial Capitalism”, I’m referring to the money to be made on financial “products” like Credit Default Swaps, and by groups like Private Equity Firms, etc.

    Have we reached a point where the richest of the rich can create more than enough wealth for themselves and their heirs by playing in THIS ARENA ONLY, leaving the rest of the economy dead like road kill at the non-productive end of the economic life cycle??

    Are hopes for a regenerated economy based on Green Projects and Infra-structure Projects just pipe dreams that will NOT get the investment they need BECAUSE Financial Capitalism is so much easier, lucrative, and exclusive for those able to play in that field?

    Thanks so VERY much! (And sorry for so many mixed metaphors!)

  • Brett

    It’s like being up a creek without a horse in midstream!

  • cory

    Here is some sound advice. First, start your own garden. Second, learn to speak Spanish and Chinese.

    I whole heartedly agree with the above posts.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Many of our finest insightful and innovative economists have commented that business education is more of a problem for our economy than an advantage. (ex:Tom Hudson,Nouriel Roubini, Ravi Batra) Ann’s remarks about financialization describe their critique well. Why are we wasting so many education dollars on business degrees that turn our talented students into brainwashed predators in service to oligarchic interests? People who needed some accounting and management training used to attend inexpensive business academies, and leave their ethics intact. I was dismayed recently when exposed to the financially and ponzi oriented business propoganda being spouted at, of all places, the YMCA. Father and sons slave-catchers was about the limit, I’d thought. The lottery mentality (as taught MBAs) is driving us all crazy and keeping us from desperately needed real work.

  • Marc

    My question to the panel would be:

    If doctors are several hundred thousand dollars in debt when they get out of med school, they will gravitate to specialties that pay the most, resulting in inadequate number of primary care physicians. Given that the cost of an MBA at one of the prestigious schools is at least a couple hundred thousand, what jobs will they do to pay this back the debt incurred and how will this change the decisions they make?

  • cory

    I agree with twenty niner. The only education a good American needs is from the school of hard knocks.

  • jeffe

    The debt ratio for higher education is now so out control that people cannot even afford to go to school.
    Most do anyway even though they will be saddled with debt that ruins them for life in some cases.

    Then you have the housing crisis and wall street which was brought to bare by the so called “best and brightest” of the MBA crowd.

    Next we have the fact that wages in this country have been near flat to flat for the majority of working folks in this country for almost 30 years.

    Add to this the ponzi scheme we call health insurance.
    Or shall I say our dreadful health care market which masquerades as a system, but only bankrupts anyone who gets a serious illness. Unless you happen to one of the captians of industry. If the president and congress had any real balls they would have called entire health care industry out, insurance corporations, big pharma, the doctors and hospitals as well as lawyers and say enough is enough, we need to start with a new system that works.
    It’s called single payer. Of course this will never happen in this country because the rule of thumb is, kick the can down the road and make a speech.

    Then we have the lobbyist who work for the special interest that really call the shots.

  • Ray

    Here is a post I put on NPR’s planet money blog. It won’t win a Nobel prize but it illustrates economic relationships.

    “Wealth is created by productive work!
    We have a three legged economic stool, services, manufacturing, and resource production (mining and farming.)
    The stool can’t support the country (or the world) without each leg.
    The idea that everyone can put their money in the market and it will magically create wealth is simply a big lie.
    Money is the marker of trade between the different legs of the economy. The Government is the top of the stool that helps facilitate rules to keep the legs stable. What has happened, we have ignored all but the financial services leg and we are desperately trying to wave our arms and balance on that one leg. The stool will fall(is falling) over unless we rebuild the other legs and properly use government to regulate trade between the different sectors of our economy.
    You are sitting on this stool, what do you plan to do?”

    Economics is not the study of money, it is a study of trade. The balance of trade is out of whack. Why should it take a month of work for to pay for 10 minute an MRI?

    Too much of our economy comes from the service sector. Workers in the manufacturing and production sectors are underpaid. Money (the US dollar) is currently over valued. This creates an unstable balance of trade between sectors. Left alone our economic imbalance will lead to revolution, it happens many times throughout history. The role of economists should be to show how to balance the trade across the economy in order to prevent anarchy.

    What I want to hear from your distinguished guests is what they propose to re-balance the economic sectors and put our youth to work. How can we avoid the lightning bolt of anarchy that results when the gap between rich and poor becomes too great?

    Ray Tucker

  • Solvei Blue

    Are business students eco-literate? That is, are they required to learn basic concepts about the physical world like the water cycle, the food web, the carbon cycle, and materials life cycle?

    I ask because when I listen to economic news, as a scientist, I’m often struck by how removed from the physical world the language is. In economics, wealth is “produced.” Oil, minerals, metals, etc., are “produced.” No. Actually, they’re extracted. From the earth. And the earth has a finite quantity of all of these.

    This blindness to the physical reality behind the systems our business managers manipulate for great profit is damaging our biosphere. At my alma mater, the University of Vermont, the business school is working on developing a “Green Business” major. My question is, why is this a subset of business? Shouldn’t all business majors be required to learn at least the very basics? Is this something that’s getting attention at the major business schools in the country, and if not, why not?

  • Michael

    If anything collage is teaching(or was) that short-term maximize profit is good long-term can be an disadvantage. When I first started collage in the early 2000 sweat shops and slave labor was bad and frown upon,after i did my military training and return to finish it then became sweat shops and slave labor could be overlooked to increase the bottom-line, ways for muliti-nationals to move cost to the U.S. and pay taxes in (often) third world country. It became quarter by quarter focus not long-term and the idea of investing in a company for the long-term cause you believe in there mission statement was thrown out the window for investing in a company and flipping the stocks to a bigger sucker.

    calculate a few of the NAV’s of an few companies and one can see if an stock is inflated or not.

  • Solvei Blue

    I should add that I believe that this disconnect between the physical world and the world of economics is also damaging our economy, but this is just an intuition – I don’t know enough about economics to back that up. I’d be curious to see what your guests think about that.

  • Sue

    You’ve got to be joking. The economic tsunami we’re currently undergoing is caused by the products of the business schools. Maximize short-term profits and out-source jobs is all they know.

  • Ellen Dibble

    We need better ways of getting RID of consumer products. If we could get rid of all those convenient disposable diapers without filling a landfill, that would be great. If we could get rid of plastic water bottles without poisoning the environment, that would be great. If we could wring energy out of those consumer goods once disposed, that would be great.
    I think “consumer goods” spells global warming, otherwise, sorry.

  • BHA

    Self focus?

    No – greed

  • Ellen Dibble

    I noted how Google is investing in windmills off the coast of Virginia with an umbilical cord (energy line) to New Jersey, investing 5 billion or something like that, and expecting return in maybe a decade.
    These are the kinds of things people want private enterprise to undertake, rather than government. “Government is too big.” Yet with the straitjacket of quarterly profits, this can’t be done.
    So we have the gargantuan corporations undertaking the important tasks. Where does that leave business schools? Be Gargantuan?

  • Nick B.

    The astute posers here have summed up the situation correctly yet again. My two cents, onpoint is, once again, asking the wrong questions of the wrong people. I don’t have much respect for business school faculty or students, and I REALLY have no use for some shyster ‘b-school’ guy that used to work for Goldman Sachs.

    Not one of these clowns can figure out the short in my girlfriend’s apartment or properly diagnose a malfunctioning brake system in my car.

  • Sam

    Tom ,

    Its funny that the deans of business schools sit around and talk about innovation and entrepreneurship.

    Its time these programs need to re-look on the cost structure of their programs. Spending $120,000 for a 2 year program is just whack. Its time they start innovation at their own home and reduce the cost of these programs. I challenge these deans to relook at their own programs to innovate and reduce the cost of their programs.

    Sam – Lowell , MA

  • Webb Nichols


    Keep after them. Do not let these educators off the hook. One good idea can energize thousands of people. But when it comes to manufacturing, it comes to the cost of production.

    The cost of production is lowest elsewhere.Not in the United States.

    Here is a little mathematics:

    15,000,000 (Unemployed) x 8 hours ( Average work day) = 120,000,000 ( Total unused hours per day/ 2000 ( average number of work hours per year) = 60, 000 ( man years lost each day) / .75 ( minimum percentage of unemployed available to work) = 45,000 ( Man years of work lost each day)

    45,000 available man years of productivity lost each day that 15 million people remain unemployed . Put people to work.

    300,000 man years are lost in the United States each passing week is more than a crime.It is a terrible waste of human beings and their lost potential.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If you want to be a game-changer, if you have a plan like that, all the status quo will be lined up against you from the politicians to the moneyed backers. The best a starting businessperson can have is extremely deep pockets and lots of time.
    Then persuasive skills.

  • John

    Maybe the Harvard MBAs should stick to working in business. George W Bush would have done less damage that way.

  • Roberto

    So, 5% of HBS is “solving important problems” — but the other 95% are figuring out how to swindle America: Goldman Sachs et al Cabal (see Baseline Scenario and other blogs), A.C. Nielson on-line data “scrapers” and J&J, Merck and pharma-cons. C’mon, Tom, ask some pointed questions and force the HBS Dean and GS “education leader” to get off their talking points. This is not informative at all.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I agree, short-term thinking is a bane. But how to get away from that? People read the stock reports.
    Also, how to get away from outsourcing jobs. What is the “positive force” to American workers?

  • Roberto

    Biz Schools are not solving today’s problems — many grads are creating the chaos, in hedge funds, on wall street, or “anti-consumer” roles in corporations. To restore confidence, as HBS dean says, he must repudiate many of his own alumni. Doubtful…

    More interesting to me would be what HBS et al teaching as to how to be worthy Corporate Citizen — how to make commercial decisions which are MOST productive for society as whole: job stimulation, community development, environmental security, truly innovative R&D which propels society (not creating more junk, or toxic impact).

  • jeffe

    OK I’m about 20 minutes into this show and all I’m hearing is a lot of rhetoric that frankly means absolutely nothing in context to that last 30 years that has now been brought down to bare on worlds economy.

    I do agree with the statement that a good business leader is someone who makes a decent profit decently.
    However in today’s climate of sharks and winner take all attitude it’s clear to me that this is a quaint notion.

    What we need is more micro economic solutions to help with local economies. Depending on Wallmart is a losing proposition.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Organizations as the root of a thriving economy. Sally Blount is saying that. Leadership.
    Good point, but I’ve been thinking “jobs” and being part of an organization in this America is a form of non-independence. You sell your soul to a corporation that is not a substitute for your voice. I’m in favor of plenty of non-organized workers, those outside of organizations. Organizations are very hard to correct, to counter. They face us via advertisements, political or product-oriented, and we are learning to ignore that. The Titanic of public opinion is turning, is turning AWAY.

  • Brandstad

    Businesses bottom line is to make money. If the Green way to build something is the most cost effective, then a non-green business would make the part the same way as the “green” business, but this is rarely the case since “green” almost always equals higher cost.

  • Roberto

    Short-term profits/quarterly #s is not so hard to solve: am sure I am ignorant of some cons, but what about:

    1. limit the %age ownership by hedge and mutual funds, which swing the stock price in huge ways;
    2. tax s/t gains at MUCH higher level to dissuade in/outs;
    3. get rid of the illogical argument for “long term” tax recognition of “Carried Interest” — that IS their annual income, just packaged as Capital Gains…;
    4. require executive owners to MAINTAIN hurdle-level equity stakes (and very low cash comp) in their own companies.

  • Jack Gee

    I don’t care what your guess said. All I heard was crooks coming out from B-schools.

    Think Wall street, MCI-worldcomm, and Enron.

  • mykey

    Our business schools have done a great job at turning out “leaders” of SLAVE employees. Employment numbers are down, yet production is up. How is this? Draconian leadership. Just as in the medical profession, our business schools need to go back and teach positive management, not reaching the ultimate bottom line.

  • SS

    Nice to hear Dean Blount on this show. The Kellogg School of Management is renowned for its focus on teamwork and a global outlook in creating fundamental change. She appears very strategic. At Kellogg’s top ranked Executive MBA program, cohorts are truly diverse and come from outside the rarified fields of strategy consulting and Investment Banking. That is an example of a school that is already living in the new paradigm of looking beyond making money alone.

  • Tom Kroupa

    Hi Tom,
    This is an interesting Show! Ask these Business School Deans would take a stand against companies who make donations to their business schools if those companies have not made their money ethically or sustain-ably. How many donations arrive at Harvard, Northwestern and Berkeley comes from Wall Street Bankers who make up the majority of their graduates, Hedge Fund Managers (who pay no taxes, etc. ?

  • Kate

    I keep hearing the word creativity within this discussion. Why not create hybrid B-schools that combine art & design programs with the B-school model?
    They could combine their strengths: creativity and think-outside-the-box with accounting/finance/system thinking of the MBA’s?

  • Marc

    I went to a very good B school for my MBA. It’s a sample of one, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of professors through this and other activities. It’s probably changed in the last ten years, but they certainly weren’t less moral than any other group. And like other professors, the business school professors were more liberal than the average person. It came out in their teaching, but what they taught, focused on making money, usually through growth. Efficiency was always there, but received less emphasis. Might be efficiency is less sexy.

    I agree with the comment on rhetoric on the show. It’s all the kind of stuff you’d see on a brochure. Hearing these inspirational sales pitches and meaningless buzz words is not what I was hoping for.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The answer to Tom’s first question, something about opportunities for business grads, began with: cost saving in health care.
    I haven’t heard anything about that. My impression is everyone in the health industry from the lawyers looking to sue to the drug companies and builders of micro equipment is looking to INCREASE the costs. They see a chance to save huge, huge dollars as a huge, huge threat. Period.
    So what’s the idea?

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Meta-cognition! WOW! I am speechless……

  • Roberto

    Green IS more expensive. Duh. So, corporations can just do as they please, consuming limited resources and polluting our world? NO. Government balances this out by requiring compliance with regs. Some are restrictive, if poorly designed, but there is not another check out there I know of; consumers are too dumb. Ex? a 4-5 yr. old, good condition, used Prius costs about 15k, but doubles ones MPG. So why aren’t more people buying them/ Studidity or Ignorance, I believe. Just as most of us concur w/ban on certain toxins like PCBs, Lead Paint, etc., we must create carrots and sticks to make other environmental damage and wasteful products “Unacceptable.” If we accept bottle deposits (not all do…), then why not a scaled fee on everyday products, depending upon their manufacturing/disposal impact on the environment? Time to do our part; humans have raped the Earth long enough and we are definitely on the downside of civilization as we know it.

  • Dave

    “All those old Austrians remind me too much of my uncles and reinforce in me the idea that America has to come up with a uniquely American solution to its dilemma. Moreover, as you must have gathered I am convinced that America has already found the solution. It lies in the unspectacular centrist policies with which America managed its economy for much of the 20th Century.”

    My worry is that our current state of status quo affairs is very unsustainable
    and has internalized within it, much of the short term thinking, utopianism,
    and cozy corruption that has finally come to a nasty economic outcome.
    Incremental change may not fit the bill.

    (Not to mention how the Austrian/Libertarians called this whole fiasco:
    http://mises.org/daily/4730 )

    In short, that the crisis was not just a one time event, but was the opening
    chapter in a sad story of an unsustainable and corrupt approach that is finally
    falling apart.

    Again, I feel like our whole society, aided by the Fed easy money, and eager-
    to-please, unprincipled politicians, has been living wayyyy beyond its means,
    fueled by debt, and now we are being forced to reset to a more sustainable,
    realistic level. That means households, and that means how much the Federal
    Government has to spend on our utopian hopes for “fairness” or “equality”, as
    well-intentioned as they are.

    It seems to me, the status quo crowd, backed by Keynsian philosophy, is not
    willing to let us reset to a more realistic level, and is happy to continue to use
    debt spending to keep “the dream” alive, instead of letting the market and
    prices reflect what people want/need. The “free money” from the Fed perverts the market and lets Washington, in all its great wisdom, tell us what we SHOULD need. We have to pay for that through taxes and inflation and a weaker dollar.

    And since the people who really make the money off this model is bankers who do the lending, and Wall St types who bring the credit to the market in various forms, and the politicians they corrupt along the way, it doesn’t seem like a fair shake. And when that also comes in the form of expanding government participation in the economy, a model that has not ended well historically, in terms of economic vibrancy or individual liberty, it doesn’t seem worth the promise of the “virtuous cycle” that will save us all.

    Finally, to go American, and not Austrian:

    “And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle
    in one instance becomes precedent for a second; that second for a third; and
    so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automations of misery,
    to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed,
    the ‘bellum omnium in omnia’ [war of all against all], which some philosophers
    observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural,
    instead f the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of the frightful team is
    public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and

    Thomas Jefferson

  • Arturo

    The organic intellectuals of global capitalism are talking and the apparatchikis are giving us their best party line – ‘values’, ‘optimism’, ‘hope’,
    ‘opportunity’, ‘challenge’, ‘leadership’, ‘creativity’, and first-class baloney. .

    If the listeners want to visit the real world, please read Matthew Stewart’s “The Management Myth”.

  • Roger Eric

    Great comments so far — the B-schools are not the answer! Most of the “best and brightest” who went to Harvard and Wharton and others in the 80s/90s dreamed of being investment bankers or hedge-fund managers, and didn’t focus on how to increase the GNP in this country. Moving existing wealth around Wall Street is NOT improving our economy! I hope your production team will inform us of those who have long-range (not quarterly profit!) visions in American innovation that will keep us in the forefront of invention, quality manufacturing and healthy agricultural practices. Why are sharholders approving huge CEO salaries, when that money should go into R&D?

  • BHA

    Maximizing shareholder returns IS the problem!

    Everything for maximum current quarter profits so the shareholders are ‘happy’.

    What ever happened to REASONABLE return.
    Build a business that is solid and returns “inflation plus a percent or two”.

    Leaves some money for ecological and social consideration rather than profit, PROfit PROFIT

    How about getting rid of the feeling of entitlement? Execs making MILLIONS of $$ a year? Give THAT to the shareholders. The Execs aren’t working 1000 times as hard as the people at the bottom. And their ‘brilliant’ decisions are as likely to be off as on. Yet, they get paid HUGE amounts of money and when they screw up, they get paid HUGE amounts of money to leave.

  • J Belshaw

    What do these leaders have to say to the fact that the (business school taught) activities related to the financial meltdown were by all accounts completely unproductive for the economy? There is no change by financial institutions regardless of any ethos change mentioned, as shown by their recent quarterly profits.

  • Anne

    Question one:
    Under the topic of building strong and flexible organizations. Do business schools teach Open Book Management? What are the panelist/listeners thoughts on this concept.

    Question two:
    How do you measure or value the external costs of human activity?
    How are external costs measured and valued as it relates to business?

  • John Indresano

    The focus here seems to be about MBAs. When asked about creating wealth for one level of society a whole other level is being omitted. One creative design student may create hundreds of manufacturing assembly line jobs but those jobs may well be in Asia. We need those jobs here. Can MBAs help?

    For example the Lowell, MA shoe factory jobs which provided work for many uneducated hard working people in the ’60′s moved south and then to Asia. How does this level of society sustain a living today?

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Warren Buffet! He is master of the largest Ponzi scheme in World history, wait and see, wait and see.

  • Dave

    Thank you Nitin Nohria for finally pointing out governance and society are what creates markets! Tell your grads to stop trying to cheat the government and society by hiring lobbyists and instead put their efforts toward meeting those requirements.

  • Ivan Goloub

    I am impressed by the voices and expectations of these Deans. I wish my experience in school and business could support their optimism. I am going to pick on three catch words of the past 5 years – Transparency, Sustainability and Agility. You either understand these concepts and believe and live them or you don’t. You cannot be taught that turning on you car causes pollution, you know it in the core of your heart and mind. The invention process to create the iPhone, Web 2.0 and social networks, “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, were not taught in B-School – they were big ideas created by the inherently agile, creative and often ruthless focus of those individuals. It is great that Unilever wants to double profits (for its shareholders) and be sustainable (for the rest of the world) but do the CEOs understand the dichotomy of their goal? Can they be taught that fact? Compassionate Capitalism does not exist at least not outside the laboratory classroom.

  • Anne

    It is unrealistic to think that business schools can train students today to make a difference to this economy. It is nice that 5% of Harvard grads are entrepreneurs and 5% go into social enterprises, but 90% are NOT. They will have to satisfy the people above them to move forward and have any chance at power to change things in the future.

    Why don’t business schools more agressively persue their alumni for change?

  • Valkyrie607

    Damn! They never did answer any of the most interesting questions, at least not in a satisfactory way. Boo.

    My dislike for business schools and business majors has only been confirmed, I’m sad to say. They’re oblivious to the concerns of ordinary citizens, who, as evidenced by the comments here and by the calls to the show, have a strong grasp of the impact of business on the environment and an urgent concern about same.

  • Roberto

    Tom — Am turning off the radio; you are pitching softballs and not reading the comments here. Sorry this turned out to be so disappointing… Dean Blount’s closing remarks are “hopeful” but if she REALLY believed in that “scope” to include non-profits and exclude “cut-throats” she probably will have to stop using “business” in Kellogg’s brochures. Can’t imagine Harvard ever dropping the “B”!!

  • Scott Lumley

    In a world firmly gripped by the creeds of agnostic philosophy is it any surprise that we are churning out leaders with no sense of absolutes?

  • Tom Kroupa

    The response by Nitin Nohria about business being subject to regulatory rules by the government was disingenuous at best, misleading at worst. The BP oil spill, the mining disaster, and the most egregious, the meltdown on Wall Street could all have been prevented had the government not taken campaign contributions from the industry who wanted and got deregulation in return. These business schools also accept donations from those same industry leaders they graduated! Will they teach ethics to their students if it means that they will graduate to join businesses who will not game the system to their advantage and thereby provide revenue to their alma mater?

  • Valkyrie607

    Hush up with the religious claptrap, Scott Lumley. Religious people aren’t the only ones with a sense of morality.

  • Gene

    Great topic – I agree with the deans that innovation is the key to future growth, but I continue to be concerned that the benefits of this innovation do not flow to the masses. Once innovation happens, jobs are often moved outside the USA. How can the deans of the B-schools do more to help ensure more of these ‘innovation-based’ jobs are kept in the USA as opposed to often moving to lower cost labor markets elsewhere?

  • Andy Chenchar

    Tom, come on, that Sally Blount woman was just starting to admit … We may not have taught grads how not to do business any other way … I am paraprasing, but look back at her second to last statement where she admits their failure. She really skirted around their roll in the way business is being done.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    The most poignant moment on this DADT issue is the West Point Graduate who appeared on Rachel Maddox and explained he felt compelled to come out because he couldn’t live with the lie he was having to live every day and square (sorry) that with the Honor Code that all Cadets pledge to adhere to. When will this country wake up to the loss and damage this law causes? Let’s not forget the hundreds of Arabic translators who have been lost to the military because of DADT. How many lives has that cost?

  • John

    Like many other On Point shows I listen to, I learn more from the astute posters here on this comment board and not from the guests or the increasingly the poor questions asked by Tom.

  • Richard Simone

    Talk about talking to the foxes about how to improve the hen house; your guests are the establishment within the establishment. The real problem is capitalism itself, or at least the version of it predicated on greed and the endless supply of everything for everybody. In the B-school view India and China are monster markets ripe for Americanization, i.e. sell them stuff, stuff, and more stuff. The problem is that the planet couldn’t possibly sustain such a project, and if the Deans were really on top of things their programs would “accept” and integrate resource finiteness as an inescapable GIVEN. The result would inevitably “bend the curves” because you can’t have straight lines in a closed system. (Newtonianism is dead everywhere except in B-schools and economics.)

  • John

    Like many other On Point shows I listen to, I learn more from the astute posters here on this comment board and not from the guests or the increasingly poor questions asked by Tom.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    @Gene The missing step for me in the innovation and especially Open Innovation push is the lack of any real protection/reward for the original innovator. You want to help spur innovation, set up a system that grants a royalty license to first to invent. The floodgates will open wide.

  • http://www.lowenfoundation.com/ Flowen

    Missed much of the discussion, but it sounds like they are side-stepping the real issues in favor of maintaining the Status Quo for themselves (large & mid-size corporations, trade associations and political animals), which of course includes continued income inequality, environmental and social degradation.

    If business leaders are concerned with the environment, let them consider the environment they operate in, where laws and regulations originate with them, and are sanctioned by the political leaders. Government utilizes the population’s resources to enhance favorites and friends, just like a frat house. Then proclaim it to be in the public good, all the while legally and psychologically extracting assets and debt from the general population.

    Until business leaders, professors, and students study and expose and modify how markets are distorted by corporate/government interests by legislation, regulation, tax law, and PR in favor of maintaining the Status Quo, all we’ll get is more of the same; which I predict. After all, universities and academia are an important part of “the educational industrial complex.”

    If Business Schools are environmentally concerned, let’s see them begin with business’ own toxic political environment it operates in.

    I would be interested to hear these guests define “free market.”

    Get the bloat out of government, but let’s have a government that governs for everyone’s interest; that will in turn reduce much of the stress that is so widespread, financially and psychologically.

    Good luck to the 99%, we’ll need it.

    “People get the best government they deserve, and the worst government they will tolerate.”

  • Richard Jay

    Insufficient inclusion of business ethics in the required cirricula of universities and MBA programs is a major shortcoming of higher education in the U.S., and perhaps worldwide, in my opinion. Another shortcoming is a bias towards promotion of economic models that put business ethics at the mercy of financial markets while at the same time not confronting the important roles of government regulation and taxation as surrogates of societal ethics and goals.

    In my view, a heavy dose of business ethics ought to be required in the first and last years of undergraduate schooling and also at the Master’s level, addressing the subjects of business ethics, regulation, sustainability and their interrelationships. At the Master’s level, the requirement ought to be at least a one semester course.

    The above suggestion may appear to conflict with the reliance of universities’ funding sources for academic programs, i.e. big business. In fact, I believe it is in the best long term interest of businesses to themselves require and enforce stringent ethics standards and to support tough regulations on subjects such as the environment, human health, safety, and other needs of the public.

  • Jim in Omaha

    I couldn’t get through to ask what these schools are teaching about internalizing the costs of such things as destroying local employment and its tax base by outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, pollution/environmental damage from business practices, to name just a couple. Or even if they are teaching that these things actually are costs to be internalized in the market mechanism. If you don’t internalize the true costs of doing business a certain way, a market does not work properly and a worse result will occur.

    A great example is Brandstad’s constant refrain about how the “green” approach is always more costly. The reason for that is that the true costs of doing business without accounting for its effect on the environment are not accounted for in the market mechanism. How is climate change, or long-term damage to the Gulf ecosystem, or the need to have our military protect petroleum interests, factored into the market? To the contrary, they are passed on to society as a whole (often as taxes). Subsidies for gasoline-wasting vehicles (large and expensive roads), corn production for sweeteners and ethanol, among many other handouts to business, prevent the market from producing a truly efficient result.

    So my question to these academic leaders would have been: Are our future business leader being trained to recognize and demand correction of these flaws in the market model, or are they being trained to take advantage of, manipulate and expand these flaws (exercise political power and influence) for their own short-term profit?

  • Chris

    OK I’m a little confused. People in the miltary are supposed to follow orders (blindly apprently), but military leaders are worried about how their staff is going to react to this ban being lifted. Here’ a hint: Just order them to deal with it.

  • Steve

    Yet another attempt…

    Chaos or opting out.

    These folks do not understand that they are part of the problem…they believe that they are the “best and the brightest” and that by virtue of superior intellects thay have risen to run the nations business schools…

  • Gene

    @Charles A Bowsher – I understand and agree with you. I believe the original innovator should be properly protected and compensated for their important efforts. My concern is that too much of the benefit would still coalesce at the top of US companies and with Wall Street financiers after the innovator receives their benefit.

    To create jobs, we need to ensure US innovators are compensated so they continue their efforts, but then more needs to be done to distribute remaining benefit more broadly. That is the very difficult challenge, given the individualistic ‘grab what I can for myself’ mentality that seems more prevalent today than in past eras.

    And to begin tackling that issue, I believe the B-school deans (and indeed all deans across higher ed) can help by doing more to infuse ethics / morality discussion throughout curriculum, as well as addressing access to, and cost & efficacy of, quality education for a larger portion of the population.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Rewards for innovators? Wrong tree to bark up, in my opinion.
    I believe there was a program a while back where someone advised if you have an innovative idea, “go for it,” and hire the professionals you need. Hire an MBA to dfeal with the regulations, organize the political morass, the marketing, the taxes, the finances, what have you. The innovator might be dreadful at steering his or her idea. He or she needs an “agent.”
    Even then, an idea whose time has not come is a just a noise-maker. The reason is exactly the vast “organization” that exists in every human undertaking. I had an idea for a children’s game; want to flat out give it to a company that does this? No, you join a union, and go to Europe for the annual convention, etc., etc.; it is illegal to submit your idea for copyright and legal reasons. Have an idea for improving psychotherapy? After 20 years of toeing the line and publishing you might or might not get a chance to speak up; meanwhile the general ferment of the broader culture makes your dream come true. Got an idea for utilizing new technologies that makes a whole system of education for a certain profession irrelevant, or shifts it enough to affect the whole hierarchy? Don’t expect any reaction from anybody in the professional hierarchy (organization) except “That would be a fine idea for China or Russia; let us honor you with a trip thence, at your expense.” And in health care, with a lot of money involved, it is much harder to shift things. Too many oxes could be gored. Bulls, rather.
    The relation of the individual to the organization and vice versa is at the nexus of the corporate/capitalism restructuring quandary.

  • http://www.baypath.edu Rima Dael

    This was an interesting program but there are management students out there and graduate schools that produce mission-driven leaders who look to contribute value to society that are not MBA programs. These students choose to pursue degrees in Nonprofit Management, Public Policy, or Organizational Change etc.

    Programs like the one I teach in at the Graduate School Bay Path College provide leaders of tomorrow with a sound background in management theory & practice and most importantly skillsets in understanding organizational sustainability for nonprofit organization. We provide students with an M.S. in Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy, Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy and a M.S. in Higher Education.

    While Business Schools do a great job of training business leaders, Nonprofit Management programs train leaders of tomorrow who are business savvy, mission-driven and are committed to be change leaders for a positive future on a global stage.

    A. Rima Dael, M.S.
    Assistant Professor
    Acting Dir., M.S. Nonprofit Management & Philanthropy and M.S. Strategic Fundraising & Philanthropy
    Graduate School at Bay Path College

  • ThresherK

    Second try:

    Why the media fetish for CEOs who want to be governor and senator? Still wondering how their skillset (playing accoutning games, shedding too-poor client bases, threateninig cities states and countries with moving elsewhere, lobbying and bribing for deregulation and tax favors) applies to governance.

  • Brett

    It seems corporations aren’t even looking as far as quarterly reports these days. Big box stores are making their employees’ “flexible” (meaning “you work when we tell you to work”) schedules for the following week based on sales from the previous week. I heard a report from one of the shows on NPR in this past week about how people (who are working “flexible” [meaning erratic] schedules for low pay at retail outlets) are having trouble maintaining two part-time jobs because of the changing, often erratic and diminishing, nature of their schedules at those jobs.

    The report focused on how this will impact employment around the holiday season. An employee, let’s say, working at one big box store from 2p-9p and then from 12m-5a at another big box store may be asked to leave the first store during slow time (let’s say 4p-6p) and come back, then later in the day being asked to come in at 1a instead of midnight at the second store. The stress to produce sales then makes its way up and down the proverbial corporate food chain, irrespective of employees’ efforts.

    There is some variation of this theme running ostensibly through all for-profit businesses. Even in my own non-profit field of human services there seems to be a variation of this trend in that agencies generally aren’t hiring full-time employees (and haven’t been for a few years). The gaps are being filled in with under-qualified “relief” or substitute counselors who get paid less but really cost the agency more in terms of effectiveness (our own brand of “outsourcing”).

    The result is an under-compensated, overworked, under-employed work force suffering from morale problems and health concerns, both mental and physical, not to mention a very direct effect on productivity.

    I know, in a sense, I’m being incidental to the topic, perhaps off point, as it were, but in the real world, I’m not. This sends reverberations that are antithetical to attracting the “best and brightest,” innovation, R+D, and so on.

  • KadeKo

    Still wondering about the media fetish over CEOs who want to go into state capitols and Washington and “fix everything”. Their skillset (lobbying and bribing for special tax carveouts, a never-ending whine about overregulation, abandoning markets which don’t have the pockets to buy upscale goods, accounting tricks which explode five years later in the stockholders’ faces, and offshoring jobs) are going to translate into good governance how?

  • David

    The guy from Harvard: Every third word out of his mouth is either “innovation”, “imagination”, or “creativity”. Yet he demonstrates none of those qualities in his evasive answers. Pretty words. Lots of cotton candy. Fluff, nothing specific. But he has a nice accent. What can we expect from a bunch of administrators?


  • Nick


    You have to develop some testicular fortitude on your show or I am turning it off and switching to WGBH in the morning.

    You have been continually pitching slow balls to your guests. Today? You had the last few years of economic turmoil to roast their feet and all did was massage them.

    Very disappointing.

  • JPS

    I have heard the deans and I must say that they have failed. They talk of the big picture, thought leadership etc but I supervised young people from Wharton, NYU, Sloan School and Harvard B School. The schools and parents, I might add, all failed in teaching moral obligations. The kids think that they are entitled to money, power and an elite life style. They do not. I reminded a young person just today that if he mistreated the labor staff once more I would fire him. Let me say that I grew up in finance when MBAs were rare and we did very well. Grad schools need to work against moral arbitrage currently inculcated in their students.

  • Rachel

    Please stop saying “b-school” — none of the deans are doing it. Is this twitter radio??

  • Ruth Campbell

    I would like to hear these educators apologize for the mess their graduates have made in our country and the lack of responsibility they seem to feel for their unethical and unproductive way of doing business. I agree with many of the comments above that business schools should close down for a while to atone for their misdirection.

  • Dave

    It is refreshing to hear that the business deans here have some different ideas about business. However, it seems that we have turned out a generation of business grads that worship a totally unfettered market.

    They believe they have a right to play without rules and fight like crazy to stave off any attempt to create fairness and a level playing field through even small regulation. For far too long, they have sucked money from the economy for their bonuses or for dividends with no regard for workers or the larger good.

    QUESTION: I would like to know what business schools are doing to teach ethics? How are you teaching business leaders to not only think about the bottom line but also being good corporate citizens?

  • V. Gooding

    Businesses and the professionals who we educate to run them need to understand times have changed and they have to change to stay afloat. They need to understand that consumers are starting to set up economies of their own and will not continue to patronize certain businesses unless companies truly meet consumers’ expectations and true needs (at a cultural, grassroots level).

    It’s our job as educators to help students to understand this and that consumers evaluate products and services by synergies and systems with social responsibility being a major part of that. We can only help students to move to this enlightenment and to understand that the bottom monetary line should not be the metric by which to judge success. If we actively expose students to service learning projects and provide them with the tools to discover their true selves, purpose, and role in the world, then we should be on a better path to sensible profit and humanity over outrageous, class exploiting and stratifying profit.

  • Tad

    Although I don’t agree with all of the comments submitted above (e.g., criticisms of capitalism per se, generically), I’m really heartened to see just how low is the regard in which these deans and their B-schools and their graduates are held.

    All three of the guests are remarkably accomplished at spouting technobiz-managerial rhetoric, but the fact that what they spout (its terminology, its conceptualizations, etc., etc.) is such a crystal-clear demonstration that it is precisely these people who so perfectly embody and demonstrate how inefficiently and ineffectively our contemporary American economy (& society) allocates resources, creates (REAL) wealth, and distributes rewards makes it manifestly clear just how totally _clueless_ these people really are.

    “Create value” and Facebook? :-))))))
    “Business leadership?” :-)))))
    ~’Perhaps a teentsie bit to much emphasis on the markets and marketing?’ :-))))
    “Chief learning officer [:-))))]…

    Whatever is happening in America today that is analogous to, for example, all of the creations of Thomas Edison’s lab, or Bell Labs’ creation of the transitor, or the (govt-sponsored) creation of the TCProtocol and IProtocol (…or GPS), is NOT happening on Wall Street or in B-schools.

    Compare the starting salaries (and future compensation opportunities) of Harvard B-school grads to those of, say, MIT MSEEs.

    At best, your guests and their ilk are leeches.

    In any case, best regards to OnPoint’s staff from a retired engineer in Ann Arbor
    with specialties in real-time control software architecture and development processes for high-integrity software.

  • Philip Kaveny

    Thirty years ago in his ground breaking book “The Closing Circle”, Barry Commoner pointed out that we are really liquidating biological capital. Ignoring it as factor of production has the total effect to sinks all ships, no matter. It is like shifting the deck chairs around on the Titanic, and ignoring the iceberg we are bearing down on up.
    Philip Kaveny (UW Eau Claire)

  • Jennifer

    B-schools are the problem, not the solution. The problem is that business schools, like education schools, professionalize a set of skills that inevitably and necessarily vary from leader to leader and situation to situation. These “leadership” skills are only tangential to knowledge about and genuine experience in the business. What has driven this country’s business class toward a bottom-line mentality is that “leaders” often come from outside companies, brandishing their polished degrees, and make pronouncements about how things should work, rather than looking at how things are working. My father (now retired), an engineer who designed off-shore oil rigs and major ports around the world, watched the process in his own Fortune 500 company as ever younger “leaders” entered the company, often with little engineering knowledge, much less math skills, and decided how to run things. They would, for example, bid low in order to win a contract, without regard to the actual costs of the project. It’s a little like education “experts” making recommendations like “U” shaped desk arrangements and peer editing without knowing the content being taught and then demanding to see results on an exam. As a culture, we need to get real about these yahoos and get back to teaching and using and privileging real skills that actually design and build.

  • http://none Dale Lee

    Is it possible that the Deans (guests) read any of the excoriating commentary above…as some form of a reality check ? Their approval rating is clearly lower than that of our Republican and Democratic congressmen. Their insular reality, which they seem to believe is real, does not fit with the world as the majority experiences it. What will the “ultimate wake up call” look like for them (Deans)…and for the rest of the corporate drones and their politico fawns ? If there is to be a solution, surely it will be a bottom up, grass roots movement….perhaps the genesis of change can arise from this very group of skeptical listener/commentators….who apparently do not drink the business school “Kool-Aid” (made in Mexico).

    P.S. To Tom Ashbrook. Tom, when guests sidestep your question, it’s OK to say “You didn’t answer the question” then repeat the question for emphasis…and demand an answer. That really defines your job doesn’t….? i.e investigative journalism….? You can’t let them off the hook…or you’ve played the game by their rules.

    Thanks for your work.


  • Nick




    “Sean Mueller Accused Of Ponzi Scheme, Falsifying Documents”
    “A hedge fund manager who claimed his investments never lost money, even during the economic downturn, faces allegations that he ran a Ponzi scheme and admitted to falsifying documents in an apparent suicide note.

    Sean Michael Mueller, 41, who controlled Greenwood Village-based Mueller Capital Management LLC, threatened to jump off a building in Greenwood Village on April 22, Colorado Securities Commissioner Fred Joseph said Wednesday.”


    You are doing a real good at teaching them ethics of business.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I haven’t specifically checked, but I believe Harvard’s dean is newly appointed, so I am not holding the past against him. Maybe they are all newly appointed and trying to chart a new course. But of course they have to have the approval of the graduates if they hope their school will receive donations from the alumni. So they walk a fine line, even if they have radically new approaches.
    Personally, I have watched the undermining of business “ethics” since about 1978, before which time at least certain of our industries evolved without the help of business schools whatsoever. One might need a degree in engineering or other skill related to the industry you wanted to promote. But then the ENTIRE COMMUNITY would be at your elbow trying to help your particular industry to grow and thrive — because the community would thrive in tandem.
    Then all of a sudden — what laws did that? — there were plunderers poaching on communities, gobbling up industries and reconfiguring everything. Some hotshot from Germany with deep pockets would “arrange” to put a competitor out of business, thus reducing competition and costs, and wages would go down, and one thing would lead to another.
    Maybe business school pre-existed. I doubt it; nobody wanted an MBA in the ’60s, any more than they wanted an MFA (fine arts). But it seems to me the kind of profit-oriented thinking that marked the end of community-based industry had to be countered. And thus business schools evolved to teach Americans to counter that sort of thing. So.

  • http://www.mtbakerllc.com Michael T. Baker

    Dear Tom,
    I recently left industry as a General Manager of a large aluminum manufacturing company. It seems your guests missed have mastered the rhetoric and jargon but seem to look past our best resource for solutions, the people of the organization.

    I recently published a leadership book, “People, The Real Business of Leadership” which attempts to frame the need for business and indudtry to urgently reinvest in the “inclusive” culture which optimizes the capabilities, creativity, and passion of all employees. The real leader is one who instinctively understands the solution to the complex problems of today and the innovation lies within the “people” of the organization. The leader who uses his/her skills to create that workplace environment, invest in the people with money, time, respect, and nurture that culture will have the competitive, creative, and profitibility edge, everytime!

    Mike Baker

  • http://www.lowenfoundation.com/ Frederic Lowen

    Interesting discussions. As is often the case, the listeners/posters are hoping for somewhat deeper issues than the guests are prepared or willing to go.

    I for one want to know how they justify Business slanting the playing field so that money just rolls into their pockets, while the population’s quality of life is declining materially, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

    Others want to know about lack of ethics, short-sightedness, this quarter’s bottom line myopia, the “me first, me only” behavior; in short, why are we determined to win this race to the bottom?

    The guests, like all of us, are caught up in “the system,” the Status Quo, where we all do what is needed to survive: do the best you can within the Status Quo.

    The most important means of maintaining the Status Quo is to create and support confusion amongst the population. Which is not hard as our culture is characterized by confused interests: individuals’ interests are not aligned with cultural interests: an obvious example is the individual’s interest to save money, diametrically opposed to the current cultural interest, where we depend on growing economic activity: spend and borrow.

    Other obvious examples are people’s desire to cut government spending, but expecting continued government services; or the aim of business to improve productivity and continue capital purchases aimed at automation and labor reduction, while decrying a 15-20% real unemployment rate.

    Or, that inflation is not a monolithic measure. We in fact have inflation in scarce resources, while we have deflation in labor, and other common assets. What most people need will cost more, while what most people have to sell, will price for less.

    Or how, in the land of good and plenty, people struggle more and more.

    No wonder people are confused!

    One of the big problems is that American business has become adept at creating products, and then creating markets for those products; while not addressing real problems of the population. In fact, Tom’s discussion with the guests followed this model.

    Business seems to have forgotten that true wealth comes from solving real problems; rather, it is now clearly oriented to making money, period. It seems we have not only forgotten how to solve real problems, but perhaps out of our confusion, we can hardly identify our real problems, let alone real solutions.

    I believe the origins of this on this scale lie in Eisenhower’s original concept of “the military industrial complex.” Historically, right through the Korean war, the US never prepared for war as we do now. In fact, the world’s best weapons designers between the Civil War and WWII, found their best markets in Europe, as the US was characterized as “spending too little money on yesterdays’ weapons.”

    The significance of Eisenhower’s warning of the military industrial complex was based on a change in government/corporate relationship where the government would “empower” corporations to solve problems we might have, rather than focus on problems we do have. Fast track 50+ years and now our whole economy is driven by people contriving problems, marketing to insecurity and image seeking, while the ship of state is sinking.

    Unfortunately, the real solution lies in changing personal/collective values to something that is more mutually aligned. Unfortunate, because it is not as simple as legislation or regulation. I believe it will only happen from the grass-roots up, with influential people helping out as they realize the dire reality for the US and the world’s people.

    Let’s teach our young people it is about life, not money.

    Let’s value peace, health, security, and our environment, not power, image, a millionaire’s lifestyle, and more money than God. The difference is that the first are values of the body, the second are values of the ego.

    Let’s encourage creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship that results in products and services that add value and well-being, not illusory promises, guarantees and products that need to be replaced for the manufacturer’s top-line growth.

    Let’s make real food with shorter shelf life, and products that last longer than their warranties, and are worth repairing when needed.

    Let’s pay the real price of energy as we use it and acquire it, without sweeping most of the cost under the rug, out of sight. I contend this is the real driver in “out-sourcing” jobs, and preventing more sensible energy use, along with a myriad of other problems.

    Let’s pay for healthcare, not gamble with the financial industry’s healthcare insurance casino with it’s house odds.

    When I go to the doctor, I want him/her focused on me, not his machines, and not why I don’t fit his numbers.

    Let’s welcome women, with their feelings and sensibilities for what is healthy.

    Let’s figure out why we are going so directly in the wrong direction.

    Let’s turn this race to the bottom to a race to the top.

  • John

    Excellent Show. The business school deans were reading from a script much like the worst politicians. Sounded like advertisements for business schools, or the way all institutions tend to cover up truth. From my reading and listening, I see no change in attitude among business leaders. Priorities are and will always be the bottom line first. Short sightedness will prevail. The answer is to be found in the political system. We need major drastic Campaign Finance revision. The system must allow politicians to be free from outside money influence, so that politicians can occasionally become Statesmen.

  • Rebecca Rowley

    I appreciate this energetic conversation about B School relevance. Addressing multiple stakeholders and multiple bottom lines is imperative for education to stay relevant to the changes in business, government, and non-profits.

    One caller’s comment about Leadership for Change at Boston College refers to a graduate level program for working professionals that addresses the business need for collaborative leadership in sustainable and responsible business in practice. They have an Info Session on Wednesday, November 17th at 6PM in Fulton 513 at Boston College.

  • Mark

    These comments are expectedly insipid. Any business school student is working to make a better life for himself/herself and his/her family – like any human being. Shockingly, private sector opportunities offer the best platform to accomplish this. The MBA provides the basic tools to learn what drives businesses, economies, not-for-profits, and capital allocation. Let’s remember, over time private corporations create wealth and move the economy forward – not government. Let’s grow up and have a serious conversation outside of the NPR echochamber.

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