It is no doubt true that an experienced executive will quickly learn the ropes of an industry new to him. The product may be different, but the tasks will be basically the same: assess market share, learn the routes of distribution, fine-tune the relationship between inventory and demand, increase efficiency perhaps by downsizing the workforce.
But in the academy there is no product except knowledge, and that may take decades to develop, if it develops at all. The concept of market share is inapposite; efficiency is not a goal; and there is no inventory to put on the shelves. Instead the norms are endless deliberations, explorations that may go nowhere, problems that only five people in the world even understand, lifetime employment that is not taken away even when nothing is achieved, expensively labor-intensive practices and no bottom line. What is an outsider to make of that?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Academia: Not Like Business
On his NY Times blog, Stanley Fish weighs in on the controversy over the appointment of a businessman who lacks an advanced degree as the new president of the University of Colorado. Fish explains why business acumen may not be so useful in running a university: