The ultimate test of any scholarly program involves the way that the program impacts the thinking of its students. We interviewed alumni from first decade of the Weatherhead DM program in an effort to understand how the DM program impacted their thinking.
Without exception, alumni indicated that the program changed their thinking. The characterization of this impact, however, differed from student to student. Some emphasized breadth, others depth, but every alum indicated that there was a difference in his or her thinking as a result of the program:
“[The program] affected my thinking dramatically. I can’t remember what I used to be like. I’m aware every day facing different situations where I reflect on things from the program.”
“I view the world differently now, I think about it differently, I process input differently, I speak about it differently, I write about it differently.”
For those that emphasized breath of their thinking, a number indicated that the program afforded a global perspective that they otherwise would not have come by:
“The EDM program changed the way I think. It opened me up to the macroshifts, to step back and understand the impact of globalization. That’s just a different level of thinking.”
On the other hand, those that emphasized depth tended to indicate that the program enables them to deal with situations in a much more thorough manner – beyond the short, superficial summaries that dominate contemporary society:
“One gets a point in their career where everything is PowerPoint slides and three paragraph notes… [in the DM program, we] get the chance to make arguments.”
This depth is also manifest in greater intellectual discipline, rigor and analytical skills of DM alumni. One alumnus indicated that a specific theoretical perspective he discovered during the program equips him with the tools to assess everyday situations:
“The methods that I learned have been helpful. My approach to things is much more thoughtful than in the past. One of the big problems that business has in general is that our concepts are very weak, we don’t think conceptually in a business context… theories of collective action, I use that stuff! What is the commons? What are the externalities? … It has changed my approach to lots of things.”
Just as many indicated that theoretical perspectives enabled them to think analytically, others credited the scientific rigor taught in the program with their ability to analyze data in practice:
“It made a fundamental change on my way of thinking ? the applied research; the way you look at data; the way you analyze data is different. Corporations make decisions based on erroneous or inadequate or incomplete data. They do so because they don’t have the depth of analytical thinking. They give anecdotal data a cursory look and commit.”
Finally, the analytical training of the DM Program removed the mystique of the ivory tower – the dense writing and complex methods that often obfuscate academic ideas in the eyes of practitioners. DM alumni have no problem understanding and assessing academic research after the program:
“I can pick up any academic article and understand it… I’m not intimidated by the tidal wave of information I’m exposed to.”
“I can read and digest research… I can speak to academics and collaborate better with them.”
Nicholas Berente is a former faculty member of the doctorate of management program (now an Assistant Professor with the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia). Dr. Berente interviewed alumni from the first decade of the DM program. This blog is the fourth of five based on those interviews. Part 1 addressed why DM alumni decide to pursue a doctorate. Part 2 summarized their reasons for choosing the Case program. Part 3 highlighted their reflections on their time in the program. The final portion (part 5) will address the impact of the program on their careers.