For most MBA students, the closest they will get to the healthcare sector and agriculture during their time at business school will be the hefty cheques US schools require for medical insurance and the pizza and subs that fuel all-night assignments.
Even when the end of study is in sight and the job market beckons, healthcare and the food and drink arena still don’t seem to attract the attention of MBAs that they arguably should. In last year’s survey of most attractive employers conducted by Universum you have to wait until the number 14 slot for a healthcare specialist – Johnson and Johnson – while the first food and drink company in the form of Coca Cola doesn’t arrive until number 21.
But don’t these sectors merit more attention from the next generation of corporate leaders? After all it would be difficult to think of two areas that impact our lives so noticeably every single day. And healthcare services alone has been responsible for creating as much as a third of all new jobs in the US since 2009 according to figures from the Labor Department.
Because of their ambition and ability – and because of the hefty debts so many rack up during their time on campus – MBAs always like to be at the centre of the action. And schools encourage this with big bold statements such as ‘Change lives, change organisations, change the world’ at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. However, according to a professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management at Canada’s McGill University, that center may now be precisely where the neglected arenas of healthcare and agriculture intersect.
The devil is, of course, in the detail, and there is a lot of it to digest, but the essence of Professor Laurette Dubé’s thesis seems to be twofold. First that, while food production has risen dramatically over the past 50 years, this is not necessarily benefitting the agriculturally based communities that make up large parts of the developing world. And second, that we are producing more and more foodstuffs which are contributing to epidemics of potentially avoidable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular breakdown and cancer.
Of course, governments will need to play a part in tackling these two problems, but they are so big and so complex that Dubé appears to believe that public bodies simply cannot solve them on their own. The key seems to lie in the involvement of the business world, the application of entrepreneurial spirit and, if I dare say it, good old-fashioned capitalism to create a value chain which will make any projected solution actually work. A synthesis of ‘agriculture, health and wealth’, as she puts it.
So for the MBA who does want to change lives, change organizations and most important of all change the world perhaps it’s time for a rethink. Forget Google, Apple and Facebook – that’s just shiny toys stuff. Get yourself a job in a healthcare company or agribusiness and start making a real difference for a change.