Behavior science courses should be gaining prominence in business school curricula. Recent theoretical work convincingly shows why behavioral factors such as organizational culture and employee relations are among the few remaining sources of sustainable competitive advantage in modern organizations. Furthermore, empirical evidence demonstrates clear linkages between human resource (HR) practices based in the behavioral sciences and various aspects of a firm’s financial success. Additionally, some of the world’s most successful organizations have made unique HR practices a core element of their overall business strategies.
Yet the behavior sciences are struggling for credibility in many business schools. Surveys show that business students often regard behavioral studies as peripheral to the mainstream business curriculum. This perception can be explained by the fact that business students, hoping to increase their attractiveness to prospective employers, are highly sensitive to business norms and practices, and current business practices have generally been moving away from an emphasis on understanding human behavior and toward more mechanistic organizational models. Furthermore, the status of HR professionals within organizations tends to be lower than that of other executives.
Students’ perceptions would matter less if business schools were not increasingly dependent on external funding—form legislatures, businesses, and private foundations—for survival. Concerned with their institutions’ ability to attract funding, administrators are increasingly targeting low-enrollment courses and degree programs for elimination.