Posted by: Louis Lavelle on March 12, 2010
You knew it had to come to this eventually. Just when you thought the b-school curriculum at some programs couldn’t possibly get any more knowledge-lite (you can get an MBA in 8 months now) along comes this: At least one school is trading in a textbook for a comic book.
At Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business (Rawls Full-Time MBA Profile), the graphic novel Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed (published by Flat World Knowledge) is now required reading in both undergraduate and graduate business courses taught by its co-author, Jeremy Short. The book’s other co-authors are Talya Bauer at Portland State (Portland State Full-Time MBA Profile) and Dave Ketchen at Auburn (Auburn Full-Time MBA Profile). The illustrator is Len Simon.
Short, in a news release, says the book was conceived as a way to help college students better understand and retain the information they receive:
Think of all the textbooks college students have to wade through during their college careers. I’ve found that the traditional textbooks have a disconnect with the students. So the students have a hard time retaining the information—but Atlas Black uses a fixed set of characters that apply the material to their story.
There’s some precedent for using fiction in business school classrooms—in ethics classes, for example, professors frequently use detailed hypothetical examples to get students to think about ethical dilemmas they may face in the business world. So what’s Atlas Black about? Well, according to the publisher, quite a lot:
This graphic novel is about Atlas and his struggle to navigate his college career and plan his new life. With the help of his sidekick (and honors student), David Chan, the witty insights of their local barrista, Tess, his sage management professor, and the mysterious "Black", Atlas will work to fund his college expenses, start a new business, and act as a fledgling entrepreneur, along the way illustrating key concepts from principles of management, organizational behavior, strategic management, and entrepreneurship. In contrast to the often 'dry' descriptive approach of traditional texts, and the superficial cheerleading of the latest "pop management" books, Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed brings concepts to life using a graphic novel format that undergraduates, MBA's, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in more deeply grasping business is certain to find both educational and entertaining.
There's a YouTube video of Short describing the book, for anyone interested in hearing more. The book itself sells for $14.99 on Amazon.com.
Short says other colleges and universities (nationally and globally) are considering the book for their own curricula, but this is the first one I've heard of that's actually using it in the classroom.
So what's the verdict: comic books in the b-school classroom--is this a good idea? I'm torn. In a world of disappearing attention spans, this may be a fine adaptation. Then again, it could be the precipice of a very slippery slope that someday finds MBA students getting everything they need to run a business from Twitter. What's everybody think?