Analyzing Schools of Thought for Vanderbilt University

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My colleague identified Vanderbilt University as being part of two schools of thought, the Learning School and the Cultural School. As discussed, Vanderbilt is continually looking to expand their knowledge and promotes “creative experimentation of ideas and concepts” (Vanderbilt, 2013). At the same time, they enjoy the status quo and would prefer to keep things as traditional as possible. Based on these ideals, I agree with my colleague’s analysis and support that the organization is both a mix of the Learning School and the Cultural School.

It is clear that development and strategic planning is a reflection of the school’s culture. The phrase “the Vanderbilt way” highlights the main point of the Cultural School, which relies on beliefs and values in decision-making (Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, & Lampel, 2009). It also explains the negative resistance to change that is clearly exhibited. While this can be useful at times it can also alienate those with creative ideas who challenge the status quo. In turn, this could negatively impact the organizational structure and influence its ability to appropriately respond to a changing market.

While my colleague points out the inability to make a change for fear of being let go from the organization, I believe this hinders the strategic functioning of the school. As discussed by Helfat et al. (2007), organizations need the ability to be dynamic. Dynamic capability is “the capacity of an organization to purposefully create, extend, or modify its resource base” (4). This means that companies need to be flexible enough to modify their thought processes and strategic goals to change with the times. Vanderbilt could benefit from focusing more on the Learning School of thought to help rectify this issue.

Overall, my colleague did a thorough job of analyzing the schools of thought and I agree with the thought process behind it all. While I also understand why it is difficult to push back against the status quo, I believe it could benefit the school. Change is hard but often needed.


Helfat, C., Finkelstein, S., Mitchell, W., Peteraf, M., Singh, H., Teece, D., & Winter, S. (2007). Dynamic capabilities: Understanding strategic change in organizations. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B., Lampel, J. (2009). Strategy safari: The complete guide through the wilds of strategic management. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall.

Vanderbilt (2013). Mission, Goals and Values. Retrieved from