Key factors for the business school of the future

Von am 18. März 2015
Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. (mult.) Peter Lorange

The business school of the future can be expected to be rather different than what we typically find today when it comes to top quality business schools. There are at least four major factors that can be expected to play roles, when it comes to the reshaping of such institutions. This is likely to lead to both higher quality for the learning dimension that the schools are offering, and a more cost-efficient business model. As such, we can expect to see the business school sector to dramatically change, to achieve improved quality at a lower cost – a trend that we have seen so far in many other sectors of the business society.

The modern Student: The modern student shall already be set on her/his career path, and shall typically be reluctant to abandon this in order to go back to study. At the same time she/he typically recognize the need to engage in lifelong learning, in light of the fact that new knowledge now tend to get generated at a dramatically accelerated rate.

This calls for a more flexible curriculum structure with shorter, intensive workshop modules. The class focus would be more towards active discussions of cutting-edge dilemmas, taking place in generally smaller classes. The student tends to be older, with relevant experience to offer, which would be beneficial for everyone’s learning. It would be up to the student to organize her/his sequence of learning modules in such a way that both the requirements of school and job are met. The length of study would thus no longer be specified – only a relatively liberal maximum length.

Distance Learning: The technology has evolved dramatically. This has opened up for learning opportunities for individuals at home. When it comes to more basic materials, in particular, self-studies at home might be effective. This then opens up for face-to-face learning in workshop settings, where cutting-edge dilemmas are debated. So, I foresee a blend of independent distance learning and face-to-face classroom – based learning at school. It is of course important for a business school to give mandatory pre-tests to each student, to control not only that the self-studying has been done, but also that the more basic materials has been meaningfully absorbed/understood. It follows also that pre-reading materials shall be available on the computer, typically as a collection of relatively short learning notes, if necessary, specially prepared, and no longer such heavy reliance on classical text-book,.

New Pedagogy: Consider a classroom with flat floor, in contrast with the classical amphitheater style auditoriums. Consider further that there are 5 round tables in the classroom, with 7 chairs at each table. This would thus allow for a maximum of 35 students in a classroom – a much smaller number than what we might typically be used to. There would be flipcharts all around, but no blackboard. And, there would be no earmarked pulpit for the professor – she/he shall be expected to mingle around. The inputs from the professor would be relatively short, elaborating on a key dilemma, say for 30 minutes. The participants would then discuss this in each table group – say, for another 20 min, in the auditorium, not in separate study rooms – for emphasis on the intensity of learning as well as for time-efficiency reasons. Finally, there would be a plenary discussion, say for 20 min or so, where the dilemma(s) is (are) debated, and summarized by the professor. There is evidence that in two days of learning along this mode, one might cover what normally would have to be covered over 5 days.

The Professor: Professors would now be part-time to offer their cutting-edge expertise in intensive focused workshops, calling for her/him to be an orchestrator and interpreter/synthesizer. She/he would typically work at several business schools. She/he must be at the forefront – research is the key for this. Research is done by the individual, and is her/his property, not the property of a particular business school. And, the professor might come from business too, and not only from classical academic careers. What matters is that she/he has cutting-edge knowledge of a topic, and that she/he is having the now called for pedagogical shills. It is clear that the modern business school shall have a responsibility to fund research. But, applied research, cum achieving cutting-edge insights regarding a given topic, also comes to the professor through learning from the debates/knowledge exchange of the participants.

Conclusion: I expect the business school of the future to be dramatically different than what is common today. The physical campus facilities shall no longer be enormous. Learning takes place to a large extent at home. And, there would be little-to-no office space – but a lot of “meeting-places” for discussions. The professors in this setting shall be more like what we found in the classical academic institutions, before von Humboldt’s “reforms” at 1809. And, the students shall be renamed “participants”.





Über Peter Lorange

Professor Dr. Dr. hc (mult.) Peter Lorange is Chairman Lorange Institute of Business Zurich. He has been President at IMD in Lausanne for 15 years before he founded the Lorange Institute of Business Zurich in 2010. Peter Lorange received his Ph.D. at Harvard and has several honorary doctorates from renowned universities. The Norwegian taught at the Wharton School and the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of more than 20 books and on the board of several companies.