What are the winning cards for business schools?
How will business schools look like when they are created on the surface of Mars some decades from now? What will have been the major advances in management science by then? How will management jobs and professional skills differ from the ones prevalent today?
I believe that these questions may be partly responded by analyzing what the most innovative business schools, some disruptive educational players and other outliers are implementing today. A number of powerful forces are transforming the present and the future of business education, at a faster speed than never before. The globalization of higher education, the impact of new technologies on the learning process and the role of teachers (e.g., flipping the classroom, blended programs), recognizing the value of diversity and new forms of intelligence in students, along with the upsurge of multifarious sources and channels for the generation and distribution knowledge are some of those forces changing education.
The new environment shaped by these forces brings many opportunities to business schools if they are open and adaptive to change. At the same time, those institutions that play ‘Business as usual’ risk loosing relevance, market share and even disappearing.
The recent crisis has represented an opportunity for business schools to revisit their basic mission of preparing the best possible managers and entrepreneurs and to implement some opportune changes that head towards this direction. Of course, we may not be able to avoid future crisis just by changing the MBA curriculum or emphasizing professional deontology. Management is a complex phenomenon, deeply embedded in social practices and intricate as is any other manifestation of human interpersonal behavior. We may still be in the infancy of our understanding of management, but the hopes are high for next big jumps in business knowledge if research is linked closer to real business challenges and connected to related advancements in the Humanities and the other Sciences.
For example, at IE Business School we just revamped our MBA Program in order to provide a true transformational experience for its participants, offering two alternative tracks that are aligned with the students’ prospective career plans. The first track is targeted at the “creators”, those with a special focus on entrepreneurship and start-ups, providing access to a global network of investors, business angels and potential partners. The second track, intended for “transformers”, for those students that prefer to concentrate on developing their managerial careers in the corporate world but with a distinctive innovative approach.
Business schools also have the opportunity of expanding their activities and for impacting the business world more effectively if they engage actively in executive education training and development, one of the fastest growing segments in higher education nowadays. This activity may require different methodological approaches, and the employment of professors and consultants that lie beyond traditional academic faculty.
In this vein, IE Business School has created an alliance with the Financial Times Group, the FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance, a joint venture whose mission will be to combine academic muscle and direct knowledge of companies with a vocation for integrating technology and teaching. Its reach will be global and it is open to collaboration with other business schools around the world. I believe that similar platforms will appear in the coming years.
In sum, a future fascinating and challenging, where quick adaptation, flexibility, innovation and the leadership of business schools’ deans may be the winning cards.