Lifelong learning initiative urges graduates to reach for the moon

Business Impact: Lifelong initiative urges graduates to reach for the moon

Lifelong learning initiative urges graduates to reach for the moon

Business Impact: Lifelong initiative urges graduates to reach for the moon
Business Impact: Lifelong initiative urges graduates to reach for the moon

A recent lifelong learning programme held for alumni of Egade Business School centred on  ‘moonshot thinking’.

The moonshot mental model was showcased as a useful approach to thriving in disruption and implementing organisational transformation. It is about trying to make what seems impossible possible, most commonly by attacking big problems with radical thinking (ie thinking that reaches for the moon) with the use of disruptive technology. Speaking ahead of the programme, Alfonso Ávila, innovation and entrepreneurship professor at Egade said: “Viewing disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat will be the mindset after this journey.”

The journey Ávila describes is a week-long lifelong learning initiative at the school, known as Egade U Week, of which he is also academic director. Specifically targeting its alumni community, it is designed to provide intensive learning that updates graduates’ knowledge and skills through conferences, workshops and panels, as well as by providing spaces for dialogue and the sharing of opinions and ideas.

Speakers during Egade U Week included Esade Business School’s chief innovation officer Iván Bofarull, who is the author of the 2020 book Moonshot thinking, and Fernando González Olivieri, an alumnus of Egade and the CEO of Mexican multinational CEMEX. Also featured were Egade dean Horacio Arredondo and Inés Sáenz, vice-president of inclusion, social impact and sustainability at the wider Tecnológico de Monterrey.

Director of alumni relations at Egade María Livas said that moonshot thinking “can serve as a tool to help companies avoid disruption and emerge with enhanced strength”.

Offered exclusively to its alumni community, or ‘Exatec Egade’ as the school terms its graduates, Egade U Week is now in its fourth year. Last year’s programme focused on digital transformation with headline speakers from TikTok and Amazon Web Services.

This article originally appeared in the print edition (Issue 2 2023) of Business Impact, magazine of the Business Graduates Association (BGA).

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Cover Story

A World of Difference

An annual summer school offered to executive MBA (EMBA) students studying at multiple locations around the world allows participants to come together and transform their differences into assets that drive personal growth. Director of EMBA programmes at the School of Management Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG-Uqam) Kamal Bouzinab offers an in-depth guide to an intensive week of experiential learning, cross-continental dialogue and networking.

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How to unleash creative thinking at work

Business Impact: How to unleash creative thinking at work

How to unleash creative thinking at work

Business Impact: How to unleash creative thinking at work
Business Impact: How to unleash creative thinking at work

For centuries, humans have mythologised the creative process as something magically elusive. The channelling of a higher power; a proverbial light bulb above the head. When all our cultural narratives insist creativity is something mystical, is it any surprise we have problems uncovering insights into its workings?

Whether it’s an idea drought or writer’s block, so many of us feel that there’s no solution to hitting a creative wall and that the only option is to wait it out and pray that a flash of inspiration strikes again soon.

Well, I’m here to tell you why that isn’t the case. Just like anything else, creativity can be enhanced and managed through a variety of techniques in much the same way that a diet and exercise plan can improve your general health. But before we get into those techniques, let’s get some myth-busting out of the way.

Leaving binary thinking behind

Mindset plays a huge part in our propensity to be – or not be – creative. Psychologists have identified two key mindsets which have an uncanny ability to predict success later in life: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

While those with a growth mindset see intelligence, talent and creativity as something which can develop and evolve over time, those with a fixed mindset believe our baseline levels of intelligence, talent and creativity are fixed and cannot be improved by practice or through study.

The truth is that none of us are fixed – we are ever-evolving. You only need to look at human history to see that this is true, and I’d bet you know a few people in real life who have grown and developed over the course of their life.

When I have conversations about creativity with people in the corporate world, many of them will tell me they’re simply “not the creative type” or that they’re “left-brained people” from which they mean that creative thinking doesn’t gel with them. This kind of black and white, binary thinking is a huge part of the problem. Not only has the myth of being left or right brained now been busted – there’s no reason why a person can’t be good at both art and science – but there’s also no such thing as a ‘creative type’. Or rather, anyone can be a creative type given access to the right knowledge and techniques, plus an all-important extra ingredient of self-belief.

Accessing your creative spirit

Picture yourself as a creative person. Not a real person, but simply your idea of how a creative person might look. For a lot of people, the image that springs to mind is of someone with a bohemian style. We have that idea that creativity can’t exist in shirts and suits; that it’s something arty, a gift bestowed on a lucky few. Let go of this idea. Being able to recognise that anyone can be creative gives you permission to access the hidden depths of your own creative spirit.

In case you need any more convincing, there is also research which suggests that there is no ‘creative gene’. While there are certain genetic predispositions that are associated with neuroplasticity, which might improve a person’s ability to be creative, these do not guarantee it. Instead, the attitudes, ideas and techniques a person uses are far more effective predictors of how creative a person might be.

In nine out of 10 cases, a creative block appears because of limits on our thinking. Let’s start by running through a few common scenarios and then dive into how you can push past them.

The first thing to assess when you’re struggling with a creative block is your approach. Are you being a perfectionist? Are you afraid of doing the wrong thing? Are you putting undue pressure on yourself? Striving for perfection may sound like a good thing, but it is a huge killer of creativity. Just take a look at some of the most creative people to ever walk the earth – from Steve Jobs to Albert Einstein – failure was a key ingredient in getting each to the end goal of their ultimate success.

You may well find that giving yourself permission to be messy and get stuff wrong starts to lift the fog of your block all on its own. When ideating or looking to solve a problem, I always recommend coming up with two sets of ideas: silly, outlandish ideas and more restrained, sensible ones. Really go for this. Then, when you have your two lists of ideas, why not try fusing the best silly idea with the best sensible one? Standout ideas so often exist in that sweet spot between madness and sanity. Try it and you might just be surprised.

Challenging thinking traps

The next thing to look at when it comes to creative blocks is thinking traps. You may believe that your thinking is neutral – simply a tool to get you where you need to go mentally – well, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Convention, habit and bias are all blinding forces which can cloud your thinking and block your creativity. I summarise the key thinking traps as selective thinking (a bias which means you favour your own pet ideas) reactive thinking (allowing a knee-jerk response to guide you rather than thinking things through) and assumptive thinking (assuming that the way things have always been done will always work). The final thinking trap to add into this mix is groupthink – the phenomenon where everyone starts to think in silos and agrees with each other, preventing new ideas from flourishing.

So, how can we challenge these thinking traps, I hear you ask? By changing our perspective. Being aware of these thinking traps is the first step to tackling them and the second is to learn to challenge your own biases. List everything you believe and assume about a problem and then try to find ways to flip these ideas on their head – look for ways your own ideas can be proven wrong. Ensure you never jump to action without stopping to strategise first and know that just because something has worked in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work again now.

You can combat groupthink in collaborative settings by having everyone come up with their own individual ideas before coming into a brainstorm session. That way, everyone can go round and read out their ideas without being derailed or influenced by the ideas of others – setting a solid foundation for a truly eclectic and innovative ideation session.

There are plenty of other techniques to help you come unstuck, too – and most work by forcing you out of your own mental comfort zone so you can see things from a different perspective.

For example, reverse brainstorming tackles problem solving by asking you to look for ideas about how you can make your problem worse, rather than better. It might sound a little crazy at first, but I know firsthand that some of the most novel solutions come from unexpected places. By forcing yourself to approach a problem or creative block from an entirely different angle, it removes pressure and frees up your imagination. The number of people who have overcome their own creative blocks in exactly this way is truly remarkable.

No matter what the nature of the creative block you’re currently facing is, I’d like to leave you with a single message and that is to have faith in your own abilities. There is no reason at all why you can’t be just as creative as anyone else. With increased self-belief and a diminished fear of failure, you’ll soon be knocking down creative blocks with the strength of an army. Empower your creative imagination and watch the ideas roll in.

Chris Griffiths is a keynote speaker on learning creativity, the author of The Creative Thinking Handbook and the founder of Ayoa, a platform offering workplace tools for collaboration and innovation.

Read more Business Impact articles related to leadership:

Download the latest edition of the Business Impact magazine

Cover Story

A World of Difference

An annual summer school offered to executive MBA (EMBA) students studying at multiple locations around the world allows participants to come together and transform their differences into assets that drive personal growth. Director of EMBA programmes at the School of Management Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG-Uqam) Kamal Bouzinab offers an in-depth guide to an intensive week of experiential learning, cross-continental dialogue and networking.

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How space can fuel innovation on Earth

Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth

How space can fuel innovation on Earth

Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth
Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth

Identifying the presence and concentration of microplastics in fish, a health alert system for air quality and 3D food printing were among the winning projects of the Global Space Sustainability Challenge (GSSC) announced towards the end of 2022.

The challenge aims to further the cause of sustainability worldwide by finding economically viable and scalable solutions that can help accelerate the global transition towards decarbonisation.

The idea to hold the GSSC stemmed from our belief that businesses should not make tradeoffs between making profits and preserving the planet; these two goals can work in synergy and great opportunities lie at their intersection.

In particular, business schools should advocate for purpose-driven startups and sustainable business practices. It is our responsibility to educate and empower the next generation of leaders and global change agents and visionaries who will contribute in the creation of a sustainable future on Earth.

The limitless resources of space

Since grand challenges defy conventional solutions, we decided to collaborate with Metavisionaries, a space technology startup, and other well-established aerospace companies/entities, such as Blue Origin Club for The Future, to leverage space and come up with innovative solutions. We wanted to educate young people about the limitless resources of space and inspire business schools to take the lead in building space innovation ecosystems and highlight their role in creating growth opportunities in the space economy.

The challenge is also designed to leverages the momentum of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and build on the work of Qatar’s Supreme Committee of Legacy and Delivery, responsible for the planning, delivery and hosting of this global event.

How space can fuel innovations and improve lives

Multidisciplinary teams between the ages of 16 to 26 years, from educational institutions around the globe, joined forces to use space access, science and technology to tackle pressing sustainability issues that relate to the SDGs and competed across five tracks: Climate Solutions (SDG 13); Sustainable Food and Agriculture (SDG 2); Life Science and Healthcare (SDG 3); Sustainable Consumption and Production (SDG 12); Sustainable Arts, Fashion and 3D Printing.

This challenge has illustrated some of the ways in which space can fuel innovations and improve lives during the post-Covid-19 recovery, especially at a time when economic growth and societal wellbeing are key objectives for nations around the globe. More specifically, and as showcased by some of winning teams’ innovative ideas, space science and technologies can play an instrumental role in advancing sustainability by, for example, monitoring the environment and natural resources, improving food safety and identifying health risks.

But perhaps most importantly, projects that involve young people from different countries and disciplines contribute to knowledge sharing and collaborative long-lasting learning across domains and countries. This is especially important, since the space sector should get more support and attention from governments, private investors and educators.

It is hoped that such opportunities can also shed light on the importance of integrating space curriculum in K12 education and creating space-related disciplines in higher academic institutions. In the process, such space-related activities can play a significant role in inspiring future generations and promoting STEM disciplines, especially in countries where numbers are falling significantly. This will help create an ecosystem that advances the space economy and creates new opportunities for space-related innovations and startups. This is why business schools should take the lead in initiatives such as the GSSC.

The winners

Here is a full list of the GSSC’s winning projects by track:

Life Science and Healthcare:
Project title: Particulate Matter Monitoring
Description: a health alert system, which is a device that reads PM2.5 particles and sends the data to an app working in cohesion with a satellite to plot concentration points on a map.

Sustainable Food and Agriculture:
Project title: Ocean Microplastics: determining the future of seafood production
Description: A prediction model for the concentration of microplastics, fish quality and production in different fishing areas ased around collecting satellite and land-based data related to microplastic concentration and water properties. The aim is to improve fish quality and quantity delivered to the world population.

Sustainable Consumption and Production:
Project title: Self-Exploring, Self-Deorbiting CubeSats 
Description: A mechanism for self-deorbiting CubeSats [miniaturised satellites with a mass of no more than 2kg] to finish their active life in Low Earth Orbit and reuse the re-entered material.

Sustainable Arts, Fashion and 3D Printing:
Project title: 3D food printing in space
Description: 3D food printing allows for the creation of nutritionally complete designs to keep astronauts physically healthy and enables them to make custom meals inflight. The ability to combine personal needs with individually tailored nutrition-design would be stimulating and good for mental wellbeing.

Climate Solutions (joint winners):
Project 1 title: Phytoplankton
Description: Providing safe habitats for phytoplankton to increase oxygen levels in our atmosphere and monitoring their health and status globally from space.
Project 2 title: Clean Space Energy Station
Description: Building a space station that fuels planes with alternative energy.

Rana Sobh is a professor of marketing and dean of the College of Business and Economics at Qatar University. She received her PhD from the University of Auckland. Sobh advocates for a paradigm shift in business education to empower the next generation of ethical and competent leaders who can create a sustainable future for all.

Read more Business Impact articles related to innovation:

Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth
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How space can fuel innovation on Earth

How the space economy can help business schools advocate for purpose-driven startups and sustainable business practices. Rana Sobh, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Qatar University, on the winners of the Global Space Sustainability Challenge

Read More »

Download the latest edition of the Business Impact magazine

Cover Story

A World of Difference

An annual summer school offered to executive MBA (EMBA) students studying at multiple locations around the world allows participants to come together and transform their differences into assets that drive personal growth. Director of EMBA programmes at the School of Management Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG-Uqam) Kamal Bouzinab offers an in-depth guide to an intensive week of experiential learning, cross-continental dialogue and networking.

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Business Impact?

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Tim Banerjee Dhoul

Content Editor
Business Impact

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Innovating for success in business education

Business Impact: Innovating for success in business education

Innovating for success in business education

Business Impact: Innovating for success in business education
Business Impact: Innovating for success in business education

The world of business education looks very different to the way it looked at the beginning of the pandemic, with remote learning becoming a new normal.

Just like businesses, educational institutions have had to adapt in order to comply with lockdown restrictions, while maintaining a quality service. Although this has been challenging, Covid-19 has created opportunities for digital innovations within Business Schools and wider education.

Digital technology has played a vital role for faculty and students alike. Platforms such as Zoom and Teams have replaced the traditional classroom, and the tech industry has been quick to come up with solutions. From startups to multinationals, these companies are working to improve the world of online learning, developing education technology at a rapid pace. 

This gives Business Schools an opportunity to reflect on how innovations will affect the day-to-day delivery of teaching going into the future. It falls on Schools to continue to be flexible and to adapt to the post-Covid-19 world, taking the valuable skills and lessons learned and developing them further.

Adapting to the digital landscape

In a session at the AMBA & BGA Business School Summit 2022, a panel of experts pondered the future of Business Schools in the digital landscape, and discussed how leading Schools should position themselves in a changing environment.

Kicking off the conversation, Simone Hammer, Head of Marketing for Learning Experiences at Barco, commented that although ‘lots of organisations tried to “run faster” during the pandemic’ others took the opportunity ‘to step back and analyse, without getting exhausted. In saying that, innovation and creativity come out of urgency’, she pointed out.

Tiffany Monaco, Global Business Development and Innovation Leader at IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) highlighted the move to partnership working. ‘The world changed very quickly last year, but if we want to change the way we work by 2030, we need to take action now,’ she said. ‘This pandemic has also sparked a lot of collaboration. Boredom demands creativity, so in the past two years, I’ve had more collaboration and more creativity with my colleagues.’

Meanwhile, Miika Makitalo CEO of HappyOrNot, explained that, in his opinion, the pandemic has revolutionised the behaviours of consumers. ‘The pandemic gave us the opportunity to stop asking “what is the winning strategy?” We’ve been building a clear focus on what we’ve been doing and asking how we can add more value,’ Makitalo added.

‘By combining data and partnering with other organisations, we’ve explored things we’ve never experienced before. We had more time to think, more time to focus and more time to collaborate. In the marketplace, the ones that are innovating are winning.’

But Makitalo stressed that ‘there is great value in failure. Success is a terrible teacher. We have always had an upward trajectory of profit, which started to plateau, so we began to shift our way of thinking and boost innovation. I would say there’s always room for improvement in terms of how organisations approach failure, but having psychological safety and empowering people to be humble is really key. That mitigates risk. 

‘If you’re afraid to embrace your failure, you’re more inclined to hide it and this leads to a snowball effect. Instead leaders can create a culture of accountability; embracing failure; and moving on.’

Hammer advocates asking for help and nurturing a culture of trust. ‘Looking out for collaboration – next to failure – is really important’, she said. 

Maria Luciana Axente, Responsible AI & AI for Good Lead at PwC, concluded: ‘Finally something has happened that we’ve been predicting for a long time. For years, we’ve been preaching to our clients that they will have to digitise. Before the pandemic organisations could cover their lack of digitisation with people skills, but now there is a huge opportunity to develop digital infrastructure. 

‘In the uncertainty that will follow the pandemic we have an opportunity to optimise our processes. Digitisation can replace repetition and empower innovation. No innovation can be realised without infrastructure, and this allows us to make a sustained and profound impact.’ 

Chair
Simone Hammer, Head of Marketing, Learning Experiences, Barco

Panellists
Maria Luciana Axente, Responsible AI & AI for Good Lead, PwC
Tiffany Monaco, Global Business Development and Innovation Leader, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group)
Miika Makitalo CEO, HappyOrNot

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Read more Business Impact articles related to innovation:

Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth
innovation

How space can fuel innovation on Earth

How the space economy can help business schools advocate for purpose-driven startups and sustainable business practices. Rana Sobh, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Qatar University, on the winners of the Global Space Sustainability Challenge

Read More »

Download the latest edition of the Business Impact magazine

Cover Story

A World of Difference

An annual summer school offered to executive MBA (EMBA) students studying at multiple locations around the world allows participants to come together and transform their differences into assets that drive personal growth. Director of EMBA programmes at the School of Management Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal (ESG-Uqam) Kamal Bouzinab offers an in-depth guide to an intensive week of experiential learning, cross-continental dialogue and networking.

Want your business school to feature in
Business Impact?

For questions about editorial opportunities, please contact:

Tim Banerjee Dhoul

Content Editor
Business Impact

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Transforming in turbulence

Business Impact: Transforming in turbulence

As Covid-19 continues to cause disruption, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management is preserving its innovative edge and adapting to emerging trends. David Woods-Hale speaks to its President, Nils Stieglitz

In 2022, it will have been 10 years since you joined Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. What have been the biggest changes in business strategy? 

There have been two major developments. First, across industries, there has been an increasing need to understand and respond to the changing role of technology and business disruption. Changes in the business landscape force companies to become more adaptive internally as we have within the wider ecosystem. Second, the topic of sustainability has moved from being a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have.’ Nowadays, business strategies must address how a company makes a positive contribution above and beyond financial returns to owners and shareholders.

What are the most pressing challenges facing international Business Schools? 

With the Covid-19 pandemic on top of a global climate crisis, every aspect of a Business School can be considered VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). We have seen disruptive technologies enabled by the pandemic changing the demographics of our knowledge economy on a global scale. The most pressing challenge has been to adapt to this in time. Speed is of the essence. 

Is the business education sector responding quickly enough to this ongoing disruption and what advice would you offer to other deans?

I would say that Business Schools are doing a good job at adapting to the new reality. We have seen a lot of innovation and experimentation, especially during the past two years. Many Business School leaders have quickly transformed how they teach, interact, and do research. However, the challenge will be to preserve this innovative edge once the immediate pressures created by the pandemic subside. 

We have learned so much from how we had to pivot to remote learning so suddenly, and using the necessary software and technologies to do this effectively. Business Schools will only continue to stay relevant if they explore new opportunities and continue to be ready to change – sometimes quite drastically. Intel’s Andy Grove once argued that only the paranoid will survive disruption – and there’s a lot of wisdom in that claim. 

Your research interests focus on strategic decision-making and organisational adaptation. These topics have, arguably, never been more important than during the Covid-19 pandemic. Can you share some insight into how your School managed through the pandemic? 

Early in the pandemic, I gave a talk to our alumni about managing in a crisis. I made three key points:

1*. ‘Prepare for the worst and hope for the best’ (which is a saying attributed to former UK Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli). On the one hand, it was important to think in terms of scenarios and to develop options (especially around trimming costs and scaling back investment) that we were ready to act on. That gave us a lot of flexibility as the pandemic unfolded. On the other hand, it was crucial to identify and focus on the opportunities created by the pandemic. 

2*. A crisis provides a good opportunity for innovation. For example, according to some research, the Great Depression was the most innovative decade of the 20th century. That coloured my own thinking about how to handle the crisis. For example, we suddenly – more or less overnight – had new digital formats that could reach students and alumni all over the world. 

3*. A crisis reasserts the value of strategy. Strategy is very much about deciding what not to do – and a crisis forces you to have clarity about your key priorities. 

How did the pandemic change your School for the long term? And what have been your most important learnings during lockdown? 

As was the case for organisations in many other sectors, Business Schools had to engage technological and digital processes and equipment at a level that many Schools may not have experienced or attempted to deliver before. Schools and campuses being forced to close so suddenly meant that teachers would have to deliver lectures and education to students online for an undisclosed period of time, with many potentially never having experienced this before. 

Over the years, digitalisation and technological advances have been increasing within Schools, but the pandemic has really forced us to push all aspects of digitalisation from theory into practice. We can now effectively and successfully offer hybrid learning – combining both online and offline learning – for students that require or desire that flexibility. 

Within Frankfurt School, the pandemic also forced us to accelerate existing processes of change drastically.

How do you believe technology will continue to impact and disrupt the Business School environment as a whole?

The future of our sector is hybrid. We have learned over the past two years how vital the campus environment is to students. Therefore, we might see more and more shifts towards augmented and virtual reality at home. Institutions such as ours will have to find a way into our students’ environments through more than just Zoom lectures.

Business Schools might also want to invest in augmented reality tools to add value to their physical campus by bringing the outside world in for the students to experience it. Schools should invest in capacities that students could not afford or have on their own. Lecturers will have to learn to use tools and devices meant for enhancing education in this way and become mediators between students and the campus.

Can you give some examples of innovation that the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management is developing to future-proof its postgraduate business programmes moving forward? 

Frankfurt School actively lives by the principle of continuous learning. We encourage personal and professional development at all career levels – nationally and internationally. Nowadays, employees and business leaders face an increasing necessity to reskill and to develop continuously. 

To further our students’ development, we offer a variety of executive education programmes, ranging from seminars and certificates to Executive Master and MBA programmes. All of our formats are grounded in research and all offer practical elements. 

Traditional classroom teaching no longer suffices, so we offer hybrid and online courses, as well as various on-campus and virtual experiences. As we see an increasing need for virtual teaching, we design our online courses in a clearer, shorter, and more engaging way. 

For example, our online courses carry elements of gamification, artificial intelligence (AI)-based research, and are often personalised to each participant’s individual and unique needs. Students can study in bite-size modules, in their own time, and they can do this anywhere they want. 

How important is it that Business Schools are ahead of the curve in terms of lifelong learning and alumni relations, in light of emerging trends such as stackable courses and digital credentialing? What more could and should they be doing?

I consider it very important! When it comes to what Business Schools should be doing to stay ahead of the curve, I believe a mandatory semester abroad should be incorporated into BSc programmes. The world is becoming increasingly connected – even more so since the increased use of online working and learning due to the pandemic.

Individuals from multiple countries can easily be in the same lecture or work meeting without actually being in the same room. Affording Business School students semesters abroad gives them some experience of different cultures, education, and people from the very beginning of their higher education journey.

Future-focused topics should also be introduced into Business Schools, including areas of AI, blockchain, and sustainability. 

Disruption is changing the workplace as much as the business education space. How are you ensuring that your graduates have the mindsets needed to be agile-yet-decisive as they lead the businesses of today and tomorrow? 

We do this directly and indirectly through the content and structure of our programmes. The content is shaping the mindset of our participants. We cover the theories that are essential to leadership. The structure of our programmes is also intentional. We have built in ‘surprise’ elements where students are required to pivot, think on their feet, make quick decisions and then carry them out sustainably. 

Business leaders can usually predict pretty well what tomorrow is going to look like, but there are things we cannot predict. Covid-19 is an example of this. But there was always a theoretical possibility of a global pandemic, just as there is a theoretical possibility of a nuclear war, or alien invasion – all things that are very difficult to plan for. I think our future business leaders of tomorrow need confidence in their ability to predict what’s going to happen under normal consequences.

Sustainability and climate change are huge influencers on how we will live and work. What does sustainability mean to you as a Business School leader? 

The original intent of Business Schools, as stated by the Ford and Carnegie Foundation Studies of 1959, was to ‘professionalise management’ – meaning ‘to create responsible professionals’. In 2021, responsible has a new meaning. This meaning is derived from the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but we have adapted it to our institutional vision. In line with our commitment to the highest scientific and academic standards, the approach to sustainability at Frankfurt School is led by hard science which is skills-based, interdisciplinary, integrative and authentic.

Students care very much about the climate agenda. Do you think this will have as much of an impact on student recruitment, physical environments and student exchange and study tours, as as it will on course components and pedagogy? 

Now more than ever, rankings continue to be a primary source of Business School legitimacy, which prospective students consider when choosing programmes and Schools. The weight of various sustainability categories increases each year, and individual Schools win or lose as a result. This, in turn, has an impact on which School a student chooses to study at.

‘Green topics’ such as sustainability and green finance are growing in demand. These subjects used to be integrated into traditional core courses, but now we are developing entire programmes around them. We have seen this trend in Executive Education specifically, and have reacted very quickly by offering courses such as Financing Renewable Energy, Certified Expert in Sustainable Finance, and Certified Expert in Climate & Renewable Finance. 

The Erasmus+ Programme is also encouraging students to find a ‘green’ approach to their exchanges. One of the ways is to choose greener accommodation options. At Frankfurt School, we are committed to providing those options, and are working closely with our partners in the building of our new student accommodations to ensure they are up to the latest standards in sustainable living. 

Your School’s frankly.green strategy will create revenue streams for green investment in emerging markets. Can you explain a bit more about this innovative crowdfunding initiative? 

Our new crowd investing platform, frankly.green, offers retail investors the opportunity to finance green projects and SMEs in Africa and Latin America. We bring together companies that want to go green with investors who put an emphasis on financial return and environmental protection. Crowd investing is a relatively new form of finance that allows private investors to directly finance projects, and companies that meet their personal preferences. With individual investments starting from as little as €100 EUR, frankly.green allows everyone to participate and diversify their portfolio. 

All information is provided to potential investors so that they can make an individual, informed investment decision. We define green investments in terms of sustainability and environmental protection. A green investment must – directly or indirectly – have a sustainable positive impact. 

The frankly.green platform is managed jointly by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance and FS Impact Finance, and co-operates with GLS Bank. 

It is part of the International Climate Initiative and supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

What are the next steps for you as a leader and for Frankfurt School of Finance and Management? 

I hope that Frankfurt School of Finance and Management will continue to grow, but also that we keep our edge – that we remain as vibrant and as innovative as we currently are. I think it’s vital that we preserve this.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

I am hopeful about the world. It might seem like a very dangerous place to be right now, but if you look at the broader picture, things have improved over recent decades and centuries. We live longer, we are generally more affluent – not just in Europe, but also in Asia and increasingly in Africa, and we suffer fewer deaths from wars. Climate change is a huge challenge, but one I am confident we can tackle. Our right to liberty, freedom and free enterprise has also come under a lot of pressure in recent years, and not just because of Covid-19. However, I am hopeful that in the future we come back to this trajectory.

Nils Stieglitz has been President and Managing Director of Frankfurt School of Finance and Management since April 2018. His primary research interests are strategic decision-making and organisational adaptation.

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

The entrepreneurial future of the workplace

Business Impact: The entrepreneurial future of the workplace

What is the future of the physical and virtual workplace? Birmingham Business School’s Endrit Kromidha and Matthew Thomas consider the rise of entrepreneurial work and the dangers of losing unplanned and in-person exchanges of ideas

A shortage of containers for international shipping, missing products from supermarket shelves and an absence of workers to fill cars with fuel in petrol stations can, in great part, be attributed to a global mobility crisis due to the pandemic.

Excluding the violence, similar situations have been faced only in times of war. As expected, the response from business has been to innovate and adapt in order to survive and potentially gain a competitive advantage for the long run.

In times of crisis and when the future is unknown, it becomes necessary and therefore easier for everyone to dare more. This article reflects on the rise of entrepreneurial work, digital platforms for doing more remotely, and the hybrid future of the office, drawing implications for business graduates and managers.

Entrepreneurial work

Proactiveness has been shown to be a key characteristic of entrepreneurial orientation, related to actively seeking, creating and exploiting business opportunities. The current pandemic has been very challenging, but it has also created opportunities through systemic changes.

Many business leaders have, typically, pushed the pressure to be proactive down the hierarchical ranks of an organisation. In doing so, being proactive and adapting to changes have become expectations at any organisational level.

This leads to the second dimension of entrepreneurial orientation – innovativeness. This refers to developing new processes, products, resources, services, markets or organisations. Entering the unknown space of innovation requires taking risks, which is the third dimension of entrepreneurial orientation.

In this new environment, job redesign, job rotation, or other innovative ways of inducing change in the workplace, happen naturally. What’s required is an entrepreneurial mindset at every level of the organisation, together with a paradigm shift on the use of digital platforms and technologies for new ways of working.

Redefining digital work platforms

Digital platforms have long been used for a number of efficiency-related reasons in business, such as better communication, access to information and resources, easier exchanges of financial and other forms of capital, and transfers of knowledge through collaborative work for open innovation and co-creation across organisational and national borders.

Yet, until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital platforms were considered in great part peripherical to the physical workspace and human interactions. Not anymore, the paradigm shift to online and remote as the new norm has already happened. Technologies like Zoom or Microsoft Teams are only the surface of what the future could bring with metaverse virtual reality solutions at work.

In the new digital workplace, meeting in person is considered a rather dangerous (for reasons of  health and wellbeing) alternative that needs to be used sparingly. Thanks to digital work platforms, the notion of the office has transcended organisational boundaries, often entering peoples’ homes, and now occupies their free time and weekends just as a business would do for a 24/7 entrepreneur – but this process is not without other challenges.

The post-pandemic office

The physical office must not be ignored. Early in the pandemic, when working from home was still a novelty, many enjoyed the newfound convenience of not needing to commute to and from work. In addition, there was a sense that efficiency had improved as well. Meetings became far more transactional, where agendas were prepared, people spoke one at a time, and they finished when the work was done.

As the pandemic wore on, we started to notice some aspects of work that were made more difficult by being remote from each other. Minor disagreements between colleagues could fester because there were no easily accessible social mechanisms to diffuse the situation. As a result, minor disagreements could become sources of conflict and sometimes hostility.

Perhaps even more seriously, we started to miss the unplanned conversations that occur just because we happen to be in the same physical vicinity as others. The conversations when walking with a colleague to a meeting, over a cup of coffee on a break, in the canteen at lunchtime or on the way to station when leaving work. On Zoom and Teams, these conversations hardly ever happen. But why is this so important? There is a lot of evidence that suggests that it is these unplanned encounters that fuel creativity and innovation. The best ideas come from encounters with people we did not know we needed. The danger therefore for organisations that abandon the office completely is that it may lead to an innovation deficit.

What can the business managers of the future learn from this?

Organisations have reacted to the newfound freedoms of remote working in very different ways. Some have abandoned the office entirely, opting for the convenience and cost benefits of working from home. Others have gone to the other extreme and insisted that all staff return to the office. Given the importance of chance encounter to innovation, it is no surprise that some of the tech giants are among those pursuing this policy.

Most organisations, however, have opted for some sort of hybrid model, allowing employees to blend working from home with working from the office. What business managers need to ensure is that these decisions are based on the needs of the business rather than the opportunistic saving of real estate costs or the evidence of short-run added efficiencies.

In this light, the role of the office may also change in the future. The main purpose of the office could shift from one that encourages productivity in the workplace to one that encourages unplanned social encounter. Already, some organisations are starting to reimagine their offices as social hubs that are there specifically to fuel innovation.

Endrit Kromidha (left) is an Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, and Director of the Birmingham MBA in Singapore. He is also an entrepreneur with industry experience in banking and finance, and the Vice-President for Policy and Practice at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Matthew Thomas (right) is an Assistant Professor of Strategy and International Business at Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, where he lectures in international strategy, innovation and strategic change. His background is as a practicing manager, most recently with Assa Abloy, a Swedish organisation ranked as one of the world’s 100 most innovative companies by Forbes.

Business Schools’ vital role in driving innovation

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As products and business models become more complex, innovation requires specialised academic institutions, writes Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Centre

In the late 19th century, two French brothers – Auguste and Louis Lumière – invented the cinematograph. They are credited as the founders of modern cinema, and owned more than 170 patents in imagery development, and in other fields such as medicine. They are among the few French nationals to be honoured on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

In those days, most revolutionary innovations were coming from England or the US; for example, the steam engine or electricity. Why is it, then, that the Lumières – young men from Lyon, a mid-size city in France – gave the world such important technology? 

Auguste and Louis’ creativity was the result of their family – their non-conformist father was the owner of a photography business – and their personality traits (risk attitude, curiosity) also influenced their creativity. However, the main factor for the birth of cinema in Lyon is an educational institution – La Martinière – from which the brothers graduated as engineers. La Martinière could be described as the MIT of the day, with a curriculum that promoted technology, chemistry, industrial knowledge, and experimentation. As well as being the alma mater of some of Lyon’s prominent industrial and commercial leaders, it attracted students from all over the world who were interested in technology and innovation.

The ability to innovate

Very often, we attribute the innovation of specific people or countries to individual attitudes or national culture. When I ask members of IMD’s executive programme why they think that, in Europe, there are no digital platforms along the lines of Alphabet (in the US) or Alibaba (China), they either blame a risk-averse attitude among European entrepreneurs, the lack of a ‘failure culture’, or inadequate regulation. While countries such as Israel and Taiwan are innovative by nature, the same can be said of Jordan and Ukraine. So why do we rarely see see disruptive innovations coming from the latter two? 

My recent book, The Right Place: How National Competitiveness Makes or Breaks Companies, argues that, in determining corporate success, factors such as leadership and strategic choices, are marginal. From my research, and that of others, we can conclude that the impact of leadership teams on corporate performance is moderate at best; some CEOs increase value, but some destroy value. 

The factors determining corporate success are global and national. My work shows that 80% of a company’s stock return variability is explained by factors such as the business cycle, trade wars, geopolitical tensions, and regulation. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that the fate of organisations is often dictated by uncertainties that are not controlled by companies.

In that context, decisions at a country level, such as capital markets design, education policies, and fiscal rules for talent attraction, have a greater impact on innovation than the DNA of potential creators. Specifically, educational institutions play a vital role in shaping innovation. 

Stanford comes to mind as a global leader in the production of startups, with Alphabet being its most successful result. Facebook and Microsoft were born in Harvard dorm rooms, while, in total, Harvard is the alma mater of 1,310 entrepreneurs. Michael Dell was a student at the University of Texas when he founded his computer brand. Dropbox was born in MIT; WordPress at the University of Houston; Reddit at the University of Virginia and Fedex at Yale. Skype was developed by a graduate of Uppsala University (Sweden), and Logitech was founded by two colleague students at EPFL in Switzerland. 

Specialist institutions for innovation

As products and business models become more complex, innovation requires specialised academic institutions. That is why Business Schools have been the seed of many important innovations of the past decades. Desigual, one of the most international fashion retailers, was founded by an alumn from the IMD MBA programme. The founders of Zoom Technologies, Peloton, and Grubhub planted the seeds of their companies while attending classes at Stanford, Harvard, and Chicago Booth respectively. 

How can universities, and Business Schools in particular, be centres of excellence for innovation? First, let me point out that, for innovation ecosystems to succeed, they have to combine three key success factors. The first  is access to capital. The benefits of finance are important and have been documented by academics and international organisations. 

In 2000, Professor Jeffrey Wurgler (then at the Yale School of Management and currently at NYU), highlighted in a paper published in the Journal of Financial Economics that more financially developed countries allocate capital with greater efficiently across industries. Specifically, Wurgler found that ‘developed’ financial markets (measured by the size of the domestic stock and credit markets relative to GDP) such as the US and the UK, increase investment in growing industries and decrease it in their declining industries. 

Effective financial systems are both the consequence of and the reason for the competitiveness and innovativeness of countries. Over time, the interaction between Wall Street and Main Street – or between the financial system and the real economy –reinforce each other, and we observe the positive impact that a good financial system has on economic growth and quality of life. Conversely, countries that forget the financial sector struggle to develop a competitive economy, despite their innovation and talent.

The second important factor is regulation. To be innovative, firms need to have rules that protect intellectual property, bankruptcy laws that allow failure and recovery, and fiscal rules that facilitate foreign investment and talent attraction. Regulation removes uncertainty, and this explains why innovation is more difficult in Europe, where innovators need to comply with a myriad of regulatory regimes, compared with the US and China. 

The role of the education system

When good regulation is combined with access to capital, innovators emerge. This is where the third factor – the education system – plays a vital role. Business Schools are becoming important parts of a country’s innovation ecosystem. Entrepreneurs need to be more than creators, and need to learn how to monetise their ideas. The Lumière brothers never attended Business School. And this is probably the reason why their creation did not result in the movie industry being built around Lyon, but in Los Angeles. The Lumière brothers of the 21st century need business education, but such education must fulfill three requirements:

1. Business Schools need a good curriculum
To transform ideas into businesses, innovators need to know finance, marketing, and strategy. Design and technology skills are not enough. This also means that Business School curricula should emphasise management skills at the expense of experiential learning and leadership skills. Traditional Business School disciplines are important – especially for those who do not plan to work for a large organisation – because founders have to have a helicopter view of their companies, which requires a deep understanding of all dimensions of performance.

2. As technology will be the basis for many of the upcoming innovations, Schools need to embrace technology-related subjects
At IMD, we have reduced the importance of accounting in the MBA curriculum in favour of coding, a one-week innovation journey, and courses covering artificial intelligence, Blockchain, and Big Data analytics. We have also enlarged the finance and marketing courses.

3. For Schools to be part of the innovation ecosystem of their country, they must partner with the public and private sectors to create synergies
Governments need to realise that attraction of talent to Business Schools results in innovation, and therefore more jobs and prosperity. At the same time, Business Schools as academic institutions need to feed the country with research related to entrepreneurship, family business, and innovation. 

Business Schools must hear the demands of companies and adapt their programmes to the needs of the labour market. The benefit for Schools is that, as the reputation of their country increases, so does the ability of the School to attract better students.

Innovators are not born but made. Business Schools are part of a country’s innovation ecosystem and while technical universities (the La Martinières of our times) continue generating ideas, Business Schools transform these ideas in businesses, jobs,
and competitiveness. 

Arturo Bris is Professor of Finance at IMD and Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Centre. His new book, The Right Place: How National Competitiveness Makes or Breaks Companies is published by Routledge. 

This article originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Innovation for success in business education

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Leaders from Rolls-Royce, PwC and the European Space Agency on how innovation will impact the business world, and what this means for business education. Highlights from a session at the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence

What challenges and opportunities await Business Schools in the ‘new normal’ of business? How will Business Schools create the leaders who can not only survive, but also thrive, in uncertain business conditions? And how are boundaries being pushed in terms of creativity in theory and practice at Business Schools? 

A panel of leaders working at the forefront of global innovation shared their take on these challenges and offered solutions as part of the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence. 

Chairing the panel was Simone Hammer, Global Marketing Director for Learning and Training Solutions at Belgian tech company, Barco. She introduced the conversation by explaining: ‘We can see as a solution provider that there has been very quick adoption [of new technology] that we didn’t think was possible. So very often in the education sector, faculty or teachers were thought to be technology adverse but the pandemic has meant that they have had to think of a different solution. That’s what we call digital enablement and now we are looking into digital transformation.’ 

Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA and Professor of Marketing at WU Vienna, agreed. ‘The Covid crisis has been a very big accelerator. We had a number of tendencies which were already visible – for example, more online teaching,’ he said, before adding that the pandemic had brought about, ‘a sudden huge field experiment, into which everybody had to be dragged. We went through stages. The first stage was panic: “How do we cope and how we can we do this?”. The second stage was: “This has worked quite well, so let’s experiment a little bit and make it better.” Now what we’re observing is that [Schools] are starting to become much more familiar with technology and are willing to try things out. This is an attitudinal change where they say: “Zoom is fine but what can we do in addition? Can we use virtual reality or AI in order to tailor the programme for the specific needs of students when they come in?” There’s much more willingness to explore what is possible and this attitudinal change has been very important.’

The coming stratification 

Innovations and disruption in the wider business arena have been widespread and this has also impacted on business education. The thoughts of PwC’s Director of Artificial Intelligence, Rob McCargow, chimed with those of Schlegelmilch. ‘We’ve all been dragged into this massive field experiment and everyone had to pivot to remote working within 24 hours,’ said McCargow. ‘At PwC, we had to move our 300,000 people to a remote setting immediately and this has accelerated many of the digital transformation programmes we were building. In some cases, things that had been on the roadmap for four years [from now] have been dragged to immediate action, which has been really quite exciting. 

‘This has been radical innovation by necessity – not by aspiration – and that’s been an exciting place to be. I keep hearing the phrase, “when we get back to normal,” but if we’re being candid, there is no getting back to normal now and we will see a stratification of companies that have a different mindset about the return to normal, post-Covid-19. There will be some laggards who will be desperately trying to get back to a semblance of normality and wishing to adopt the same format as before the pandemic, but at the other extreme, we will see companies entirely reinventing their business model. We’ve already seen companies disinvest from their real estate portfolio entirely and work to a fully virtual setting. The reality [for most], though, will be somewhere in the middle. PwC is going to be radically different, but we still need to have some face-to-face contact. 

‘My biggest concern is the more junior staff coming into the workplace for the first time. We have to cater for them properly and enable the ability to build social cohesion and social capital. We can’t go too far down a digital track immediately and forget about that essence of humanity.’ 

Finding the right balance

On this point, Manisha Mistry, Head of Digital Culture at Rolls-Royce, explained that more innovative approaches to business education will produce more innovative graduates, and that both Schools and employers will need to adapt quickly to make the most of a creative, tech-savvy stream of talent. 

‘There’s a real balance now that I think organisations, in my experience, are working out how they can allow these [tech-savvy] people to come into a world that we’ve cultivated over years of experience and built to a point where we’re safe in the sense of where we’re operating. We know we need to shift but [these people] are used to volatility; they’re used to changing direction instantly without worrying about all the predicating processes, models or practices around them. They have to do that with us – not to us – and these are the kinds of new areas of focus I think we’re going to need to start seeing coming through Business Schools.’

Frank Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Ventures, ESA Space Solutions, European Space Agency, summed up the session by voicing his support for the notion of ‘social capital’ to enable innovation: ‘Everybody has a kind of social bank account. When you become older, your career is fuller, and you can really use these connections. If you’re younger, you have to fill up [the account] somehow. While they will also have to do this face to face, we have to see how we teach students that they can do this online. The challenge is to adapt our soft skills to make them work in a digital format.’

Chair: Simone Hammer, Global Marketing Director, Learning and Training Solutions, Barco

Panellists: Rob McCargow, Director of Artificial Intelligence, PwC; Manisha Mistry, Head of Digital Culture, Rolls-Royce; Frank Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Ventures, ESA Space Solutions, European Space Agency; Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair, AMBA & BGA; Professor of Marketing, WU Vienna

This article was originally published in Ambition (the magazine of BGA’s sister organisation, AMBA).

Are subscription models the solution for Business Schools?

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Building on his notion of ‘degrees for rent’, AMBA & BGA Chair, Bodo Schlegelmilch, outlines why a subscription model could be the game changer traditional Business Schools need, before considering the significance of alliances in an increasingly heterogeneous landscape

There is no ‘typical’ Business School. Consequently, general predictions and critiques of Business Schools may apply to some types of Schools, but not to others. 

There is a myriad of different types of Business Schools: private and public; self-standing and embedded in larger universities; theoretically oriented and managerially oriented; religious and secular; small and large; degree awarding and non-degree awarding; those that offer executive education and those that don’t. It is therefore important to define carefully the type of institution for which one attempts to make predictions.

However, if we focus on Business Schools that hold at least one of the three major accreditations (AMBA, AACSB or EQUIS), how to adapt to new market realities is a central question. I believe that these Business Schools are increasingly facing business model competition.

Business model competition requires thinking outside the box, and so, as an example, why not consider a radical idea? Future Business Schools could follow the trends in many parts of the digital economy and move from offering ‘degree ownership’ to offering a subscription model in which qualifications would expire unless graduates demonstrate a commitment to continuous professional development.

For degrees with a leaning toward practical knowledge, such as marketing, the argument for granting a degree with an expiry date is particularly strong. Rapid environmental changes, primarily driven by technological advances, call for a continuous updating of knowledge. To this end, a subscription model for degrees would just be a logical extension of the continuous professional development already required in some other professions, such as medical practitioners.

Potential financial benefits of a subscription model

For Business Schools, a subscription model could offer an interesting financial perspective. For one, regular moderate subscription rates could add up to substantial lifetime customer values for Business Schools. From a student perspective, the model could also arguably be more attractive than ‘buying’ a degree and paying that degree’s tuition fees in one lump sum. Spreading the financial burden of a Business School education more evenly over one’s entire career would make tuition fees more palatable, especially when taking into account that yearly earnings are likely to increase as one’s career progresses.

These financial considerations lead to the troubling issue of Business School economics. Traditional Schools have an inherent problem – with research and administrative obligations, it’s possible that full-time professors – albeit, depending on institution, seniority, and country – may only spend a small proportion of their time teaching. Assuming a 40-hour week and calculating a generous seven weeks of vacation, a university professor might spend at best 300 hours, or as little as 120 hours, of their 1,800 hours of annual work time in class.

This model makes teaching rather expensive. Nonetheless, top Schools are able to pass these high costs on to their students by charging tuition fees. It is well documented that MBA programmes can run well in excess of $100,000 USD, or even $200,000 USD when factoring in living costs. 

However, for all but the very top institutions offering business degrees, this is rapidly becoming unsustainable. Moreover, the spiralling tuition fees lock out talented candidates for whom such costs are out of reach. A more even distribution of costs during an individual’s working life may be an alternative that also has merit from a perspective of social equity and fairness.

Building customer relationships

The potential advantages of a subscription model go beyond financial aspects. It could also open a path for Business Schools to establish deeper and longer-term relationships with their customers. Such relationships offer an inherently more intensive mechanism for knowledge exchange between practitioners and academia than a traditional exchange between students and professors.

In this scenario, professors could tailor their teaching to the specific needs faced by managers at different stages of their careers and, thus, increase the relevance of the knowledge provided. Senior managers could, in return, share more insightful practical knowledge with professors than young, and often inexperienced, degree students are able to. Such exchanges could also inspire more attention to practical relevance in academic research. This would constitute a win–win situation for both Business Schools and their customers.

While a change to a subscription model would constitute a radical shift, most Business Schools currently seek to optimise potential by less far-reaching options. In their quest to reduce teaching costs, there is often an attempt to optimise delivery. This typically includes the use of clinical or practice-based faculty – essentially lecturers that are freed of research obligations. Blended learning or flipped classrooms can further improve the bottom line if less costly tutors can, at least partly, replace expensive full-time faculty.

In such models, individual students, or groups of students, work through a variety of tasks and teaching material outside class and only need attend the campus for a substantially reduced number of face-to-face teaching hours. While these cost reductions seek efficiencies within the existing Business School model, they fail to question the rationale of the model itself. 

The importance and complexity of alliances

A less radical, but still substantial, change in the business model of Business Schools is the increasing importance of alliances, both between and among different Business Schools and between Business Schools and technology partners. Many alliances are technologically motivated and simply reflect that Business Schools cannot manage the substantial development costs of technology platforms themselves. Others, such as the Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS) network, are motivated by the desire to offer students more international choices and a superior learning experience. 

A relatively recent example of a primarily technology-motivated platform is the Future of Management Education (FOME) Alliance which aims to provide a common standard that enables the sharing of new technologies and pedagogies across its member institutions. A major objective of the collaboration is to challenge the perception of digital education as a lesser alternative to classroom teaching.

Although there are a growing number of Business School collaborations of varying intensity, most Schools find partnering with the heterogeneous group of technology providers from outside the traditional industry something of a scramble. University College London, for example, launched an online MBA in partnership with 2U. There are also hybrid collaborations between Business Schools and technology platforms. Arizona State University, edX, and MIT, for example, offer a master’s degree in supply chain management and claim to offer the world’s first stackable, hybrid graduate degree programme. 

The danger of tech-platform takeovers

With the advent of MOOCs, the competitive dynamics start to shift from competition between individual Business Schools to competition between networks. These networks include web giants such as Google, publishers such as Pearson, and a whole range of companies that team up to design and distribute educational content. From a Business School perspective, the danger may well be that its brand power erodes when they offer courses through a platform. Large and increasingly dominant technology platforms may become better known than individual Business Schools. For example, students may focus on Coursera when they buy a course and not on the School providing the course. This would parallel consumers who say they buy something from Amazon rather than from the vendor supplying Amazon. Student affiliation may switch from Business School to platform, a threat that appears particularly relevant for Schools with weaker brands.

Business Schools may also forge alliances with consulting companies expanding their digital learning offers, such as the McKinsey Academy or Deloitte University. These companies do not (yet) have the right to grant degrees and typically only offer a certificate on completion of their courses. Ultimately, however, it is debatable whether a certificate from a prestigious consulting company, such as McKinsey, or a degree from a relatively unknown middle-of-the-road university bears more currency. 

In short, Business School education is becoming more heterogeneous as traditional Schools become increasingly entwined with other institutions.

The growing importance and complexity of alliances in business education is further evidenced by collaborations between corporate universities and traditional Business Schools. Take, for example, Sberbank Corporate University in Russia. Sberbank has built a large and impressive campus where they not only train their own employees but also those of selected partner companies.

In this process, Sberbank Corporate University teams up with INSEAD and London Business School – strong brands obviously still count – and makes use of learning material from the Khan Academy. Sberbank and other nonconventional Business Schools use a fly-in faculty model, which saves them the expense of full-time professors. In this way, while students at such institutions may well benefit from excellent professors with up-to-date research records, other Business Schools pay for the research time of these professors.

Cosmetic change is insufficient

The myriad of competitive challenges facing traditional Business Schools demand business model innovations. Some innovations may be radical, such as moving to a subscription model, while others will centre on forging networks, primarily to cope with increasing technological requirements. There is now increasing competition from outside the industry by consultants, publishers, and IT companies, and there are increasingly competitive corporate universities. In addition, there are Business Schools that are system integrators with minimal overheads and no research expenditures that rely primarily on a fly-in external faculty model. 

All this suggests that, for traditional Business Schools, the time for ‘business as usual’ is over. A few cosmetic changes to an existing business model will be insufficient for survival. In particular, those Business Schools that are not among the top aspirational brands will need to adopt alternative business models or risk falling foul of the paradigmatic changes in the business environment.

This article is taken from Business Impact’s sixth edition in print and has been adapted from a wider discussion – entitled ‘Why Business Schools Need Radical Innovations: Drivers and Development Trajectories’ – in the Journal of Marketing Education (2020)

Bodo Schlegelmilch is Chair of the Association of MBAs and Business Graduates Association (AMBA & BGA) and heads the Institute for International Marketing Management at WU Vienna. For more than 10 years, he served as founding Dean of the WU Executive Academy.

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