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innovation in higher education
Business Education

A New Vision for Business Education

The world’s thirst for education, economic development, and quality of life has never been greater. In recognition of this, business schools are being called on to address the needs of the students they educate and the industries they serve.

How Will We Get There?

This means being more than just a supplier of talent. Business schools and organizations across industries and sectors will need to engage each other more closely to co-educate and develop managerial talent and to co-create new ideas and understanding, as well as to innovate and establish new business. Growing and developing the rich space between theory and practice will, for many schools, mean building on existing academic rigor and reputation in ways that extend the value and visibility of that effort. For other schools, achieving this outcome will mean strengthening their academic underpinnings to enable even better outcomes from existing strong relationships.

Business schools cannot evolve independently of higher education, but they can help lead the transformation. They have an opportunity to be active participants and leaders in the creation of the new systems, standards, and traditions within which they will operate and compete. New approaches to education, knowledge creation, and outreach will require different faculty and staffing models, educational and credentialing models, and funding models, as well as more interdependencies than independence.

No one discipline can single-handedly solve the world’s grand challenges. Business schools should seize opportunities to reinforce the complementarities between business education and other fields, including science, engineering, health care, and education. This collaboration will require expanding the models and incentives that support interdisciplinary research and the structures to facilitate interdisciplinary learning. At a more foundational level, business schools will need to think differently about the ways they and their faculty intersect with experts, educators, and innovators from other fields.

Five Opportunities to Thrive

I. Catalysts for Innovation


Innovation and new business creation are among today’s strongest drivers of economic development. Globalization, technological advancements, and attention to sustainability will necessitate changes to the way organizations are created and operated. Both competition and the urgent need for solutions to the world’s grandest challenges will require new ideas to be developed, tested, and brought to market at a rapid pace.


Business schools can drive global economic development by supporting innovation and new business creation, including contributing to the body of knowledge about the processes, practices, and environments that spark innovation. They can educate the next generation of innovators, whether they’re entrepreneurs launching small businesses or C-suite executives leading their companies through transformation. They also can build platforms and networks that connect individuals with training, with mentors, with each other—and with fresh ideas.

II. Co-Creators of Knowledge


Today’s business, economic, and social landscapes face questions that are complex and multidisciplinary. Answering these questions requires new insights and understanding about how to effectively organize and motivate people, how to build sustainable organizations, and how to create value. Indeed, the very characterization of much of the global economy as a “knowledge economy” underscores the importance of intellectual capital.


To create research that explores critical social issues and management problems, business schools must partner with academics in other disciplines and with practitioners in the field. Business school scholars must become conveners and partners with industry in knowledge creation, rather than simply being suppliers. Creating connections with other business schools and disciplines is just as essential for providing leadership insights that can be applied in a wide variety of cultural, economic, and regulatory contexts.

III. Hubs of Lifelong Learning


The pressure for a different model of delivering and consuming education is growing. Aging populations, increased job switching, and the accelerating pace of change in business, among other workforce trends, suggest that education will be increasingly important throughout individuals’ entire career lifecycles. In order to accommodate this shift in focus from career development to career evolution, individuals’ learning pathways are more likely to comprise modularized, fragmented, and “just-in-time” educational experiences.


Business schools need to position themselves as institutions that will support students throughout their careers by creating courses that are suitable for every kind of business student, from the first-year college student to the mid-level manager to the CEO. As individuals find themselves needing new skills in new jobs, they will rely on education that is segmented, targeted, and on-demand, as well as delivered from a variety of providers. Business schools will have to collaborate with other schools on campus, other business schools, and organizations in the public and private sectors. They will need to look beyond employers as the ultimate consumers of education and regard them as partners in the shared goal of training a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

IV. Leaders on Leadership


Good leaders inspire, manage, and cultivate organizations, business systems, and people to enhance the sustainable development of society. The world needs more of them. In the face of complex challenges confronting organizations and communities, leadership is being called on to help create a more just, inclusive, and prosperous global society.


Business schools will need to promote an understanding of leadership that is grounded in evidence and rigorous analysis, and that can be applied in a wide array of contexts. Business schools can conduct research on how to lead, create environments that nurture effective leaders, and connect to other institutions that support leadership training and development. They also can help frame leadership as a practice that supports ethical business and serves the common good. Business schools will need to offer diverse approaches to leadership development, from traditional classroom settings to on-the-job training sessions.

V. Enablers of Global Prosperity


The traditional view of business (and of business schools) is that of agents of wealth creation, which is an important and necessary component of economic and societal development. But business also contributes to other dimensions of prosperity that are just as essential, including access to basic needs, a healthy environment, strong communities, meaningful employment, and a fulfilling life. Increasingly, the public expects business to address a growing array of social problems, yet surveys have shown that large segments of the population believe business executives contribute very little to society. The positive effects of business have clearly not been experienced inclusively.


Business schools must contribute to global measures of well-being that go far beyond wealth creation. It’s important that business schools help alter negative perceptions by showing how the benefits of business can extend to all members of the global population, regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, or citizenship. Business schools must generate research that outlines the benefits of cultivating a diverse workforce, running sustainable businesses, and operating in an ethical manner. They must share this research with policymakers and government organizations that oversee public health and job creation. At the same time, business schools must graduate students who know how to generate wealth, consume resources, and create innovation in ways that are responsible, inclusive, and humanistic.

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