Mar 18, 2021

Innovation for success in business schools: 8 key lessons from top organizations

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What examples of innovation, radical thinking, and game-changing new practices from top organizations can business schools leverage? What lies ahead in the future of business education? How are boundaries being pushed in terms of creativity in theory and practice?

We found out the answers during a thought-provoking panel discussion on innovation for business education success, as part of the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence 2021. The discussion, chaired by our Head of Marketing for Teaching & Learning Solutions, Simone Hammer, was joined by four experts:

  • Rob McCargow - Director of AI, Technology & Investments at PwC
  • Manisha Mistry - Head of Digital Culture at Rolls Royce
  • Frank Salzgeber - Head of Innovation & Venture at ESA Space Solutions, European Space Agency
  • Bodo Schlegelmilch - Chair at AMBA & BGA and Marketing Professor at WU Vienna

What lies ahead for business schools?

1. The need to adapt

To thrive in the education sector, business schools must adapt. Catalyzed by Covid-19 that accelerated digitalization, the competitive environment is significantly changing.

According to Bodo Schlegelmilch (Marketing Professor, WU Vienna), business schools must shift their value proposition as ‘universities are not necessarily chosen (anymore) based on geography. They are based on brand and what they have to offer, and where they are becomes a secondary issue.’

Another significant point was the need to adapt to fulfill student demands. Students are coming from varied backgrounds, have broader interests (customer social responsibility, technology or sustainability) and various career aspirations. Leaders must tailor programs to fit the many outcomes desired by students.

2. A changed curriculum

The curriculum must change to adapt to student demands, but also to ensure that schools are forming agile leaders that will thrive in an fast-paced environment. 

Interdisciplinarity is key. Students need to acquire an exhaustive range of skills and abilities: business-related as a strong foundation, extensive technological awareness and effective soft skills.

On this point, Bodo continues saying that cohorts must be trained to ‘become very good communicators, listeners and [are] able to integrate different disciplines, knowledge streams and also know when their own knowledge comes to an end (…) They’re tech-savvy, but they’ve also got that understanding of the broader implications of emerging technology as well.’

3. Human connection in the digital world

Fulfilling the human need for connection in an increasingly digital world, being able to foster meaningful relationships, enjoying quality collaboration, and networking are essential.

Rob McCargow (Director of AI, Technology & Investments, PwC) is particularly concerned about the younger generation. He asserts that business schools have to ‘enable that ability to build social cohesion, social capital and don’t just immediately go too far down a digital track and forget about that essence of humanity.’  and stresses the importance of teaching and translating soft skills across digital barriers.

4. The amplified role of technology

What is the role of technology in business education? Technology should support learning outcomes.

As Simone Hammer (Head of Marketing for Teaching & Learning Solutions, Barco) states: ’technology should really just assist and support actually everything that we are doing. It should be in the background, and we shouldn’t really be thinking about it. It should be natural and enforce engagement.’

The right technology will support and improve pedagogical needs, the learning experience and results, and open a wealth of untapped possibilities for business schools. These include data and analytics to assess teaching methods and optimize learning outcomes.

5. A hybrid future

While technology will play a more prominent role, it will not completely take over due to the natural human inclination towards authentic interaction.

How to ensure quality teaching and working in a hybrid environment? Rob affirms that ‘we have to substantially improve the physical environment they return to. It’s no longer sitting there staring at a laptop in a library all day or in an office environment alongside a thousand heads. And at the same time, we have to substantially improve this virtual environment that we live in at the moment.’


3 lessons from organizations 


1. Work across boundaries 

Business Schools should collaborate across departments, within their universities, and with other organizations, fostering partnerships with innovation hubs and startups for a broader business perspective.

When asked how businesses can survive challenges in uncertain times when it is difficult to predict the future, Manisha Mistry (Head of Digital Culture, Rolls Royce), said that they can ´become more prepared if they’re willing to collaborate and accept the areas of vulnerability they have and that others are better and can help them with it.’

2. Allow room for failure

Another lesson drawn from startups and innovative companies is related to the permission to fail. It is important to teach future leaders that failure is often part of the road towards success.

Business schools should teach future leaders in what circumstances it is appropriate and how to manage it, as Frank Salzgeber (Head of Innovation & Venture,  ESA Space Solutions, European Space Agency) clarifies.

Rob concurs, emphasizing the importance of knowing when to fail: ‘in the earlier phases so you know there’s no position to fail in the big event’.

3. Innovate based on your goals

A crucial improvement area for business schools, but Manisha pronounces that ’Innovation has to start from recognizing the need’.

Innovation must be driven by goals, learners’ objectives and needs, not be a goal in itself. She adds that ‘it’s about recognizing how it [technology] augments and enhances what you do and seeing it as an enabler’.

She does add that ethics play an essential part as well: ensuring that technology is used in such a way that limits any unintended consequence, case in which it can become a detractor.

Watch the entire panel discussion 

Barco supports your innovation efforts
In an increasingly digital future, with student expectations more diverse than ever in terms of teaching delivery and curriculum, Barco weConnect can help you adapt to these new times and future-proof the strategy of your business school.
Our solution will enable you to teach and collaborate across boundaries and borders, to innovate based on your pedagogical goals and educate the leaders of tomorrow.