Business Education Jam

BUSINESS EDUCATION JAM: LET’S BE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

Applause to the Business Education Jam, the big online collaboration that launches tomorrow, for seeking to better understand and address the “supply and demand gap” between the needs of employers and the output of business schools.

This type of conversation – between business schools and industry – is critical as business schools around the globe seek objective guideposts as they re-imagine their business models so as to retain their relevance in an environment turned on its head by a storm of disruption.  Companies, too, have a lot at stake in this conversation.

Quite a few business school professionals have asked me “what should our expectations be for this event?”

Here are my thoughts:

1. Crowdsourcing around a topic is a cool idea and these IBM “jams” have been around for awhile, applied in a lot of market contexts, so one must assume something worthwhile is coming from them and will in this case as well.  There are a lot of very smart people involved who will no doubt contribute interesting ideas that will advance the discussion around business school relevance and corporate needs.

2. However, I did roll my eyes at the Jam positioning the event as though it were curing an understood deficit of conversation, study and thinking around the topic of the future of management education, the needs of employers and other well-discussed related topics, as though it is tackling these issues “for the first time.”  The concept of a Jam applied in this specific context may be unique—but bringing together individuals from around the world to brainstorm on the issues the Jam intends to address is not.

3. Fortunately, two organizations that have for years diligently convened substantive, global conversations around these topics – AACSB International and the Graduate Management Admission Council – are bringing their data and participation to what must fairly be considered as only the latest conversation on the subject, conducted in a novel manner.  In any case, I certainly appreciate that event organizers needed a “hook” in order to drive visibility and differentiation for the event.

4. What I find a bit disappointing, is that the agenda didn’t have a bit more ambition around tackling some bigger issues – beyond how to “mind the gap” between schools and industry – that will define management education’s ability to deliver long-term value to global organizations, students and society.  These might include topics such as the implications for management education around the rise of China and India as the world’s economic superpowers, the roles and responsibilities of business schools and corporations from the developed world in helping build emerging institutions in Africa, or how will traditional faculty expand beyond the practice of primarily conducting scholarship that expands discipline-based knowledge, but isn’t as focused on the utterly essential scholarship of learning and teaching in diverse and interconnected markets around the world?

Ultimately, the proof of value created by this event is in the pudding, as they say. And we all eagerly await the results of this interesting experiment.  Crowd sourcing is a concept enabled by technology that can certainly sometimes lead to breakthrough insights and ideas—and it’s certainly an idea worth testing in this context.  Having this much “enabled collaboration” among such a smart crowd can only be beneficial and may, in fact, yield some new ideas and recommended actions.

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