From the Outside In

I’m a few decades past my childhood years, but I’ll admit it—I’m an avid fan of Pixar’s animated films. From Toy Story to The Incredibles, I’ve seen them all. So it comes as no surprise that I was among the first in line to see Pixar’s latest production, Inside Out. I was charmed by its depiction of a young girl’s life, as told from the point of view of her emotions. The characters in her head—representing joy, sadness, disgust, anger, and fear—work together to assess new situations, respond to crises, solve problems, and act as the girl’s internal advisors. The movie’s takeaway: When we rely too much on a single viewpoint, we develop blind spots and fail to live up to our full potential.

An animated film might seem a strange source of inspiration for business schools, but its message is as true for them as it is for individuals: To achieve long-term goals, schools must listen carefully to a broad base of perspectives. Just how business schools can best tap into those diverse experiences and value systems, through their own internal advisory boards, is a primary focus in this issue. In “Shaking It Up,” Chip Wiggins of Bentley University emphasizes that “A diverse advisory board encourages us to develop a broader strategic agenda.” In “Seats at the Table,” Susan Hart of the University of Strathclyde Business School warns that, while each individual’s unique worldview is valuable, leaders who cling to their own points of view too strongly “might make decisions that are poorly founded, somewhat myopic, and limited.”

This issue also underscores the need for diversity in another area of business: gender. We highlight an initiative to increase women’s participation in business and government leadership. Recently launched by the Obama Administration, the initiative is supported by AACSB International and the deans of 47 U.S. business schools. In addition, Helen Drinan, president of Simmons College, explains Simmons’ recent decision to deliver its MBA fully online. Drinan believes that the move will help Simmons attract more men to its MBA program and bring a greater “variety of voices” to its MBA courses.

Finally, on page 52, we introduce “Solving for X,” which will be a recurring feature in BizEd. Based on an article of the same name in our January/February 2014 issue, “Solving for X” is a forum where schools can share their individual solutions to big problems—in essence, we hope these narratives will highlight different and often unique strategies for addressing the common challenges that many business educators face.

As whimsical as it seems, Inside Out offers an apt metaphor for the value of different points of view in all areas of business education. “Board members bring with them an outside-in view,” says Maastricht University’s Philip Vergauwen in “Seats at the Table.” They “help clarify whatever puzzle we’re working on. They push us in the right direction, and they protect us from the stress we feel when we think there is so much we need to do.” Such vital contributions are unlikely to inspire an Outside In sequel anytime soon. But they do inspire business schools to tackle bigger challenges, set loftier goals, and reach the full potential of their missions.