Blast from the Past

WHETHER WE’RE AWAITING the release of the latest Apple Watch or debating the use of artificial intelligence, it often seems like we’re barreling into the future on a high-speed bullet train, leaving the past far behind. But I was heartened—and even a little relieved—by the number of articles I’ve read in the last year about people saying “enough already.” As our lives grow increasingly complex and interconnected, some are choosing to revert back to simpler, less distracting times. The author of a November 28, 2015, article in The New York Times called this phenomenon “analog fever.”

That same article noted that a growing number of music lovers are preferring vinyl records to streamed music—with vinyl record sales up 220 percent since 2000. Many television viewers are canceling their pay-TV subscriptions in favor of over-the-air and a la carte programming. According to a survey by Publishing Technology, millennials aren’t just reading more books in print; many also prefer to shop in physical bookstores, which has spurred Amazon, the arbiter of all things online, to open its first, yes, brick-and-mortar bookstore last November. Elsewhere I’ve read that some people are trading their smartphones for far-less-distracting flip phones. In 2014, sales of smartphones fell by more than 5 percent, while sales of socalled “dumb phones” rose by nearly 6 percent. It seems that some are choosing to overcome their technology addictions and take a more balanced approach to living in the digital age.

Such a re-embracing of the past seemed particularly significant as we prepared this special issue, in which all of our features touch on how business education has evolved over the last century. In one article, we describe the evolution of AACSB’s accreditation standards from their roots in 1916; in another, we tell the story of business education through a timeline of historical artifacts contributed by many of AACSB’s founding schools. In addition, business school deans from nine countries reflect on the history of their markets, while outspoken educators like Rotman’s Roger Martin, Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, and Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter suggest paths for business schools as they head into the next 100 years.

Finally, we asked J.-C. Spender of Kozminski University to serve as this issue’s historian. In “The Past Is Present,” he provides an analysis of business education from its origins through today. His conclusion? That since the field’s beginnings, all business school administrators and faculty have faced a similar challenge: to define their overarching purpose.

The year that marks AACSB’s centennial seemed like the perfect time to reflect and realize that amidst the dizzying pace of change, history still has valuable insights to offer today’s educators. Of course, no matter how many people renew their love of record turntables, bookstores, and flip phones, we’ll never again live, work, teach, or learn like it’s 1999. Even so, it’s worth taking a moment to slow down to consider the ideas and innovations of the past, so that we can more deliberately take the best of them with us into the future.