It's Time for Reinvention

Whether business schools are embracing new technologies or experimenting with new pedagogies, they will find that adaption and innovation are their watchwords from the coming year, says AACSB's new board chair.
It's Time for Reinvention

WHAT A TIME TO BE BOARD CHAIR for AACSB! As dean at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business in California, located in Silicon Valley, I see business disruption firsthand—and I increasingly see a juxtaposition between traditional higher education and the future of higher education. Or, as I think about it, between old and new.

That juxtaposition has created a sense of urgency for business schools to adapt to disruptions now transforming business models. I am reminded of the story of Kodak, which invented digital technology in the 1980s. Rather than embrace the disruptive technology, Kodak’s executives decided to stick with the company’s traditional film business. That opened the door to Kodak’s competitors to build the digital photography business, leading to Kodak’s declaring bankruptcy in 2012. The company had spent a decade trying to catch up in a market where it could have been a leading force.

Like Kodak, business schools are in a shifting industry, and as business school educators and administrators we need to move quickly. When the world is reinventing itself in quick order, all of us—students, faculty, administrators—must reinvent ourselves along with it. As an association, AACSB International will be exploring what these changes will mean for our pedagogy, our students, our faculty, and the communities that we serve. But, in short, if business schools are to stay ahead of change, they must embrace three primary characteristics: They must be disruptive, they must be agile, and above all, they must be resilient.


AACSB’s Innovation Committee (IC) has been focusing on better understanding technologies that have the most potential to disrupt higher education. During each meeting, we have brought in speakers to inspire what we call “fire starter conversations” that will open our eyes to new opportunities for business education.

For example, at our meeting last September, we explored the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on management education. We know that AI has great potential to support our roles as educators and that online tools can quickly deliver content regarding business concepts. But we also know that teaching and learning are, at their base, about human interactions. Effective use of AI will allow us to devote more of our hands-on time to helping students develop leadership, management, and communications skills through experiential projects and face-to-face guidance.

At that same meeting, Nick van Dam, chief learning officer of McKinsey, was one of our first fire starters. He discussed how McKinsey is training its workforce to prepare for technological disruption. Since then, van Dam has followed up on his talk with the article “Learning in the Digital Age,” published in the March/April issue of BizEd.

According to van Dam, the successful workers of the future will develop deep expertise in many areas, not just one, so they can stay relevant in their fields. They will embrace lifelong learning and invest in their own re-education over the course of their careers.

At our February meeting, held just before the Deans Conference, our fire starter speaker was Anders Gronstedt, whose firm the Gronstedt Group has been instrumental in helping global companies integrate virtual and augmented reality into their efforts to improve employee performance. Not just for gamers, these rapidly evolving technologies are yielding new opportunities for “active learning,” especially related to situations that are difficult or costly to recreate.

At our April meeting, held just before ICAM, our fire starter speaker was So-Young Kang, a Singapore-based entrepreneur who founded the microlearning mobile app GNOWBE. Kang talked about trends in microlearning and gamification and discussed how her company has adopted a “mobile first” approach to education. Mobile-first learning has become a valuable tool in reaching both busy executives and students in emerging markets, but it requires educators to think differently about content delivery, breaking up information into smaller pieces for consumption in mobile formats.

IC members believe that AACSB member schools could benefit from having greater access to what we learn at our meetings. For that reason, this year we are summarizing and distributing that information to members, via a series of reports on topics such as AI, virtual and augmented reality, and microlearning.