Business schools must also keep learning

Remaining up to date with changes in the business landscape is a constant challenge

Throughout its history, the MBA has been closely linked to innovative thinking. Since its inception in late 19th century America, where the business Masters degree evolved as a reaction to an industrial age requiring new management approaches, MBA programmes have been developing new teaching structures and embracing new technologies: as early as the mid-1980s, at least one US school was handing out a new device known as a "laptop computer" to students.

Times have changed, but the need for innovation in business schools is as pressing as ever. Institutions all over the world are coming up with new technological, pedagogic and even philosophical ideas to meet the future head on. "The complexity of today's business world is growing rapidly," says Chris Tsang, executive director of MBA/MSc programmes at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). "There is no single strategy which can last forever. MBA students need to adapt to the ever-changing world, and so do business schools."

Tsang believes the learning experience business schools offer students can help them become more competitive. In the case of HKUST this means providing every student with an iPad and creating a portal for tablet users to access school information, plus a dedicated online platform hosting videos and learning resources.

Shanghai's China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) also offers a tablet e-learning platform to executive MBA students and is encouraging them to get to grips with social media. The school encourages students to join one of more than 60 CEIBS-related LinkedIn groups, alongside its official Twitter, Facebook and Weibo accounts. "Social media is also informally integrated into some courses," says Professor Chen Shimin, associate dean and academic director of the MBA. "For example, in one recent marketing class it was the broad basis for a class project."

Other schools are using technology to create new teaching spaces. Henley Business School's MBA programme, for example, offers a virtual learning environment to encourage tutor-led and peer-based study, with access to electronic study aids, forums, webinars and remote connections to students and alumni worldwide. "As the boundaries between virtual and actual learning environments become increasingly blurred, knowledge sharing at a global level continues to expand," says Dr Elena Beleska-Spasova, programme director of the school's flexible MBA. "This forces business schools to continuously look for novel ways to create content and share knowledge."

Whatever the approach, it's critical to use technology to add real value, says Alick Kitchin, business director at Edinburgh Business School. Using an online "profiler" tool, EBS students can produce a report that measures their grasp of a particular subject, where they are strong and which need more work. "This is more than even an experienced tutor could do for every member of a conventional class in every topic," explains Kitchin.

Innovation also comes in many more forms than technological. Three of the finalists for the Association of MBA's 2012 Innovation Award, for example, have all developed new teaching approaches to stretch and improve their students.

IEDC-Bled School of Management has thrown its doors open to the arts to encourage creative thinking. "Nothing can be more revealing about practising leadership than standing in front of a choir and having to work with singers," explains Dr Ian Sutherland, deputy dean for research. "Nothing can be more revealing about the processes of creativity than a group of our students standing in front of a blank canvas and having to figure out how to work together to produce a meaningful painting. This kind of learning creates highly memorable and usable knowledge for them in their professional lives."

China's Wuhan University also looks beyond quantitative business thinking. "We select professors in humanities from the whole university to give lectures to our EMBA students," says Yu Jingjing, associate director of the Economic and Management School, "who provide diverse perspectives when thinking about management problems."

Insead, meanwhile, has established partnerships with scientists from other universities to develop commercial technology projects. The 10-month programme uses workshops, bootcamps, classes and competitions centred around entrepreneurial development, says Filipe Santos, associate professor of entrepreneurship. "The students love the experiential learning aspect of this programme. They're not simply hearing about theories and working on published case studies: they're being challenged to roll up their sleeves and create real companies."

Schools also have a duty to keep up with the shifting sands of the business world. "Business schools have been regarded as vacillating and failing in courage to integrate reverse logistics and sustainability topics within the management education curriculum," says Professor Shimin. "The main pressure on business school curricula innovation today is in catching up with leading industries and investment funds who are actively implementing sustainable development and enterprise projects within their strategies."

The pressures arising from technological change catalysed the first business management programmes, so perhaps readying a new generation of leaders for an uncertain future is the best reason for innovation. "The world is changing at a faster and faster rate," says Dr Sutherland. "Given this climate, it is not only important for educational institutions to innovate, it is essential."

Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape