The Future MBA, week 8: Don't get tied to the business suit

Future MBA

The Future MBA, week 8: Don't get tied to the business suit

Suits can be restricting.

For 100 days I am posting 100 ways that we could rethink and reimagine the MBA, to transform it into a tool for creating the sustainable leaders that our organizations and the planet need.

I’ll explore all aspects of the MBA, ranging from curriculum and research to partnerships and campus activities. Some ideas could be put into practice tomorrow while others would require a complete rethinking of the way we view the MBA.

This brainstorming of ideas is meant to encourage discussion, so please share your thoughts and comments and elaborate on the ideas you find the most interesting.

Day 50: Communication 102

As previously discussed, communication is a key skill that managers need, but have to different degrees. Communication 102 continues on from Communication 101, to explicitly teach students a range of important communication skills that will enable them to be more successful in their professional lives and overall careers.

This course will explore communication in a day-to-day work environment in order to create future leaders and managers able to more effectively manage their time, engage those around them and make an impact. The course will investigate how to organize and facilitate effective meetings, how to observe and listen effectively and how to contribute in meaningful ways. The course also will explore how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of those working around you and how to give and receive constructive feedback and criticism.

Day 51: Peer to Peer MBA

In the future, individuals will be able to create their own MBA, taking a range of core topics whenever and wherever they want. Students would note their current knowledge level in a particular topic (beginning, average, advanced), and would be given the opportunity to join classes that correspond to that level in terms of the content that it provides and the way it is delivered (language, tone, speed). Students then would be connected with a range of courses delivered by faculty, fellow students and other experts in the business sector, NGOs or International Organizations. The courses could be delivered online, over the phone, on campus or in person anywhere around the world.

While this system would work for full courses, it would be even more useful for specific parts of courses. A lecture for an MBA class in the UK on how to manage conservation projects in rural communities could connect to a student doing his MBA in India working in a rural community on conservation projects, or a course exploring reporting standards could connect with the Global Reporting Initiative.

Day 52: Local government

Business schools are within neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries. How can the schools and their students get more engaged in what is happening in their area as both a learning experience and an opportunity to engage local government?

The Future MBA would have a formalized relationship with local, city or national governments. This relationship could take many forms. It could involve working directly with city councils and government providing advice, creating new programs or carrying out existing ones, doing consulting work, research, etc. On the other hand, these relationships could enable government to use the services of business schools to explore, create and test innovative sustainability ideas in the community, using the community as a living laboratory. For students, this would be an opportunity to not only learn about local government and how it operates but to also contribute to creating stronger communities where they are studying.

Day 53: Suits

Put a suit on someone and she looks more respectable, smarter, more prepared. But a dark suit with a light colored shirt (the typical MBA uniform) also makes everyone in the room look similar. One could argue that requiring students to wear suits to certain functions also encourages them to act, maybe even think in a certain, similar way. It adds an element of formality that can stop students from speaking up, being open to discussion and exploration. It even may discourage those who don’t own, have never worn and are not interested in careers that require suits from applying in the first place.

If business schools are about bringing together a diverse group of people, sharing and connecting those differences to create a future workforce that can strengthen and innovate the business sector and make it more sustainable, then differences should be celebrated within the school. Creating a more casual dress environment (within reason) may provide a better setting for the sharing of information and insights, drawn both from successes and failures. It may give students the opportunity to focus on being what they are and not what the sector wants them to be.

This may seem like a small thing, but sometimes the small things make the biggest difference.

Day 54: At your fingertips

A key feature of The Future MBA will be creating more sustainable, self-sufficient and innovative campuses. In order for a business school to know exactly what is happening at any given moment on campus relating to energy and water use or waste generation, students and staff will have access to a platform which will give real-time data. The platform also could collect and present information about how many cars and bikes are on campus and even how many windows are open while the air conditioner is running.

Day 55: Connecting faculty

A key challenge in ensuring that the next generation of leaders is fluent in sustainability is to embed it into the curriculum so that students not just understand these concepts as they relate to core topics taught in the MBA, but also know how to put them into practice. The challenge is that faculty often does not have the expertise, knowledge or time and space to explore these topics in useful and relevant ways. How do we connect faculty so it can learn how to incorporate sustainability into courses and research?

The Future MBA will have a social network for faculty which enables members to connect, collaborate and learn from each other. The network will connect faculty from within the same university to facilitate the sharing of information. It also will connect faculty based on location, subject matter or research interests. Faculty can connect with others teaching the same course at other schools to share course material, experiences and resources. A series of regular virtual brown bag lunches will give faculty the chance to learn more about the work being done by other faculty around the world around sustainability topics.

Day 56: Collaborative solutions

Business schools of the future will organize all their research agendas to align with international priorities and real business challenges. Businesses, governments, NGOs and international organizations at the local, national, regional and international level would post on an online platform the range of challenges they encounter in their work regarding moving sustainability forward. Business school researchers then would connect their current work to current challenges, as well as use this to inspire their own research.

Top image by Andrey_Popov via Shutterstock.