Future MBA

The Future MBA, week 13: Influence and asking why

What influences business leaders

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 85: Influence

Influence is a powerful tool. We are influenced by the neverending stream of messages we hear and see in the world around us. These messages, how we interpret them and the importance we assign to them shape and guide our actions in our jobs, as consumers and in our everyday life. At the same time we, too, have the power to influence others with what we say and how we act, both for good and for bad. With the increase in social media, instant sharing and communication of information, it is important that future leaders understand what influences their behaviors (and that of others) at a conscious and subconscious level and also understand how to manage this.

The Future MBA will have a module focused on influence. This module will look at how we can better understand, filter and deal with the influences that we feel around us, in particular those that influence our decisions at work. It also will look at the positive power of influence to change minds and behaviors within a business and in society as a whole.

Day 86: Membership

Do the business schools of the future need to provide graduate degrees? Could they not instead become a service that provides individuals and businesses with ongoing on-demand products such as training and advisory products which are up to date and relevant?

The Future MBA would be a memberships-based program. The business schools might have a range of membership levels for individuals of all ages and for businesses. Memberships would last years, even a lifetime, and provide access to services whenever the individual wants or is ready for that service.

Members can have access to, and have a certain amount of influence over, the services the school offers such as short and long courses, events, advisor services, networking, access to resources and information. Businesses also can become members to give their employees access to ongoing training and personal improvement opportunities. Member businesses can co-create courses with their university for employees from that company, or open up to those from other companies. Individuals and business can choose to be a member of one or several business schools based on reputation, specific expertise areas or location.

Day 87: No business classes

Many students that choose to do graduate business degrees already have a business degree and the vast majority have been working in business for several years. At the same time, many businesses question the benefits of hiring graduates of MBA programs. How can we create an MBA program that really focuses on creating better managers and leaders?

The Future MBA would have limited quantitative business classes — these could be a pre-requisite for admission (and a parallel program would exist focused on these). The point of the degree will be to develop students into managers and leaders, to expose them to experiences that will help develop them as individuals and as managers within any business. The program would be based purely on skill development, exposure to a range of global and nonbusiness opportunities to help create leaders that better understand the world, that can identify a range of new opportunities and know how to move their team and the business into new and exciting directions.

Day 88: Why x 5

Many challenges presented to MBA students are explored only on the surface. Because of this, students usually aren’t able to fully comprehend the root causes behind a challenge and spend more time working around the symptoms. How can we ensure students understand how to dig deeper?

In the Future MBA, classes will use a tool often used in operations called Why x 5. When presented with a question, students will need to explore the topic by asking "why?" 5 times in a row after every answer they provide to the previous question. A question such as "Why are businesses not exploring sustainability issues?" could be answered, "Because their employees are not knowledgeable about these topics." Why? Because they aren’t being taught in school. Why? Etc.

Day 89: Co-teaching

In the Future MBA, courses will be co-taught by an academic staff member along with an expert working in that topic from business, NGOs or another organization. The academic staff will bring in the theory and the rigor while the "expert" will focus on how that information is used by businesses, what are the trends, what is actually happening and how to use that information in context. Co-teachers could be for a full term class or change throughout depending on the topic. 

They also would provide a good resource for students who want to get a better understanding of career options in the area being taught. This would strengthen the material as well as keep it up to date and relevant to students.

Day 90: Global Center

It is important that students have a better understanding of cultures and the realities, opportunities and challenges that exist when doing business in our shrinking world. How do you provide students with this knowledge when they are based in one location?

The Future MBA will have a Global Center on campus. Staff from the Global Center regularly will come into the classroom to provide cultural context to cases and topics being explored. This office will have connections with embassies, cultural centres, alumni and current students as well as schools in other countries who can provide additional resources and support. It also will provide a space for students to meet to learn about cultures for assignments, out of interest and before going on exchanges, internships or full-time jobs.

Day 91: The business of

The Future MBA would manage and run a small number of specialized businesses on or around campus. Students would run these businesses. The profits that come in from these businesses go to help cover the costs of the business school, hence lowering or even eliminating tuition costs. Schools could choose business opportunities based on their surroundings and this in itself could help differentiate themselves from different schools. A business school based in a location ideal for grape growing could create its own wine/tourism business which in turn would attract students interested in related industries.

Top illustration by igor kisselev via Shutterstock.