The Future MBA, week 14: Creative and cooperative ideas

Future MBA

The Future MBA, week 14: Creative and cooperative ideas

Creative and cooperative ideas.

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 92: Reflection

Most time in business school is spent learning about and analyzing the decisions that others made, the numbers that others generated and the cases that others built. The Future MBA will put more of an emphasis on students themselves and how they can develop their own self-awareness and skills as a future employee, manager or leader by tapping into and using their own experiences as a key part of the learning process. Many assignments, experiences and opportunities will focus on giving students the chance to reflect at various levels on the work that they have done in the past and how what they learn in the classroom helps them to better understand decisions they made both before and during the degree. This also will help students reflect on their actions moving forward and continue to learn from their experiences throughout their careers.

Day 93: Changing themes

Every year, despite what happens in the world around us, the MBA stays largely the same. Similar classes are taught in a similar way. How do we create an MBA that responds to the world around us today and prepares students for the world of tomorrow?

In the Future MBA schools will focus on a particular theme each year. This special program will happen in parallel to the traditional MBA but be open to a wider audience. Each school can choose its theme based on issues of importance in its communities, countries, region or internationally. This could include conflicts, political issues, environmental or social issues, even new discoveries. 

This shorter program (six months to a year) will contain a range of events, courses, conversations and projects specifically aimed at raising student awareness of that issue as it is relevant today, discussing how to move that issue forward and exploring the issue in the future. The goal would be to not just create individuals who are knowledgeable and ready to work to solve these challenges today, but also to gather momentum and act as a central space to shape discussions around that topic and move the issue forward. Students of all ages would be invited to register for these part-time programs and alumni would be allowed to return to participate in some for free.

Day 94: Shareholder engagement

Universities hold billions of dollars in corporate stock. As shareholders they have the opportunity and a responsibility to positively affect those companies and influence their sustainability policies and strategies. How do we turn universities from passive to active investors for the benefit of the universities, the companies and society as a whole?

Future MBA students will engage with faculty and staff at the business school to examine the companies the university has shares in and how they choose which shares to invest in or divest from. They will explore opportunities to vote on issues, attend annual meetings and put forth or comment on shareholder resolutions relating to social and environmental topics. They also will collaborate with other universities and shareholders to influence corporate policies in positive ways and provide useful ongoing contributions in financial capital, human resources and additional resource.

Day 95: Creative space

When it comes to solving the world’s and business’s challenges, creativity, generating new ideas, thinking outside the box and innovation are all skills that future graduates need. Despite that most business school students do not come from a traditional “creative" background, it is important that they explore how to be inspired by the world around them and to better understand how they can tap into their own creative spirit to come up with new ideas, products and projects in their jobs.

In the Future MBA there will be a creative space on campus. This space will contain movies, music and musical instruments, furniture, art and craft supplies from around the world. Established and emerging artists will be invited to share their work. It will be a highly interactive space where items will change constantly.

Students will have the chance to enter the space to explore their own creativity and different methods of tapping into it, to see what inspires them and to help them to put that inspiration to good use in their work now and moving forward. The space will be created and updated through partnerships with local museums, art galleries and art centers who will send individuals to work on campus with the students and invite the students to their spaces to explore their work.

Day 96: Reporting

Leading businesses are pushing what is possible in corporate reporting. They are increasing disclosure, becoming more transparent and reporting on issues most material to their businesses. They are experimenting with environmental profit and loss statements, integrated reporting and other formats that likely will become the norm for a more comprehensive way of reporting in the future.

Instead of following business trends, the Future MBAs will be ahead of the game when it comes to reporting. They will create, shape and test out innovative new ways of reporting which will inspire and shape the way that other organizations such as businesses and NGOs report on their activities, both in terms of quantitative and qualitative data.

Day 97: Playing

Individuals of all ages spend time playing highly addictive and simple video games. A growing number of these games aim to help solve bigger challenges in the field of sciences, using players to solve tiny bits of the problem and bringing all these tiny solutions into larger ones.

Students in the Future MBA, as well as the public at large, will have the chance to play a collaborative video game which gives them a chance, using real data, to build new businesses and explore new business models that make more sense for the planet, society and businesses. It will give players a chance to explore what really should make up a successful business and business environment. The game will be open-source and free. Researchers and students can explore solutions from the game to create new businesses or implement changes to the business environment.

Day 98: Thinkers in Residence

Researchers in universities spend many years doing in-depth analysis of topics. But what about individuals working in business who are exposed to new challenges on a regular basis and who can’t necessarily wait years or months or even dedicate that time themselves to that research?

The Future MBA will invite individuals every year onto campus as Thinkers in Residence. These could be alumni, business partners, individuals working in the community or retirees, and can choose to spend between a week and several months in this position. Through this program, individuals can identify a theme or challenge of interest to them, their community or their organization and choose to spend a short amount of time exploring this topic. Themes also can be established by the business school based on their focus areas and individuals can apply to do projects that fit in with those themes. Each project will have an outcome which will be presented to the school community and to the individual's own professional community which could result in more in-depth research or work, a prototype, an article or a plan of action.

Day 99: The cooperative

A cooperative is a business enterprise owned and controlled by the members that it serves. Cooperatives put people before profit by helping their members achieve their shared social, cultural and economic aspirations.

In the future, the MBA could become a cooperative with students and alumni making up its membership base. It would focus on helping them to achieve their educational and life goals as well as contributing to knowledge in their communities and internationally. It would provide services to serve its members' needs and take a long-term view, exploring new ideas and opportunities. Because of its governance based on balanced democratic control, it would hold itself accountable for limiting impacts that otherwise might go overlooked.

Day 100: Today and tomorrow

What will the future company, the future NGO, the future consumer, the future customer, even the future MBA look like?

In the Future MBA, students will explore these topics. In a series of ongoing discussions over the course of their program, classes of students will become Futurists, tapping into their diverse experience and backgrounds to explore, predict global trends, scenarios and opportunities they believe will become business reality throughout their careers. The course will encourage students to think about what kind of future they would like, a future that will work for the planet and society as well as for the business sector. It also will focus on the now and how they can shape and reach the desired future through the work they do post-graduation through their career choices and business decisions. This is a future that they will create, so they have the power to change it.

Top illustration by Ollyy via Shutterstock.