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Be a Better Human: The Business School Mindset of the Future

Featured Events | Mar 19, 2020 |

By Stephanie Trovato

Gone are the days of a one-track mind in the world of business education. At the Work 2040: Future of Work in a Sustainable World conference, a panel of esteemed business school deans discussed curriculum and strategic decisions that represent a wave of the future, seen in the upcoming decades.

The first question asked by the moderator, Ellen Glazerman, executive director at EY was, “who are your customers?” While this may seem like an easy answer, the deans each gave a unique answer, giving listeners insights into the future of the admissions process.

Donna Rapaccioli, dean of Gabelli School of Business, said she preferred to frame constituents as stakeholders, rather than customers, with the school’s primary stakeholders being its students.

“We are educating compassionate, global leaders who will positively change the world. The need to include the entire community to make that happen – faculty, alumni, corporate partners, non-profit and government representatives – can easily be sometimes overlooked, but systematizing that is the key to our success.”

Josep Franch, dean of Spain’s ESADE Business School, William Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business both built on Dean Rapaccioli’s idea, stating that students invest in the schools they choose, and therefore are shareholders in their own right. It is up to the schools to give them a program worth their investment.

What Changes Are You Seeing?

“Change is inevitable. Without change, there is no growth,” said Dean Rapaccioli.

An overwhelming theme of their discussion was implementing change and creating academic offerings that pull from the talents of multiple departments. Companies are not looking for an employee who knows one thing and one thing only, and characteristics such as problem solving, the ability to wear multiple hats and proven skills on teams fare most favorably among employers.

In addition to inclusivity, the shift to be more responsible and have a positive impact on society has become a major focus point of these three business schools, in particular. According to Franch, “This can be reflected in the types of content we have, the type of projects we take part in, and in our intention to be a force for good in society.”

New admissions processes can better match schools and the types of students they are seeking to enroll, Boulding explained. “There used to be a model of leadership that the smartest person in the room gets to tell everyone else what to do – so you need the smartest person in your program. Now we know a great team will always contain great individuals.” The focus has shifted to working as a team with a common purpose.

Dean Boulding gave us his secret formula (not so secret anymore) for recruiting assets to the business school program: a high IQ; high emotional intelligence to relate to one another; and a high DQ (decency quotient). “We need leaders who understand that leadership is about being selfless, not selfish,” he said. “They need to have humility and care about others, understanding their success is a function of the success of their team.”

Being a Better Human

Empathy and decency are traits that are hard to teach, but when possessed, they can make the world a better place. The focus on being a better human, not just a good student, has brought success to these scholarly programs. Admissions teams are searching for candidates who possess characteristics that will make them strong and dynamic employees, looking beyond just high GPAs.

The bottom line is no longer the main focus of a business, the panel agreed. Establishing human decency, respect, and the ability to work as a team as traits to focus on building will increasingly advance your career much further in the future than a few good numbers under your belt.

Business Schools are Being Proactive

A main measure of success addressed by the panel was the ability to create a curriculum that brings a variety of disciplines together to create well-rounded graduates.

Some innovative ideas include: a challenge-based innovation class at ESADE Business School, combining MBA students, engineering students and design students; a course at Fuqua School of Business that looks at the intersection between business and politics; and the Gabelli School’s Ground Floor course, an integrated, interdisciplinary course for all first-year students that incorporates the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Business schools have had a siloed way of thinking in the past. But many changes over the last decade have resulted in programs that are more responsive to society and can deliver on the demand to produce graduates who are relevant, informed and skilled leaders of tomorrow’s workplace.

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