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The Future Of B-School: An Interview With Dean François Ortalo-Magné

Wisconsin Business School Dean François Ortalo-Magné

Wisconsin Business School Dean François Ortalo-Magné

You spend two years consuming case studies and running projects. You absorb the best practices, mastering the mechanics of various industries and specialties. When your dean delivers his graduation address, you’ll likely hear something like this: “Now, your education really begins.”

Wait, what were the past two years for?

Talk about irony! Wouldn’t you have been better off earning a Masters in Hard Knocks? Anyone can read – or take MOOCs – to cover basic content, right? You can easily connect to people on Linkedin. Let’s face it: Community organizations are always looking for people to lead their projects? What good is business school?

That was one question that François Ortalo-Magné, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Business, has wrestled with. Like many business innovators, he has discovered that the “how” and “why” is often more important than the “what.” In Ortalo-Magné’s experience, most programs can deliver expertise. However, it’s the overall experience that differentiates schools. That’s why the school has created a model that develops the intangibles – leadership, self-awareness, teamwork, and creativity – that employers seek.

Recently, Poets&Quants sat down with Ortalo-Magné for his thoughts on what he expects to happen in the business school market. For starters, he believes graduates will rely heavily on schools to prepare them for transitions and milestones as their careers progress. Even more, he anticipates five-year curriculum to emerge out of the business bachelors program, where students can apply what they learn sooner.  What else does Ortalo-Magné see happening? Check out his thoughts in Poets&Quants’ exclusive interview with him.

What impact will technology ultimately have on business schools and how that will look in five years? 

We are using our KDBIN framework (Knowing, Doing, Being, Inspiring and Networking) to redefine how we partner with the business community and with our colleagues on campus to redefine the student experience. Technology is already transforming the delivery of knowledge-focused learning experiences. We are convinced in the unique value of live, direct human interactions, for BIN type and some of the D (Doing).

Technology is also helping us change in a fundamental way how we approach our educational mission, moving from delivering teaching to inspiring learning. The move from “teaching” to “learning” is about shifting our focus from sharing pre-defined teaching material to achieving pre-defined learning outcomes. The move from “delivering” to “inspiring,” is about shifting more of the responsibilities for the learning outcomes from the student to the teacher.

Finally, technology allows us to envisage a much more tailored and effective approach to life-long learning. Right now, learning over one’s lifetime is be very chunky. You’re born, you’re educated, you work, and you die. Suppose we knew when you were an undergraduate that you’d come back two years after graduation. Would we teach you the same things? We’ve had very interesting conversations about this with a few employers and recent alumni. We’d like to think of ourselves as moving toward providing a platform that helps people through prepare for and succeed with every major professional transition. Can we do better than Amazon for your reading interests? Given what you have read already, Amazon will tell you what you might like. We’d like to go beyond the current Amazon: help you discern what you should read next, given what you’d like to read eventually. The technology is there to help us envisage such a life-long learning platform.