The Most Innovative Business School Ideas Of 2015

MBA Innovators

Every MBA student is taught that innovation is a new idea, a more effective way to meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. Most often, business school professors trot out well-worn examples from world class innovators ranging from Apple and Facebook to Uber and Tesla.

But what about the innovation that occurs in graduate management education. These days, there is no shortage of highly creative change meant to disrupt the way business schools deliver on their promise to improve the practice of leadership and management.

Among all the innovation to hit the business school marketplace this year, we think there are at least ten that truly stand out–and deserve credit for being highly creative attempts to improve business education. They range from the unique and novel growth and scaling initiative at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management to the University of Illinois’ bold decision to launch a $20,000 online MBA program based entirely on massive open online courses (MOOCs).

In fact, the majority of the most impressive business school innovations are built on technology. They include Harvard Business School’s creation of the classroom of the future, an idea that borrows as much from TV broadcasting as it does from old fashioned classroom teaching, as well as the ongoing effort by William & Mary’s Mason School of Business to crowdsource a curriculum review that will lead to an overhaul of its MBA program.

Here are our picks for the most innovative moves by business schools in 2015.

Professor Ben Jones is the brainchild behind the growth and scaling initiative at Kellogg

Professor Ben Jones is the brainchild behind the growth and scaling initiative at Kellogg

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management — A Growth & Scaling Curriculum

Arguably the ultimate general management challenge, achieving growth has certainly been a part of every business school’s core and elective MBA curriculum. But this year Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management carved out an unusual and highly innovative niche in the growth and scaling space from both a curricular and thought leadership perspective. The school has rolled out seven different courses on the topic since the spring of 2014 and also is considering a capstone course or experience to what it calls a “pathway,” or set of cohesive courses that help students develop a specific set of skills.

Developing the initiative has turned the more typical way courses are developed at a business school on its head. For years, academics in narrow disciplines largely constructed theories of business education in the abstract, hoping that their outcomes would eventually line up with market needs. In crafting a curriculum around growth, Kellogg went to the market first, asked business leaders what challenges they faced, and came up with a series of courses to teach the required skills.

The brainchild for carving out the growth specialty is a Kellogg strategy professor, Ben Jones, who also serves as faculty director of the school’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiative. Jones explains that the idea for it came out of engaging different leaders and alumni. “We heard a lot about the kinds of leaders people in the community are looking for and generally it was people who can take a business and grow it to the next level,” he says.

Yale University School of Management - photo by Chris Choi

Yale University School of Management – photo by Chris Choi

Yale University School of Management — Global Virtual Teams

Yale University’s School of Managment will debut in January a new required course in the core curriculum unlike any other. Global Virtual Teams will give every first year student in the MBA program a real taste of what it is like to work on a team across time zones, languages and cultures.

After MBA students are grounded in team dynamics during three consecutive days next month, they will be thrown into a virtual team to work on a project with students from partner schools in the Yale initiated Global Network for Advanced Management. The experience is integrated with the school’s core Operations Engine course.

The new, innovative approach occurred after Olav Sorenson, the director of SOM’s MBA curriculum, found himself having conversations with students who came back from their summer internships talking about the challenges of working with others in remote locales all over the world. “Teams in the real world are increasing distributed,” says David Bach, senior associate dean for Executive MBA and global programs. “You have to work with people around the work across time zones and cultural barriers. and the kind of preparation that business schools have traditionally done when it comes to temawork has really focused on my team right here in the same room in the same time zone, all looking at each other. This is to develop a set of skills in students that the market is demanding.”

In this first iteration of the course, students will be teamed with colleagues from HEC Paris and Mexico’s EGADE Business School for a week-long, real-time operations management simulation.

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