The Most Innovative Business School Ideas Of 2015

Open InnovationWilliam & Mary Mason School of Business — Crowdsourcing An MBA Revamp

These days, you can crowdsource nearly anything. From ski resorts to precision medicine to commencement addresses, not much has escaped the grasps of the fledgling way to source information. So perhaps it made sense for a business school to tackle an MBA curriculum review via crowdsourcing.

William and Mary Mason School of Business launched the effort to inform the redesign of its MBA curriculum. By early December, little more than a month into the initiative, the school has received nearly 200 ideas and about 200 registered users. The crowdsourcing platform, meantime, had also drawn the attention of 2,000 unique visitors from 53 countries. The platform will be open for new ideas and discussion until the end of the year and then a panel of “jurors” will review the ideas and award the best.

The idea of sourcing outside opinion always comes up during curriculum redesign discussions. But this time, the idea of going beyond alumni and key stakeholder opinion came to fruition. “About every five years we take a good, hard look at the curriculum,” says Ken White, the associate dean of MBA and Executive Programs at the Mason School.  “We wanted to look at what do our employers say. What do the corporate partners say? What do—as we’re calling them—the users of the MBA think we need to go in the future? We’re not saying whatever comes through the website is exactly what we’re going to do. It’s simply to generate ideas and discussion.”

capitol-hill-during-sunset-oUniversity of Minnesota Carlson School of Management — A Capitol Hill MBA

The halls of Congress are known as a magnet for smart and ambitious young professionals who gravitate to Capital Hill from some of the best colleges and universities in the world. So it’s certainly a surprise that the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management decided to launch a unique online MBA program nearly 1,000 miles away from the Washington beltway, hoping to capitalize on that talent pool of some 13,000 Congressional staffers.

The one-year MBA, which debuts in 2016, is specifically designed for Congressional staffers who want a deeper understanding of business to either help them in their current jobs or transition them into more lucrative post-Capitol Hill careers. It was the first new MBA program approved by the university since 1982.

The $75,000-program will be a highly structructed, accelerated MBA that could be completed in one year. But it has been designed so that staffers, who work notoriously long and intense hours when Congress is in session, could stretch the workload out over two years, with the most difficult courses in such subjects as accounting and finance being held during the slower summer months.

Ken Freeman, dean of Boston University's Questrom School of Business

Ken Freeman, dean of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business

Boston University Questrom School of Business— A Breakthrough Master’s in Management Studies

In recent years, one of the biggest growth areas in graduate management education has been the explosion of one-year specialized master’s programs, including the master’s in management, largely meant for undergrads with no business knowhow or experience. The majority of these programs are mini-MBAs and they look pretty much the same from one school to another.

Not at Boston University which is in the early stages of a highly novel design that could very well be the prototype for future MBA programs. For the 39 students who entered the first iteration of the Master’s of Science in Management Studies program in August, there is no syllabus nor are there formal courses. The majority of the learning is driven by students not faculty, all the grades are pass/fail, and the program breaks academic tradition by organizing around three experiential projects with three different companies, each with executive mentors who have legitimate teaching roles in the program.

Ken Freeman, Questrom School of Business dean, views the corporate partnerships that are at the foundation of the new program as key to the future of business education. ‘We wanted to be very innovative here and not create another me-too program in management studies,” he says. “So far, the enthusiasm of the faculty, students and corporate partners is off the charts. We have companies lined up at the door, wanting to participate.”

The core faculty of four professors meet weekly to coordinate the learning for recent undergraduates with STEM backgrounds. “Other MSM programs are often watered down MBAs for Chinese internationals at $50,000 a pop,” says Paul Carlile, senior associate dean of curriculum and innovation. “If you were an expert on disruption, you would say this is what stupid companies do before they die. We wanted a targeted curriculum that relies on partner-based learning. The students are responsible for their own learning. In some ways, the program may look a little like the Wild West, but it’s well structured.”

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