Cambridge’s Michael Kitson is not the only B-school academic concerned about China in 2020. Davin Chor, associate professor and globalization chair at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, says while there has been a brief pause in the heated trade rhetoric between the U.S. and China, he is certain that trade policy and tariffs will be major factors in the upcoming American election.
“As 2019 draws to a close, the ‘Phase 1’ deal agreed to between the U.S. and China has provided a momentary thaw in trade tensions that were threatening to boil over,” Chor tells P&Q. “Despite this, let me hazard the following ‘prediction’: Trade policy and tariffs are going to have a bigger impact on how American voters cast their ballots in the November 2020 elections than they did on the results of the 2018 midterms. The reason for this view is quite simple: We are now nearing the two-year mark from when the U.S. first started imposing unilateral tariffs on several key trading partners, and when these trading partners — notably China — started responding in kind. The negative effects of these retaliatory tariffs on farmers and on some key manufacturing industries is starting to hit home on voters’ pocketbooks.
“As the 2020 election campaign gathers momentum, I fully expect to see more measures by the Trump administration to assuage the economic pain — more agricultural subsidies, for example — and an all-out effort to convince the American public that the tariff war is ‘worth it.’ Whether or not American voters agree with this, we shall have to wait to see in November 2020.”
Politics invades every aspect of our lives, and Chor’s colleague at the Tuck School, Lauren Grewal, assistant professor of business administration, says how we evolve in our use of social media will be a critical issue in the new year — particularly as it pertains to political information.
“One thing that I predict will be a critical issue in the domain of social media in 2020, is how it is utilized — positively, negatively, or not at all — as a means to disseminate political information and advertising,” Grewal says. “This issue has become steadily more prevalent as politicians utilize their various social media pages as platforms for reforms, spreading of information and advertising, and support — and it’s become an important enough issue that some platforms are actively choosing to not allow political advertising at all. Considering this, the platforms that do choose to showcase political advertising are probably going to significantly impact the U.S. election.
“Social media platforms that choose to show political ads are in a place where, based on their algorithms for how various consumers are shown content, could really widen peoples’ views before voting occurs — or unfortunately could (and most likely will) exacerbate confirmation biases and create echo chamber effects. The ramifications of what type of information is offered — positive ads supporting candidates, attack ads towards other candidates, ads only coming from certain politicians or political parties — and how it’s shown to various audiences, and at what rate it is shown through social media, will be huge.”
THE CHALLENGES, AND OPPORTUNITIES, OF AI
Simon Blanchard, Beyer Family associate professor and director of the MBA Certificate for Consumer Analytics and Insights at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, says 2020 will see continued leaps in technology in the areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning — and how those affect business and business education will present an interesting challenge.
“Over the last few years, we saw the pace of technological advancement in AI and machine learning increase substantially,” Blanchard tells P&Q. “The methods are both more complex and more effective. What is interesting for the future of work and business leaders is that not only are the methods better, but also they are adapted to help many more types of business problems. The result is a growth in the number of AI products available to managers for helping with automation and knowledge discovery for problems that were only previously handled by workers.
“The main challenge is to decide what tasks to prioritize for AI use, and how to create an implementation strategy.
“Choosing when and how to use AI becomes an interesting challenge for educators. It is no longer sufficient to introduce what AI can do in the abstract or with common applications. We must explain clearly the kind of problems AI can readily help with, and the ones where the investment may not bring sufficient return. In a way, AI is a very powerful tool in the toolbox future business leaders. It is still the leaders that are still responsible to determine when and how to use the tool in a way that is productive. As such, we must train graduates to become more comfortable with recognizing good return-on-investment use cases for AI and how to select the proper solution.”
The advance of AI and machine learning in 2020 is also a focus of Arvind Malhotra, the Allen Andrew professor of entrepreneurial education and professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. “Machines and humans will converge at a super-accelerated pace in 2020,” says Malhotra, author of the new book Unleashing the Crowd: Collaborative Solutions to Wicked Business and Societal Problems.
“The increase in augmented human work will be pervasive across businesses. AI and robots will start to do more of the routine information processing work, freeing up humans to do more of the non-routine, emotions-oriented work. AI will do more of the upfront diagnostics in healthcare, leaving doctors to deliver empathetic healthcare to patients. In the retail sector, the moving and stocking of products will be left to robots, while the human customer care agents will work with customers to provide more customized service, acting as consultants for consumption. Machines will make humans smarter in creative work by taking inputs for work output, e.g. design, stories, producing initial outputs which then can be modified by creative humans to produce a higher quality output than otherwise possible. In our daily lives, machines will do our routine work, leaving us to have a better quality of life and more enjoyable experiences. Concierge-like services enabled by Alexa will learn from our tastes and help us create more enjoyable life experiences. Instead of the fear of robots, humans will think, ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Live with the Robot.'”
WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE MBA? SURVIVAL & GREATER ACCESSIBILITY
Blanchard’s colleague, Shelly Heinrich, associate dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown McDonough, is one of the only respondents to focus solely on what the new year has in store for business schools themselves. Heinrich, who is also McDonough’s director of marketing, says the struggles of the full-time MBA will continue to be well-discussed — but MBA programs will persevere, particularly because they continue to be lucrative for graduates. And waiting for a recession before applying to B-school may not be the wisest course of action.
“In general, the benefit of the MBA will continue to be return on investment of employment,” Heinrich says. “As long as the economy remains strong, MBA graduates should still see the same ROI as in years past. Georgetown McDonough’s Full-time MBA ranks first in the world for having the best trained graduates according to the 2018 Recruiter Insights assessment published by Bloomberg Businessweek. It may be a good strategy to pursue your MBA now when the economy is strong and you have even more opportunities versus waiting for a potential recession.
“Also, the MBA will remain a viable option for people wanting to switch careers. Over the past three years, 86% on average of Georgetown McDonough students who sought and accepted a post-graduate role either changed their industry or function. Schools will find ways to infuse value and specialization to add value to the MBA degree. For example, Georgetown McDonough launched the MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business not only to help students enhance their own success, but also to help businesses achieve their goals and at the same time be in service to society.”
In 2020 and beyond, many business schools, Heinrich tells P&Q, will seek ways to make pursuing the MBA degree more accessible. “For instance, Georgetown McDonough continues to raise funds for MBA scholarships. Also, many schools will infuse flexibility into their programs. Georgetown McDonough has added greater flexibility through its Flex MBA program with innovations in the use of technology, delivery of courses, and adjustable duration to ensure working professionals can better balance their career commitments with their personal commitments. Furthermore, some business schools like Georgetown McDonough now accept the Executive Assessment that evaluates business school readiness and values the knowledge and real-world experience people will bring to the program.”