The 10 Most Cutting-Edge Innovations Happening Right Now In B-Schools


Game-based learning. Art-based learning. Team-based learning. These and other cutting-edge approaches are the future of graduate business education, according to a major new report by learning innovation hub LearnSpace that lists 10 fascinating pedagogical advances, as well as the overarching themes that inform them.

Based on surveys of top schools, the Business Education Innovations Report includes 10 classroom innovations (and one honorable mention) at business schools around the world, as judged by a four-person panel. The report puts a premium on “pedagogical innovations aimed at delivering engaging and effective learning experiences for their students,” says Svenia Busson, co-founder of LearnSpace and author of Exploring the Future of Education.

The report’s purpose: Show how professors around the world are captivating their students with original and inventive content.

“If it develops a mindset of collaboration, rather than the everyone for themselves attitude; if it develops their creativity; if it allows them to be more autonomous in their learning, less dependent on their professor to learn, more connected with their peers; if it improves peer-to-peer learning; if it allows for personalization of the learning path for each student,” Busson told Poets&Quants in March as the report was being prepared.


Dan LeClair

Seeking to discover and highlight pedagogy placing students at the heart of instruction, LearnSpace’s call attracted 153 nominations from 32 countries and 85 business schools. Four judges were chosen to represent a wide array of graduate business education interests: Bernard Belletante, former dean of EMlyon Business School; Caryn Beck-Dudley, CEO of accrediting agency AACSB International; Dan LeClair, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Global Business School Network; and Andrew Jack, global education editor for The Financial Times.

Professors named as finalists came from across the world including South Africa, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United States. “Along with the comprehensive entries and details on their pedagogy, we spent time talking with each of the finalists, learning about their pedagogical journey and how other teachers could learn from them,” the report reads. “Finalists were eager to help and support other teachers (time-permitting) and were happy to respond to outreach. All finalists cared deeply about designing a learning experience that was memorable, engaging and provided real value for their students.”

“Creating business schools that are fit-for-purpose in a world of exponential change, ones which prepare business leaders of the future who can deal with the complexity and change and who value more than just the single bottom line, require a student-centred approach,” the report reads. “How well students learn should be at least as important — if not more — as how many papers are published each year.”

The report includes detailed descriptions of each professor’s approach and innovations, as well as the impact and lessons derived from their class. Among the finalists: Cyril Bouquet, professor of innovation and strategy at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, who teaches Experiential Learning: Team-Based Innovation Challenges, which since 2017 has helped participants “cultivate their creativity skills as they approach complex and ambiguous real-world challenges requiring them to function effectively as a team as part of an intensive experiential course at IMD, the MBA Innovation Week.” The course “marries classroom learning with real-world practice at the highest level,” equipping students with innovation “tools” and encouraging them “to put them into practice working with external organizations.”

Another finalist: Sylvain Bureau, professor at the JB Say Institute of ESCP Business School in Paris, France, who teaches Art Thinking: Expanding Business Perspectives Through Creating Art, which “mixes conferences, workshops and feedback sessions forcing participants to leave their comfort zone by creating a piece of art.” Across six workshops, participants “have no choice but to be fully involved in the process of creation,” Bureau says. “They have to be authentic and involved in the making of the piece of art. The six workshops lead them to practices which require a distributed leadership.”


Four of the 10 finalists in LearnSpace’s report are courses that involve gaming or gamification. Hayley Pearson, director of the MBA program at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, South Africa, teaches one of them: Gamifying Soft Skills For Business, which involves a games-based course, Differentiate, that helps new graduates and young individuals in the early stages of their career develop desired business knowledge.

The approach helps those in the early stages of their career “develop their desired business knowledge and acumen but also to accelerate them in the workplace — to become professional, responsible, innovative and self-managing leaders,” the report reads. Pearson and her team developed a game called Differentiate that requires students to work through 40 assigned tasks (customized according to market demand and shifting trends); it allows students “to compete with their peers, rewarding skill mastery with badges for level completion and points for task completion.”

“We measure actual progress through the activities and student’s engagement on the platform and the game,” Pearson says. “It’s not a compulsory element. We really want students to deeply engage with activities because it creates a fundamental shift in who they are as an individual and how they will be when they get into the workplace.”

Dan Leclair, one of the judges, says that among all the finalists, he was thrilled to see so many efforts to personalize learning, “helping each and every student get the most out of a course or experience. These efforts include strategies for engaging students in designing the course or experience, deepening reflection, creating and implementing individual professional plans, and generating performance data so students can immediately see the results of their digital strategies.”

Adds LearnSpace co-founder Kivanc Cubukcu: “Running the call and producing the report itself was an inspiring learning experience for us. We received 150+ applications from around the world, so many of which were inspiring, creative learning experiences designed by motivated professors. This made the selection process both inspiring and challenging, as our jury had to narrow it down to only 10. Once the 10 professors were identified, we had the opportunity to get to know in detail their approach and philosophy to teaching. Understanding the details of their approach, hearing their enthusiasm and getting to learn their journey was truly inspiring.”


The report also offers a kind of honorable mention for special tech innovation to the world’s first holographic university lecture, by David Lefevre, director of Edtech Lab at Imperial College Business School in London. Lefevre’s lecture occurred in November 2018, with three of five speakers “appearing” in Imperial’s lecture hall despite being physically located in New York and Los Angeles.

More importantly, LearnSpace’s report details five overarching trends in graduate business education, including “purpose-driven gamification” (which allows students “to better engage with the content, overcome their own self-belief, and apply the knowledge that they were acquiring in a safe and constructive environment) and “value for money” (“Students want the prestige of attending a top school, but they expect a fuller learning experience that cannot be replicated via a MOOC or on a Youtube video”). Other trends are “the heart of business,” or the inclination toward embracing social impact in favor of “purely shareholder-focused management”; and “frugal innovation,” involving leveraging of “practical, existing tools and products” to help students acquire “practical skills that could help them land their first job.” The key is that for the finalists in the LearnSpace report, “scarcity of resources was no constraint of a lack of imagination or creativity.”

Busson, speaking with P&Q in March, said: “I’m a firm believer that you cannot teach soft skills but you can teach in a way that students also get to learn some soft skills while being in your course — and with remote classrooms, with project-based learning, problem-based learning, you can really develop some super-interesting soft skills.”

Cubukcu adds that a second report will be forthcoming next year.

“While we received applications from all around the world, including 15 from U.S. business schools such as Kellogg, Columbia, or Kelley, we would like to see more applications from the U.S. in our next edition, as the leading country in business education.”

Read the full Business Education Innovations Report here.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.