A FIVE-STEP ROADMAP FOR BUSINESS SCHOOLS
Caryn Beck-Dudley explains that while some business schools have already been focusing on impactful research, others haven’t.
“Since it’s now part of our thought leadership and accreditation standards, we wanted to give schools examples of how they can create research that matters.”
The examples are outlined in the paper’s five-step roadmap to creating a research action plan. The first step is for schools to consider their mission. In this step, it’s essential to consider how the school defines societal impact goals and how it’s consistent with the school’s mission and resources. Next is for the school to identify specific areas of focus where the school wants to create the most impact. This allows schools to intentionally bring together faculty, students, and business partners to collaborate and identify gaps of knowledge.
“It’s important for research to be focused on a specific problem,” she says. “We accredit schools that may have a very local impact. It doesn’t have to be global, but it has to have a strategic focus.”
The third step is to leverage the school’s existing frameworks. This can help schools to prioritize, identify, and measure their impact and research. Then, it’s time to create a micro strategic plan for societal impact. This “plan within a plan” can allow schools to incorporate actions toward achieving societal impact into their school’s larger mission.
WHY IT MATTERS FOR MBA STUDENTS
Finally, the last step is to cultivate relationships with appropriate stakeholders. As schools follow through with the actions and strategies in their microplan, it will become evident that collaborating across disciplines will help to meet research goals. “Any of the great problems of our time require people from different backgrounds coming together to achieve positive societal impact,” she says.
Beck-Dudley adds how important it is for schools to champion their research cause; they must support faculty to be ambassadors of research and work collaboratively with them to build a reputation of influence.
She says now more than ever, MBA students care about making a positive impact on society.
“Historically, many MBA students were just looking for a bump in career or salary. Now, we’re seeing a lot of students come to business schools who want to make a difference, and they want to use their business degree to do so,” she says.
Perhaps this influx of changemakers is due to the current state of the world.
“The pandemic has created a feeling that we have to solve problems better than we have in the past,” she explains. “While many problems have existed for a while, I do think people feel the call to do significantly better going forward.”
HOW MBA STUDENTS CAN GET INVOLVED IN RESEARCH
Beck-Dudley says that MBA students who want to get involved in doing research that creates a positive societal impact should work with their school’s faculty. They should also choose an MBA program with a research or project-based component. This allows students to practice solving a problem for an industry or business. “Students can choose to collaborate with faculty who are working on really interesting problems,” she says.
When it comes to actually conducting research, Beck-Dudley says that it’s important for students to start by scanning their environment, becoming familiar with the needs of the business community, and asking themselves how their skill set can work to solve that problem. “Research that looks at the business community as a stakeholder is key,” she says.
“You know that you’re working on the right issues if a lot of people in business and society are interested in the solutions you find. Do business people cite your research? Are they adopting what your suggestions are? Is society embracing this research as opposed to ignoring it or not knowing it even exists?”
She thinks that students with diverse backgrounds have an edge when it comes to creating positive change; those with previous education in humanities, social sciences, or engineering can layer on business principles to make strategic change.
“A lot of people forget about humanities, but the social sciences are important for change management. It helps us understand what it means to be human,” she says.
“To me, positive impact is student driven as much as it’s societal driven. We have an opportunity to help business and business schools to change the world,” she adds, “but it takes all of us to do it.”
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