The Crystal Ball: B-Schools Acknowledge Challenges, Put Positive Shine On 2022

IESE’s Marc Badia

Marc Badia, associate dean for MBA and MiM programs at IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, says without an actual crystal ball, it’s impossible to say what changes and challenges await in 2022. But he anticipates three key trends will shape the year ahead for business schools.

“One trend set to accelerate next year is the focus on adopting a sustainability mindset and related practices at all levels in organizations,” Badia tells P&Q. “The pandemic, supply chain crisis, increasing economic inequality, and COP26 have all brought this issue to a head like never before. Whereas there was more focus in the past on trying to convince businesses why they need to adopt this mindset, now we have moved on to focusing on the how. And within the graduate business education sector, it is clear that there has never been greater interest and demand for content and training related to this topic. At IESE, we address this need with our Sustainable Leadership research initiative, which takes a comprehensive, multidisciplinary look at how managers can create economic, social, and environmental value for their organizations and society. We also take a holistic approach to the issue on our programs, discussing ESG issues throughout all the different courses we offer, not just those focused explicitly on those topics. In addition, we will also be launching new programs and content, including an MBA specialization on sustainability, next year. As an institution ourselves, we also know that change starts at home and are redoubling our efforts to be as sustainable as possible, including by creating a Strategic Plan for Environmental Sustainability with a set of targets for both 2025 and 2035.

“After all the focus on online and hybrid teaching experiences during the pandemic, I also expect we will see a renewed clamor and preference for face-to-face teaching. Of course, hybrid and online learning is not going away. And different formats indeed have distinct attributes that can be used in different ways to enhance participant learning. The key is to understand how executives learn best and their particular needs, and then create programs that can fulfill them. That is why our limitless learning model at IESE emphasizes discussion-based learning and personalized follow-up, regardless of the context or format. Yet, there is a certain magic and personal element that can happen in face-to-face settings, and many of our participants clearly prefer this option when it is feasible for their circumstances.

“The final trend I see is the rediscovery of work and leadership as a service. The pandemic made evident our dependence on jobs and professions that often remain hidden and yet are fundamental, such as delivery workers, supermarket cashiers, or cleaning staff. As a result, people have come to appreciate what others do for us, even in the most apparently simple tasks. We need their help in the same way others need our help, starting with our families and close friends. Expanding this to leadership, I see growing recognition of the importance of graduates possessing a spirit of service, not just to help them become better leaders but also to have happy, fulfilled lives.

“When we serve, we better appreciate the many undeserved gifts we receive from others. When we serve others, we are useful, have purpose, and grow as human beings.”


Badia isn’t the only B-school leader who thinks ESG will dominate 2022. At Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management, Associate Dean Drew Pascarella foresees a big year for environmental, social, and governance issues in graduate business education.

“I predict that in 2022, ESG will become an even larger part of the Johnson MBA experience,” Pascarella tells P&Q. “Johnson was one of the early movers in management education to recognize that social and environmental issues — from climate change to social and environmental justice — would continue to increase as a competitive factor for companies. We founded the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise in 2003 as a platform from which to lead, and we have been innovating since. This spring, Johnson is launching a new class entitled ‘Topics in ESG Investing,’ to be taught by Tony Despirito, Blackrock’s chief investment officer of U.S. fundamental active equity. On the corporate side, we’ve rebuilt our Sustainable Global Enterprise experiential learning platform to make it more approachable for every MBA at Johnson, versus just those students who are seeking careers in ESG.

“As a society we need to move past thinking about ESG as a vertical; corporates need to incorporate ESG in every aspect of their business. Johnson will help lead the way as we prepare the next generation of ESG-minded global business leaders.


Jennifer A. Chatman, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of management at the Haas School at UC-Berkeley, says in many ways for graduate business education, there’s no going back to pre-pandemic times. “The pandemic,” she tells P&Q, “has fundamentally — and I believe permanently — disrupted how we work and how we learn.

Haas’ Jennifer Chatman

“Along with the obvious challenges, this disruption has brought some genuine benefits—most prominently, a new level of freedom to learn and work from anywhere. And for many people, the pandemic also brought into focus the things that are most important in their lives and careers, increasing their conviction to live a less work-dominated life and perhaps making them even less willing to sacrifice their lifestyle for their careers. I believe these trends will only accelerate in 2022. The companies, schools, and organizations that will win the war for talent are those that can design jobs for optimal collaboration, which means facilitating collaboration when and where it is needed, while also supporting autonomy and flexibility at work when it’s not.

“At Berkeley Haas, we learned a lot when we were forced to move all our programs online. I was Associate Dean of Learning Strategies at the time, and in March of 2020 it took our faculty a mere 36 hours to move every single one of our 250 courses online. Since then, we have become more sophisticated in leveraging the advantages of remote learning. In the process, we realized how well it worked for many of the working professionals in our Evening & Weekend MBA program. This led us to launch our new Flex MBA option, which offers the same curriculum and faculty and the same degree in a highly customized and flexible format that combines synchronous online and on-campus learning. Students with full-time jobs, many with children at home, can complete their core classes online. And then they can also get the benefit of the on-campus experience by choosing in-person electives — or, they can continue online. This format will never take the place of our on-campus programs, but it opens the MBA to a more diverse array of students in more stages of life. We are a public university and access to education is a core principle for us; the Flex MBA option links our focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at Haas to Berkeley’s ideal of excellence and access. I believe giving people access to a full range of learning options is the future of education.

“As we transition into 2022 and face another surge of Covid cases and more pandemic uncertainty, it is clear that business leaders will continue to struggle with how to manage their people. Central to that is how to keep connections and culture strong while working remotely and in hybrid formats. Research among our management faculty at Haas over the past 21 months (on topics such as the future of work and the importance of shared experiences for maintaining organizational commitment) has shown that it’s easier to maintain cohesion and shared norms remotely within small work groups, but that employees are losing their sense of what their organization stands for and their own identification with it.

“To address these ongoing challenges, senior leaders need to over-communicate through these uncertain times, even if they are weary of the ever-changing guidelines and restrictions that a dynamic pandemic demands. Now more than ever, employees need to feel inspired. Leaders need to create a vivid picture of their organization’s vision of the future and ultimate purpose, laying out the positive collective impact of each member’s efforts. Leaders also need to create opportunities for their people to connect with one another meaningfully, so they continue to identify with the organization and gain gratification from interacting with others who care about some of the same things. And, leaders need to be open to new ways of working, even pushing past some of their most deeply held assumptions about where, when, and how people should work. In other words, leaders need to take a deep breath and continue to adapt to and optimize for a very uncertain road ahead, one that may also generate surprisingly wonderful new insights about work.”


Ed Grier, dean of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, says the chaos and unpredictability of the world have been thrown into sharp relief over the last two years for everyone in graduate business education. 2022 will be “an inflection point” on the need for elasticity and diversity in the classroom and the boardroom.

“We have all learned that the world is chaotic and unpredictable,” Grier tells P&Q. “The best strategies recognize the permanent nature of uncertainty in a rapidly changing environment. Over the next decade, flexible, elastic, and adaptable organizations will outperform those that are rigid and slow to change.

“Diversity and inclusion will be significant factors in an organization’s ability to remain relevant. While 2020 and 2021 were years that elevated the conversation onto the national stage, 2022 will be an inflexion point. Diverse and inclusive workplaces will succeed and thrive at a higher rate than their more conservative counterparts, and as a result, we will see more organizations take sustainable action to bring about change.”


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