10 Business Schools To Watch In 2024

INSEAD MBAs

INSEAD

Sometimes, it just takes a leap of faith – to go and do what no one else will. It means stepping up, committing, and taking the lead – showing everyone how to turn disruption into convention.

MBA programs love sustainability. Who wouldn’t want a chance to do right, make a difference, and preserve the future? You can even earn a few credits in the process. What if sustainability was more than an elective or specialization? What if it was the cornerstone of the program as a whole? Well, that’s exactly what INSEAD plans to pull off. In 2024.

That’s a big bet for a program ranked 2nd globally by The Financial Times (and 1st internationally by Poets&Quants). Call it a curriculum revamp, where the school will embed sustainability principles into each of its 14 core courses. That’s right: Sustainability will be a key piece of every class, whether it is Introduction to Strategy, Organisational Behaviour, Managerial Accounting, or Macroeconomics. In other words, INSEAD grads will understand how environmental issues impact every field of study. On top of that, INSEAD is adding a capstone project where students can apply these lessons towards a sustainability-related global challenge.

More than raising social consciousness, the change is designed to hone students’ creative thinking and decision-making skills, says Urs Peyer, dean of degree programs at INSEAD, in a 2023 interview with P&Q.

“INSEAD prides itself on continuous innovation. By strengthening its flagship programme’s focus on sustainability, INSEAD once again leads the way in sustainable and socially responsible business education…The renewed curriculum aims to equip students with the knowledge and tools so that they can make the right choices and have their own positive impact during their careers. When they make and create solution for a business, they will take into account the social and environmental impact. When they lead a business and appreciate the financial performance, they also keep in mind progress.”

Of course, INSEAD isn’t just completing a curriculum makeover for the greater good. There are larger forces at play, such as the demands of employers.

“What we’ve heard from businesses is that they will still come to INSEAD to hire general managers. And those general managers, from a vocabulary and a knowledge point of view, need to be able to address sustainability challenges,” explains Peyer in a separate interview with P&Q, “They are very different across different industries and across different geographies. That’s why we decided to give people a holistic point of view as a mandatory part of the curriculum, and then let them specialize through electives for what they’re planning to contribute in the future.”

For these efforts, INSEAD garnered Poets&Quants’ MBA Program Of The Year For 2023. Peyer notes that sustainability can also “showcase” how MBAs can produce “win-win” solutions that “make sense economically, and environmentally and socially.” Even more, the field appeals to what inspires this new crop of MBA candidates.

“I think the generations that are getting to the MBA now are already themselves much more sensitive and much more aware of the challenge of having a more sustainable world, and therefore the need to do something around that,” explains Dean Francisco Veloso, who joined the program last spring. “So in that sense, we are responding to the needs of the world, but we’re also responding to the needs of the students themselves that feel, ‘I know this is important, so I want to learn more about this. I want this to be part of my decision toolkit.’”

For its peerless embrace of the social and environmental principles of sustainability, INSEAD is Poets&Quants’ 2023 MBA Program of the Year. Courtesy photos

While the sustainability revamp has been years-in-the-making, Dean Veloso will be responsible for shepherding it through its infancy. For it to be a success, he says, the school is going to lean heavily on feedback for the constituency that matters most: the students.

“It’s very important that students have voices in the sense that we all assess, we all get feedback from the students at every level. That does not mean that it’s the students that are deciding the curriculum, but it is very important to involve them in the process, especially because the nature of the INSEAD curriculum is that it’s very case-oriented, experiential-driven. So it’s very important to see how that is impacting the learning process of the students and see what adjustments may be needed.”

INSEAD’s deep integration of sustainability isn’t the school’s only innovation n recent years. Notably, the program has been a pioneer in virtual reality. Notably, the school’s VR Immersive Learning Initiative has exposed over 4,500 MBAs and executives to simulations such as overcoming flaws in building design for a new base camp in space or developing strategies to help avocado marketers grow their business. Think of it as case studies come to life – just with interactive VR headsets.

“INSEAD has built the largest VR library in the world for management education, with 20 VR experiences on teaching areas in leadership, strategy, sustainability, innovation, entrepreneurship, and many others,” explains Urs Peyer. “Recently the school also hosted the First Annual Meeting of the Global XR Management Community at our Middle East Campus in Abu Dhabi with 42 scholars from 24 institutions from around the world.  The goal is to start building a community of scholars who are already using these new technologies in their teaching or research.”

The school has also launched a Digital@INSEAD initiative, Peyer adds, which has been churning out new electives in emerging tech areas, such as Web 3.0 and the Metaverse, Pricing Analytics, and The Future of Digital: NTFs. The program is also known as a leadership hub thanks to its Personal Leadership Develop Programme (PLDP) – considered the largest program of its kind by Peyer. Running the length of the program, the PLDP features coursework, professional coaching, psychological evaluations, simulations, and group exercises to enhance students’ interpersonal skills, communication abilities, and self-awareness.

“The PLDP is founded on the belief that leadership is much more than management,” explains Katy Montgomery, associate dean of degree programmes, in a 2022 interview with P&Q. “Today’s leaders must strike a balance between reflection and action to help their organisations adapt to the unknown. They must be flexible, aware of their context, and able to adjust their leadership style to the situation. Just as importantly, they must know themselves and understand their impact on others. I believe this programme provides an irreplaceable chance for students to understand what hinders and what enhances their ability to lead well.”

Still, INSEAD will always be associated with diversity. Think 90 nationalities and campuses in France, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and San Francisco. The school graduates over 1,000 full-time MBAs alone each year, not counting over 65,000 graduates across 180 countries. It truly lives up to its moniker as “The business school for the world.” One reason for its success is its structure: no nationality holds a majority of students. In other words, everyone experiences what it is like to be a minority. Early on, these differences can lend themselves to conflict. Soon enough, something kicks in, says ’22 grad Nana Yaw Kyere Opare-Anim; he compares it to “two pairs of iron sharpening each other.” In other words, students’ differences push them to ask questions and consider alternatives. Coupled with the caliber of classmates, the dynamic just makes everyone better.

“In the professional world, there is a ton of value in having people from different backgrounds around the decision-making table,” writes ’23 grad Juliette Cremel. “They will challenge your perspective and bring a different point of view.”

Cremel’s classmate, Albert Kweku, adds that the 10-month format simulates the realities of working as a global manager overseeing high-level far-flung operations.

“I was surprised to learn how intense and fast-paced the program is. The INSEAD MBA program is like a whirlwind of knowledge and activity, where you’re constantly bombarded with new information and experiences at lightning speed. Despite the intensity, it’s also incredibly rewarding, and I’ve learned a lot in a short time.”

While sustainability has dominated the INSEAD headlines, it is simply an extension of INSEAD’s greater mission – to connect disparate peoples and tackle intractable problems using business tools. Considering INSEAD’s track record in fulfilling this purpose – coupled with its ambitious sustainability designs – it is a school to watch  – and even study – this year.

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