In France, HEC Paris Associate Dean of MBA Programs Andrea Masini says he expects five main developments to continue in the new year — all related to a “big picture.” The first, and most relevant to his audience: The MBA degree will become more important than ever.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the increased interdependence of our society and its global dimension — consider the example of the supply chain crisis we are facing!” Masini tells P&Q. “It has also demonstrated the importance of agility and proven the world needs decision makers with a holistic view of problems, who are able to connect the dots and integrate advice from experts in different sectors while having the ‘big picture’ clear in their minds. These are skills that are best acquired by doing a premium international MBA program. Through several months or years of rigorous training, MBA participants integrate their sectoral expertise with the fundamentals of management. They are also exposed to a diversity of viewpoints and acquire leadership skills through a variety of techniques and experiences and learn how to think on their feet and be agile.”
2022 will also bring greater attention to leadership and soft skills, Masini says.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has also changed labor relationships,” he says. “To attract and retain talent, organizations must be able to offer more than just a good salary. They need to offer jobs with purpose, to allow their employees to work from home, integrate in-person and remote activities and design flexible contracts. As a consequence, MBA programs will have to help their graduates acquire and develop skills to manage in this new world. To do that, they will have to integrate elements such as resilience and purpose into their leadership training, but also teach their graduates understand how to drive performance in remote teams or to conduct recruitment interviews on digital platforms.”
LEANING INTO IN-PERSON LEARNING & EMBRACING ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Third, Masini says, thought leadership will be a differentiator.
“The pervasive diffusion of digital training platforms and associated risk of commoditization of knowledge implies that to stay ahead of the game schools must place even greater emphasis to thought leadership,” Masini says. “Creating and disseminating new knowledge that has the potential to change the world will differentiate good programs from great programs. As a result, we expect the gap between schools that constantly push the frontiers of knowledge and schools that just re-process existing ideas to grow even wider, with the latter group being challenged by pure digital players.”
Masini says that in a digitally-enhanced world, in-person experience will become even more important — and digital learning will become “a necessary component of the MBA value proposition, but no longer a differentiator. This will have two consequences: on the one hand, schools that underinvested in their digital strategy will be left behind and will struggle. On the other hand, precisely because some parts of the programs will be offered remotely, the perceived value of the in-person component will increase too. Participants will place even greater attention to the MBA experience and to the opportunities that a program offers to create bonds with their colleagues, develop a network and enrich their viewpoints.”
Finally, Masini sees the continued rise of entrepreneurship in 2022, something MBA programs will pivot to reflect.
“The Covid crisis induced many people to rethink their careers and created an increased appetite for developing personal projects,” he says. “While the MBA remains a general management degree well suited to support careers in large organizations, it is also incredibly valuable to future entrepreneurs. Therefore, we expect MBA programs that offer a solid training in entrepreneurship both during and after the program (e.g. because they are also connected with an incubator) to become more popular and increasingly sought after by a new generation of candidates.”
‘TIME TO HEAD OUT IN A NEW DIRECTION’
At Cambridge Judge Business School in the UK, Head of Careers Margaret O’Neill says we must adapt to the unknown — that unpredictability will be ever-present, and change the only reliable constant. MBA students must adapt, she says.
“There is no going back,” O’Neill tells P&Q. “2022 will continue to be unpredictable for business and the global economy, and wise leaders will be required to weather storms, sustain profits, innovate in new circumstances, and motivate workforces that continue to work remotely or in hybrid fashion. Leaders will therefore need to draw on their critical thinking skills to spot opportunities and analyse ideas they’ve not come across before, and for which there’s no existing pattern or framework.
“Being bright and clever is terrific, but students now more than ever also need to be action-oriented and demonstrate their skills with real-world examples rather than only theory — and that’s behind the thinking of the Global Consulting Projects our MBA students undertake. This sort of critical and creative thinking under pressure will be essential as we prepare for a post-Covid world.
“Business school students — these future leaders — will very soon go on to work on ideas and in roles that right now are just a glint in someone’s eye. That’s an exciting prospect. But for those of us specialising in careers, the challenge for us in 2022 is to keep track of these trends so we can prepare students as best we can for an uncertain future. That means more focus on the personal skills of drive, impact, charisma and communication that allow students to present themselves effectively to the market, and maybe less on the old-school nuts and bolts of CVs and application forms.
“Those well-trodden MBA career paths are beginning to look a bit worn. Time to head out in a new direction.”
‘INCREASINGLY, OUR GRADUATES WILL WANT SOMETHING BEYOND SALARIES’
Wharton Senior Vice Dean for Innovation and Global Initiatives and Professor of Operations Management Serguei Netessine says a great rethinking of what it means to work is underway. 2022, he says, will bring graduate business education closer to a crossroads and a reckoning with that reconfiguration.
“In the coming year business schools will take steps to address the Great Resignation — the mass exodus of workers,” Netessine tells P&Q. “The younger-generation members of the workforce are actively rethinking their priorities in life while developing a more holistic view on their careers, job choices and related issues of in-person versus remote work.
“As our prospective students re-think why they work, how much they work and where they work, they will also begin re-thinking how and why they obtain education and what they value most in education. The usual metrics such as post-program starting salaries and bonuses will become less and less important: increasingly, our graduates will want something beyond salaries, some indication that the job can make them happy and fulfilled.
“Wharton anticipated this trend several years ago and began unbundling educational offerings into shorter, more targeted programs, delivered via different media, allowing for more flexible formats. Now other leading business schools are adopting this mindset by adjusting their educational programs and by supporting a wider set of career choices.”
2022: ‘A BIT LIKE SCIENCE FICTION’
At Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, Brian Mitchell, associate dean of full-time MBA programs, says higher education may not yet be “post-Covid,” but it is moving toward “post-quarantine,” with an emphasis on “prioritizing in-person teaching, learning and gathering. As we do so,” Mitchell tells P&Q, “it is going to be very exciting to apply all of the progress the world has made since 2019, particularly with technological advances.
“In 2022 we will do more teaching and learning with artificial intelligence than we could imagine pre-pandemic, simply because of how much the technology has advanced. We will see these effects at every phase of the student life cycle, with prospective students already inquiring about courses and experiences that immerse them in the new global digital landscape. Current students will be taught with and about advanced algorithms on which hyper-nuanced decisions can be made by leaders like never before — and they will be taught and expected to act ethically within this new information-rich world. Employers will be asking questions of MBA candidates about how they leveraged technology (not just Zoom) to navigate all aspects of their physically-distanced lives, so value drives that have kept our economy going aren’t lost as we come back together. And alumni will play an even more influential role in the student experience because we will, for example, bring them back to campus from around the world via hologram technology that was in its infancy pre-pandemic.
“So I predict 2022 will feel a bit like a science fiction film where we wake up feeling like a short time has passed, then we realize it’s actually ‘the future.’ It is going to be a blast!”