Business Schools Visioning Might Disrupt the Business of Associations

If their association realizes a new vision for business schools, they could become your association’s fiercest competitor or strongest partner in management education and leadership development.

AACSB International has issued a collective vision for business education that challenges business schools to play five significant roles:

  1. Catalysts for innovation
  2. Hubs of lifelong learning
  3. Co-creators of knowledge
  4. Leaders on leadership
  5. Enablers of global prosperity

Many associations can and should also claim all five roles for themselves. As I read the AACSB International vision report, I underscored statement after statement that could equally apply to associations in their areas of influence. 

The vision calls business schools out of academia and into the world. “They will be defined less as isolated units and more through the connections that help them achieve their knowledge creation, education and community-building missions.” 

As a catalyst for innovation, business schools are invited to partner with “industries or industry clusters to create platforms for incubating new management ideas, or to analyze big data across firms to better understand and customize talent development needs.” A strong theme in this vision is joining with others as co-creators of the knowledge our world needs for success. 

As hubs of lifelong learning, the vision challenges business schools to “move beyond the bounds of traditional degree-based education and traditional markets served”. They can become learning laboratories where theory is enriched by practice. Schools are urged to meet the needs of “individuals’ learning pathways” that are “more likely to comprise modularized, fragmented and just-in-time education experiences.” Using technology platforms to enhance delivery and leverage experiential learning, schools can tailor education to the “learners’ specific role, industry or career trajectory”. 

Many associations recognize the need to offer leadership development programs. AACSB International is encouraging business schools to be “leaders on leadership with the capacity to compete locally across sectors in the leadership development space.” And to ensure business schools do leadership development best, they are challenged to develop “the evidence-based theoretical and practical foundations of leadership while also building on the contextual knowledge of other disciplines and schools.”

Acknowledging that the boundaries are now blurred among business, government, and nonprofits, AACSB International encourages business schools to facilitate new partnerships to “address social problems, not just business and management problems.”  The vision aspires to serve the common good.

Vision is only as powerful as its implementation and change often comes too slowly. Business schools will have to execute this vision in the bureaucratic and resource-constrained world of academia. Those that succeed could become powerful competitors and/or partners for the work associations aspire to do. Associations might be more nimble in their ability to pursue all five roles. The race to a preferred future is on, and whoever gets there first, we all win.