The 2019 AACSB ICAM Conference in Edinburgh Gathered 1300 participants from different Business Schools representing more than 60 countries from all over the world, under the topic of “Challenging Core Foundations”, with themes such as “Innovation that inspires” and “Enabling the co-creation of knowledge”.
The choice of Scotland is very meaningful, as it was the home of Adam Smith “An inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations”.
The Fire-Starter opening session was given by Tom Robinson, President and CEO of AACSB International, who insisted on the role of AACSB in positioning Business Schools as “Enablers of Global Prosperity”, through curricula innovation and relevance as well as impactful research.
The first Plenary session was presented by Lynda Gratton, a London Business School LBS Management Professor. She insisted on the fact that society is changing with people living longer and healthier. Which means that thinking about higher education only for adults up to 30 is a mistake, especially in a period of intense disruption. Consequently, lifelong learning should be one of the missions of business schools. Substantial substitution of jobs should be definitely accompanied by education with fundamental changes: “support a multi-stage rather than the traditional three-stage life (Education, Work, Retirement), to encourage the generations to learn from each other, and to ensure that the deep knowledge and insights we have, can be available to the many rather than the few.”
Living at a time of intense disruption and living longer means upscaling all the time to adapt and keep up with the transition. This is why business schools have to react and act quickly and continuously, to the needs of new jobs, such as: Digital Marketing Specialist, Chief Listening Officer, Social Media Manager, Big Data Analyst, Market Research Data Miner…, along with developing the necessary soft skills (including ethics) to either orientate or complement what the robots can do. Required skills will be such ones as Emotional Intelligence, Teaching Others, Active Learning, Creativity, Active Listening and Critical Thinking.
Actually, the question of age is very important as it is malleable and has to do with chronology, biology and mortality. Today, the three-stage life (Education / Work / Retirement) is breaking up. No stage is going to be a full-time activity in a systematic order: Education and Work will be done alternatively (example: part-time jobs, gap years, executive education) as well as Retirement can be an opportunity to go back to Education… With new stages emerging, Life is now a “Multistage Life”: Education, Exploration, Employment in an organization, Transition, Self-employment, Portfolio (mix of paid and unpaid work), and eventually Retirement. So creativity, technology and continuous education is for anyone, no matter the age (or the gender), and education is a sound investment that can be done for a good retirement stage.
However, lifelong learning is going to happen only if all stakeholders contribute to it: Education Institutions, Individuals, Corporations and Governments. A great example is that of Singapore government who dedicated an amount of money to any individual who wants to invest in lifelong learning. That’s how people get prepared for the “Future of Work”.
Consequently, the new Education Agenda is based on focusing on core human strengths, creating a broad agnostic system of lifelong learning, supporting a multi-stage life (upskilling, reskilling, transition, renewal), creating a collaborative system of educational providers and building stackable and portable credentials.
To be creative, people has to think their life as a creative process of opening up to the world and a variety of activities and exploration.
If lifelong learning is now part of the mission of Business Schools, does this mean that it is the end of Alumni? Actually, it’s not the end of Alumni, but it’s the end of traditional Alumni that never come back, just like the end of the traditional learners in general.
Lifelong learning is not only executive education. It can be seen as an “Extension”. It can be socio-economic extension, geographic extension, age groups extension, extension from preserving knowledge to spreading it, in a multi-disciplinary and diversity approach. And of course, technology makes all that possible, through online solutions, blended learning and digital transformation in general.
Sharing experience and experimentation is at the heart of lifelong learning. Business schools presented their approach to lifelong learning. Amongst these, two interesting experiences led by one of the universities from Latin America are the “Children university” (since the age of 8) and “Knowledge for life” (participants over 55).
The conference was also the opportunity to listen to different stakeholders in the co-creation of knowledge, precisely enterpreneurs, and the lessons learned while challenging core foundations in business education. Testimonies from global entrepreneurs gave an insight into the business knowledge and experience required as well as the attitude, mind-set, and skills of the successful entrepreneur. Some major ideas that immerged of what the most important things in a business school are: being a global brand, using virtual immersive reality, reducing costs to make education more affordable, using artificial intelligence and having a problem-based, proactive approach. And that can come from start-up business schools, or alternative actors to business schools, with completely different new business models, with mainly online services and delivery.
Actually, according to Pierre Tapie, President of Paxter, Disruption in Business Schools is due to what he calls the 3 D concept: Demography, Digital and Diversity.
Demographic disruption is the result of a world of contrast, from USA that will suffer from demography shortage, to Africa that will witness +135% of student number increase in 15 years, to reach more than 15,4 Million.
Digital disruption and pedagogies come from the fact that Business Schools educate digital natives, and because new competitors appeared, with new partnership opportunities.
Diversity disruptions means the challenge of relevance. Relevant Business Education will differ in their focus, because of contexts. There is definitely a common global language, but values systems, relation to time, to social needs, to national identity, to private/ professional life balances, differ. Therefore, cultural institutional identity, within respect of local diversities, is focal point.
Another idea that can apply to business schools, is that the LEGO concept (versus Puzzle) can inspire the way Management and Innovation are taught: using in a creative way the pieces on hand, to build a unique unexpected model. However, there seems to be a paradox in being innovator when the pioneers are not always the most advantaged. The new comers are more able to scale up, be attractive and be agile enough to adapt. That’s why business schools (like companies) should be able to make a “LEAP” and thrive in a world where everything can be copied. Those leaps are only possible by integrating new knowledge and new capabilities, keeping in mind that the nature of knowledge is evolving itself.