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The new normal for B-schools

Dec 16 2013, 16:22 IST
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Most business schools are hanging on tight to their bundled view of the world. Most business schools are hanging on tight to their bundled view of the world.
SummaryTo unbundle or not to unbundle—that is the question

While business schools have been busily preaching to future business leaders how to avoid the threats of disruptive technologies and business models, they themselves are being disrupted. What was considered historically normal—the development and delivery of a programme on campus in exchange for a fee—is changing fast. The advent of new technologies (big data analytics) and new offerings (MOOCs—massive open online courses) is creating a new normal: the unbundling of the real value that programmes can provide for future business leaders.

Unbundling is not new. Far from it. Many vertically-integrated industries have unbundled—such as when personal computers emerged in the 1980s from the mainframe and minicomputer industry. Today’s airline industry has taken this unbundling one step further. If you want a flight from A to B, then there’s a price for that. If you are taking any extra luggage, there’s an extra service charge. If you want a special seat, you incur another charge. There are separate fees for paying by credit card or boarding faster. And so on.

Most business schools are hanging on tight to their bundled view of the world. They say their programmes provide a ‘holistic’ education for their participants, who get an excellent learning experience from great faculty while at the same time building their network. Furthermore, because of the way business schools and universities in general are structured, the attempt to ‘hang on’ will continue. Traditional business school faculty are trained to be true researchers in their field of specialisation and to impart their wisdom in these areas. Only through experience do some faculty learn to engage participants in applying their knowledge and integrating it with other content. Whether this knowledge is in fact having any impact and whether the participants are gaining valuable networks is nice to know but simply irrelevant in their career trajectory of making full professor.

This inability to change has encouraged non-business school players to develop a plethora of new unbundled offerings. If future business leaders want to assess where they are compared to others, large-scale assessment services are available in their companies. If they want to know and understand new content, they can take a free MOOC online. Many large consulting firms offer large-scale online programmes for a fee with coaches helping these future leaders to apply the knowledge to their situation. Other consultancies give workshops that use business leaders’ knowledge and experience to create new knowledge for the organisation. Executive

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