The new normal for B-schools

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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

coaches are providing in-depth services on how future leaders can learn to ‘be’ in their own business contexts. Finally, a number of social network providers offer services for business school alumni networks that are in some cases far superior to those provided by the schools themselves.

Which road to take?

Faced with this unbundling trend, business schools can take one of two potential roads in the future. The well-travelled one sees business schools retreating to their ‘roots’—creating knowledge through great research and relying on their stellar brand name. The less-travelled one sees schools providing a suite of unbundled offerings that focus on the leader’s development journey.

Most if not all business schools are following the first path, hoping that new knowledge ‘content’ will attract future business leaders.

But since the new knowledge lies in the heads of the faculty, good professors may bypass the traditional business school delivery system and go direct to MOOCs in the hope of reaching a wider audience. Should the programme prove to be widely popular, the benefit will revert primarily to the professor and not the school. We have already started to witness the creation of the star professor through this mechanism. Their speaking fees increase and consulting opportunities improve, and the business school idly watches as its ‘reputation’ apparently starts to benefit. To maintain or improve its reputation, the school must search for star faculty; as a result, recruitment costs inevitably increase. It is no wonder that the size of fund-raising campaigns for business schools is very large—from 100 million euros to several billion. Paradoxically, with increased funds from ‘fund-raising’, these business schools can become even more removed from market forces. Only a few schools will be able to continue playing this game. Others will start to lose their lustre.

The second, less-travelled road is to create an unbundled offering from which individual executives or their companies can choose. And this, I believe, is the better path to take for business schools that are serious about developing business leaders.

What sort of unbundled options might such a school offer? These could include an index for executives to measure where they are on their development journey, as well as access to new knowledge about areas where they need to develop. Leaders wanting to understand and apply new content could take online programmes, while others might prefer face-to-face programmes with content that is connected to other aspects of business leadership. These programmes

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