Digital disruption. Specialized degrees. Massive curriculum overhauls. Shuttering of MBA Programs. With so many influences at work, business schools today face a very different environment than in the past and one that requires more agility.
“The pace of change is increasing dramatically, and business schools that don’t keep up run the risk of irrelevance,” says William Boulding, dean of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
“For some business schools, this is a jarring change to move from a period of relative stability to a period of enormous volatility.”
Key trends are influencing the path forward.
For executives, business is also not as straightforward, says Boulding. “The challenges of business leaders have become a lot more complicated in recent years.”
With business and politics colliding more, businesses are finding themselves responding to complex issues in very public ways, he says.
One case in point: Delta’s decision to withdraw flight discounts to NRA members after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
In addition, the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technological advances are raising many questions for businesses that want to take advantage of their potential while at the same time pondering the actual impact.
If business schools play their cards right, they can fill a significant role in helping industry deal with the increasingly complicated geopolitical environment, the optimal use of new technologies, and their role in society, says Boulding.
“I would say you are seeing, in my opinion, a golden age of innovation in business schools,” he says.
Business schools can make a difference for their students and business as a whole by helping them make decisions in context, tackle complex problem solving, and develop skills to bring diverse stakeholders together around a common purpose.
“One word that drives us is relevance,” he says. “We need to be relevant.”
To do that, schools will need to adapt themselves, he says. “It’s risky if you stand still as opposed to engaging in reasonable risk taking.”
Change is taking place at Fuqua in small increments and through the use of discontinuous innovation, or applying new technologies to meet an existing need in a new way, he says. The school has added new courses in analytics and business and politics and incorporated technology to extend its reach.
Its EMBA Program continues to evolve as well, with its Weekend EMBA moving to a new delivery model. Students now meet face-to-face as part of a three-day monthly residency.
In between residencies, students participate in hybrid Saturday classes, where they can choose to come to class in person or participate virtually.
The Fuqua EMBA is front and center in its ability to help students make the transformation to leaders who are ready for tomorrow’s challenges today, says Boulding. “I think the EMBA Program is going to be vibrant for years to come.”