The Future MBA is an ongoing project focused on rethinking business schools to ensure that they train the kinds of leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and intrapraneurs that our businesses and the planet need. In 2014, I posted 100 ideas, one a day over 100 days, that explored what the future business school might look like. I repeated this exercise again in 2016 and most recently in 2020. Rather than a roadmap, the ideas are meant to be a source of inspiration. Some ideas could be put into practice tomorrow, some would require a complete rethinking of the way we view business education, and others are meant to encourage more ideas…and more action, to turn management education into a key player in moving the sustainability agenda forward.

For more information visit: 100futuremba.com

BOOK

The Future MBA

This book brings together 100 ideas on how to rethink management education to embed sustainability. It acts as a creative toolkit for individuals working in management education on how to design new and innovative products, services, and experiences for the with a focus on sustainability.

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2ND 100

Best Practices

The 2nd 100 highlights schools that had implemented ideas from the first 100 series as well as some of my favourite innovative approaches from around the world.

3rd 100

Special SDG/COVID Series

In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, I posted 100 ideas over 100 days exploring the future of business schools in the current SDG/COVID reality (and beyond).

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Re-think your programme

Take this free online course on “Re-imagining the Future Business Degree” and other courses that explore business and sustainability.

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50 Questions

Use these 50 questions around sustainability and management education to rethink your programmes.

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In the classsroom

Kemmy Business School uses the book in the classroom, inviting students to use it to develop their own dream curriculum that embeds the SDGs throughout.

In your work

Sasin Graduate Institute of Business provided all staff with copies to encourage them to think innovatively about their sustainability efforts.

Connect with me to help develop your innovative new approaches.

Samples

Here are a few of the ideas published in book The Future MBA: 100 Ideas for Making Sustainability the Business of Business Education.

Put a suit on someone and they look more respectable, smarter, more prepared. There is plenty of room in the world for a well-made, tailored suit. But a dark suit with a light-coloured shirt (the typical business-school uniform) also makes everyone in the room look similar. One could argue that the act of requiring students to wear suits to certain functions also encourages them to act, maybe even think, in a certain, similar way. It adds an element of formality that can stop students from speaking up, saying or asking what they want to say or ask, being open to discussion and exploration. It may even discourage those who don’t own, have never worn, and are not interested in careers that require suits from applying in the first place.

If business schools are about bringing together a diverse group of people, sharing and connecting those differences to create a future workforce that can strengthen and innovate the business sector and make it more sustainable, then differences should be celebrated within the school. Creating a more casual dress environment (within reason) may provide a better setting for the sharing of information and insights, drawn both from successes and failures. It may give students the opportunity to focus on being what they are and not what the sector wants them to be.

This may seem like a small thing, but sometimes it is the small things that make the biggest difference.

Business programmes will not be made up of a series of classes as they are today. Instead, in order to graduate with a business degree, students will be required to complete a series of projects, some of of short duration and others longer. Each project will focus on developing a particular set of skills, giving them first-hand experience and the ability to work in a variety of different situations. Each project will also relate to a particular challenge faced by local, national, regional and international organizations, businesses or communities.

Firstly, the students would take a range of projects in which they have a different responsibility in each. This could include being the lead for one project and finding other students to work with them, as well as working on someone else’s team.

The projects would have to be completed with a range of different stakeholder groups, including government, NGOs, international organizations and various types of business – small, large, local or international. This will give students a better understanding of the different stakeholders that influence and are affected by the business sector. Where possible, they will also take place in different locations around the world.

Lastly, projects would focus on a variety of different themes. In one example, the student would need to start a new business and/or create a new product or service. In other projects they would work in teams that already exist and are ongoing. The projects would be based on real challenges that individual businesses, the business sector as a whole or even the international community is facing. Sample challenges could include developing an alternative to GDP, creating a new product or developing a campaign to change an unsustainable behaviour in a particular community.

In order to support students during these projects, faculty would act as advisors and would be available to help students with the development of the different skills they need to help complete their projects, whether these are in finance, team management or communication. There would be regularly scheduled short workshops on different topics to help prepare students who are about to start new projects or are interested in developing certain skills. The objective is to help students to apply what they learn through one experience to other, sometimes radically different, scenarios.

Students would be marked based on the work they do on their projects, how they are completed, reviews from their peers, and their ability to learn, take risks and adapt. Students would graduate once they have completed the full set of projects (within a predetermined time period). By the time students have completed the list of required projects, they should have all the skills necessary, and a lot of first-hand experience, to work in any organization. In that time they will have also made some interesting and meaningful contributions to their communities.

The MBA is a moment in time. After graduation, alumni go through various subsequent phases in their career, phases where they could once again use the lessons and support that a business degree provides.

The future MBA will be a three- to four (plus)-year programme spread out over a lifetime. It begins some time after you have some work experience. Students would spend the first one or two years on campus completing a range of core courses and electives.

The remaining years would then be used throughout the student’s lifetime. There would be a special course available for students who are considering retiring or have just retired to assist them in planning out their next steps. Another course would be available to parents who are thinking of going back to work either part- or full-time after or while raising children. A section would be open to alumni who are thinking of starting a business or who are working independently. There would be a range of courses of interest to individuals at different points of their career: managers, CEOs, board members, as well as on specific topics of interest and relevance to the business world today. Not only would this provide a more structured life-long learning experience but also the opportunity to connect and learn from individuals of all ages and at different stages of their life and career on campus and in the classroom.

A large percentage of the teaching hours of a business degree are focused on teaching students based on what happened in the past. By the time a lesson makes it into a textbook or is written up into a case study, years may have passed. While there are many lessons to be learnt from the past, students and graduates need to be able to deal with what is happening now. Business schools are educating managers for a future business reality that we know little or nothing about, but one that students will need to be able to respond to – and ideally shape for the good of society.

Business schools will have a class called “Today”. This short class takes place every morning before core courses start. The class looks at current events as they happen and explores what they mean for business, how business should/could respond, exploring potential opportunities and/or risks both now and in the future.

For example, an NGO releases a report that negatively affects company X. In Today’s class, students will look at this report and explore how they think company X should respond to the news and track what the company actually does over the upcoming days. In the upcoming weeks, a representative of company X could be invited into the class to discuss their approach.

The class would be interdisciplinary, mixing students from different degree programmes, and faculty would be encouraged to attend as well. The room would be set up with students sitting in small groups around tables, each discussing the same or different topics.

Education is, for the most part, predictable. At any given moment you know what classes you have, the assignments you have to get done or are coming up, when your next exam or presentation is. But the world students enter into after graduation is anything but predictable and one of the skills that employers look for, and which businesses exploring sustainability need, is adaptability. So how could we further develop this in business students?

The business school of the future, in addition to its standard curriculum, will have a special series of modules called “Shifts”. Basically, at different points in the curriculum students will be put into an unexpected situation that they need to resolve. They will have no idea when these will happen, or what the situation will be. Some could involve groups of students while others could be specifically tailored to a student based on skills the student is looking to develop. There could be countless different ways of presenting a “Shift” for a student. A Shift could consist of a student to prepare a presentation for the Dean in 24 hours, or taking over the management of a special project for a short period of time, or finding a solution to an emergency – or even being sent to a foreign country on a special mission. They will all be of short duration and students, depending on the project, will be judged on how they approached the situation and what they took out of the experience in addition to how

 

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Interested in developing new innovative approaches to sustainability? Have an interesting approach you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

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