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GFME: Global Foundation for Management Education


AACSB International


From Challenge to Change: Business Schools in the Wake of Financial Crisis

Essays from GFME Board Members

Image: ForewordIn 1982, W. Edwards Deming's landmark book, Out of the Crisis, changed the way businesses thought about making things. It showed managers in the US and Europe how to build products and deliver services with the meticulous attention to quality for which Japanese business was known (and which Deming himself, stationed in a war-wrecked Japan in the late 1940s as part of the Marshall Plan, had helped engender).

Fast-forward to the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, and we are asking ourselves how we will get out of our latest crisis; one where the world’s financial systems lurched perilously close to collapse. The global economy will certainly recover – it is remarkably resilient. Eventually the Great Recession will become a distant memory, a curiously deep trough in business cycle charts of the future.

We believe, however, that a host of policies, institutions, and beliefs will emerge from the crisis in very different forms. From the tattered relationships of the crisis may come bright global prospects, which will carry new responsibilities and commitments from individuals, organizations, and societies. There are calls for more responsibility amongst business practitioners; calls for greater attention to sustainability and long-term thinking; calls for managers to rediscover an ethical and moral compass; to look differently and more deeply at risk and reward.

Management education and development should not and will not be exempt from change – its course is being altered right now by leaders around the globe. This short volume hosts a collection of thoughts and opinions by several of these leaders about the changes that ought to occur in business schools.

The collected papers bring together deans and directors from the UK, Canada, USA, Poland, Spain and Thailand, as well as the directors and presidents of the world’s leading business school accreditation bodies, the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). It has been put together under the leadership and guidance of the Global Foundation for Management Education (GFME), an organizational collaboration between AACSB and EFMD. It is published by the world's leading scholarly business and management publisher, Emerald Group Publishing. AACSB and EFMD are both international in scope, with the former having its roots in the USA, and the latter in Western Europe. Emerald operates globally, having established publishing and customer support offices worldwide.

We hope this selection of thought pieces may be the beginning of a repository of both philosophical reflections and actionable changes which will be added to over time. They should be regarded as both a snapshot of current thought at the end of the decade, and something of a call to arms.

Those of us working in business education, and serving the industry, touch a high proportion of people who are, and will be, among the most influential people on the planet. The GFME estimates that business schools are home to 25 million degree-seeking students and that countless more participate in university-based executive education and management development programs. That means that what we teach them, and what we research to inform how we teach them, matters.

The recent financial crisis has provoked a range of useful but sometimes difficult questions about the purpose and function of business education and research as it shapes business practice. What should purpose of all this management education be? What should be the shape of research and study? Business, and the society within which businesses operate, sometimes seem to have developed in separate and opposing directions. If that is the case, what can business education and research do to shed light on the problem? Can researchers help business and society towards greater alignment?

Our primary objective in putting this volume together was to stimulate creative thinking about these and other issues. The authors do not always agree, even about whether substantial change is needed. But why should they agree when their experiences and contexts have been so different. They do not share a common set of assumptions or questions. But all of these differences are exactly what we expect from such a diverse set of authors writing about an uncertain future and subject of critical importance.

Eric Cornuel, Director-General of EFMD, proposes that business education needs to broaden its focus towards social responsibility and ethical practice. In a similar vein, John Fernandes, President and CEO of AACSB International, looks forward to stronger and better business schools as a result of the crisis, and a refocus of curricula towards a proper understanding of risk management. EFMD’s Gerard van Schaik further develops the theme of linking business education aims to social ones.

Andrzej Kozminski, Rector of Kozminski University in Poland warns against the dangers of homogeneity and a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, and of becoming too fixed around a set of precepts. Santiago Iniguez de Onzono of Instituto de Empresa in Madrid also suggests a change of curriculum emphasis towards a wider humanities perspective, while setting a challenge to realign academic research with real-world needs. From a different perspective, Howard Thomas and Alex Wilson of Singapore Management University and Warwick Business School in England also seek more relevance, but by "finding the voice of practice" in research, rather than perpetuating a linear supply-chain approach where academics produce and managers consume.

Both Richard Cosier of the Krannert School, Purdue University, Indiana, and Michel Patry of HÉC Montreal envisage the possibility of business education stepping beyond being part of the problem, to being part of the solution, through examination of the economic and behavioural roots of the crisis and discussion of positive steps forwards. Gasinee Witoonchart and Fredric William Swierczek, Thammasat Business School, dismiss a superficial 'Hippocratic Oath' approach to engendering more ethical managers, and looks instead at underpinning business and business education within the context of Buddhist principles.

In all, then, some challenges for business education leaders as we look forward to recovery. Most of the authors take a view that business schools have a valuable role to play in shaping a better world. Those of us who care about business education and the impact of business research should seek to rise to the challenge.

We hope that these essays will form the basis of a growing collection, which can be both discussed and developed. We welcome comment and contribution.

Dan LeClair, AACSB
John Peters, former Joint Chief Executive, Emerald Group Publishing
Vicky Williams, Emerald Group Publishing
Matthew Wood, EFMD

January 2010