Earlier this year I received the International Honoree Award from Beta Gamma Sigma, the academic honor society for the best students at top business schools all over the world. According to Beta Gamma Sigma I received the award “in recognition of advancing the ideas of our Society through outstanding business and managerial leadership”. I was really happy with this, and even more so after I saw others who had won this award over the last years: among others the CEO of Xerox, the CEO of KPMG, and even the President and CEO of Proctor & Gamble.
As part of the award ceremony I was invited to give a keynote speech at the AACSB Annual Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland. At that meeting deans of accredited business schools from all over the world were discussing the topic of “challenging your core foundations”. I was asked to discuss in my keynote the topic of challenging your core foundations as well. So when preparing for it I thought it might be interesting to use my entrepreneurial experience and tell them what I would do if I would start a business school from scratch.
The best way get an audience of up to 1500 business school deans to listen is to shock them a bit. So I told them that I believe the current business school model is outdated and ready for some serious disruption. Especially in the US the cost of an MBA is extremely high and potential big profits attract new incumbents. MBA schools would have to challenge their core foundations in order to stay relevant in a world that is changing very fast.
My ideas were based on a scalable education that would be at least 80% cheaper than the average US MBA. Some of the strategies that I talked about on stage included having a (mainly) online MBA with a few offline locations in strategic and/or exotic locations and meet-ups all over the world. Not with a campus the middle of expensive New York City, Paris or London, but in a more secluded and cheaper location (like INSEAD’s campus in Fontainebleau). A location that people like to go to sometimes and where professors like to teach temporarily (somewhere in the Caribbean for example).
I would not be hiring full-time (expensive) professors, but I would invite top professors to give lectures in a Virtual Reality environment and record these, so the recording would be VR as well. A lecture series could be used for several years or could be updated every now and then. Harvard has been using this for their CS50 course for a few years already, so this is not a new concept. By having small high tech campuses in nice locations it might help to attract professors or other guest lecturers.
The next step would be to develop Artificial Intelligence tutors that would get to know the student and his/her strengths and weaknesses, and that would teach and explain the student exactly what he/she needs to learn. The result would be highly personalized learning using both top professors and AI tutors. Setting it up might not be cheap, but once it’s up and running it will keep on improving itself through reinforced learning, and overheads would be much lower than regular MBA classes.
Another important step would be branding, which is quite important in the MBA world. I would approach this by emphasizing that the MBA is completely different from any other education: it would be global, it would use VR, it would use AI, and it would be much cheaper than any other MBA (I would aim for a price tag that would be at least 80% lower than similar educations).
If I would go into EdTech (which I am not planning to do) I believe a model like this could work. But that’s not why I talked about it of course, my aim was to wake people up to the fact that the world is changing and you have to adapt to survive and thrive. Hopefully it will have made some deans think critically about their programs, but I am not sure. The MBA industry seems to be stuck in the past and that’s why I decided to post some of my ideas here as well. Maybe it can inspire others? If you’re inspired by this take a look at the Lambda School as well, they are using a similar disruptive model to teach coding.
As a side note, during this conference I also did a couple of interviews. Two were published on the AACSB website and I found them on YouTube as well. This one is about teaching an entrepreneurial mindset: