An MBA for the 21st Century

Higher Education Leadership

MBA21stCenIn a recent New York Times article Greg Pass, Twitter’s former chief technology officer, referred to the MBA as a “challenged brand.”

I made a similar observation in a recent post on LinkedIn about the disconnect between the huge impact of disruptive innovation and both the typical graduate business school curriculum and its delivery method of scheduled classes in real time.

I was fortunate to have taken courses from one of the earliest adopters of a more modern approach to business education. Professor Clayton M. Christensen at Harvard Business School—who coined the term “disruptive innovation” in the mid-1990s—realized that because data was only available for the past, the only way to look into and lead for the future, for which there is no data, is to have a good theory. Teaching tomorrow’s business leaders to look through the lens of a theory, for example disruptive innovation, makes anticipating and acting for the future much clearer.

Now some of the top schools in the country, including Harvard, Stanford and Cornell are adopting course material on A/B testing and rapid prototyping, skills that used to be pretty much exclusively the territory of tech, but whose need can now be seen in every industry. Cornell has taken it one step further creating Cornell Tech, which combines business school and graduate computer science students in an entirely new program built from the ground up.

This is a crucial development not just for students considering graduate degrees in business, but also for the schools themselves. The number of students applying for graduate business school has fallen off slightly, while applications for graduate programs in mathematics and computer science have increased.

Regardless of the industry or company, every business leader of the future is going to need a skill set that gets him or her ready to be part of the digital economy.

Take Away: Graduate Business Schools are catching up to the need to teach more modern skills to future leaders.

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