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What will the future of Management Education look like?

Business schools around the world need to know what their future will look like. Changes in demographics, globalization, digitalization, and the rise of alternative career paths will force MBA and Executive MBA programs around the world to change their curricula and to use new teaching tools to keep their relevance in the years ahead. Are B-schools changing their programs enough? Are they being as innovative as the very businesses studied in the programs? Are their research topics relevant in a world more complex and less predictable? Are the programs flexible and impactful to attract executives who have increasingly more choices to receive top quality education in business?

The curriculum of MBA, Executive MBA, and C-level programs

One of the main differences regarding the structure of the programs in management is the change from a one-time experience to a lifelong learning commitment between participants educational institutions [1]. Rather than a focus on a single learning experience, participants in executive education programs will need permanent learning experience because of the increasing complexity of the business world requires constant course updates to help managers run their businesses.

Another change necessary to cope with an ever-changing business landscape is the shift away from individual disciplines to a project-oriented approach, which will involve interdisciplinary skills. For instance, rather than studying M&A, Innovation, and International Business separately, global executives are required to investigate and pursue innovative entry-modes in foreign markets or understand how a standardized acquisition process needs to be changed to allow a multinational move into a different market. Business education would be less about individual disciplines, such as accounting and finance, and more about solving business problems by blending academic theory with immersive practical experience. Experiential learning will likely to be the name of the game.

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The future of management education will also depend on the ability of programs to create platforms and ecosystems to reach managers that want to learn at all stages of their careers. Harvard´s HBX and Massachusetts Institute of Technology´s MITx are just two examples of educational platforms that create engagement between institutions and managers.

Regarding the focus of the programs, originally, they focused on the maximization of shareholders´ value; therefore, old-fashioned courses provided executives with a narrow view of the impact of businesses in the society. However, to manage a business is more challenging nowadays than before as there are many more interfaces that managers need to deal with, such as demands from civil society for sustainable business models, commercial restrictions due to commercial blocs, and ethics, to name a few. Consequently, executive programs need not only to train managers to make better decisions for shareholders but also to make better decisions for the society in which the companies are embedded.  C-level executives need programs suited to help them to “connect the dots” in a world in which the dots are not even clear. Exposure to topics such as the environmental impact of business, the empowerment of women and social inclusion, which were considered not-pertinent in the past are becoming the differentiation of among the best programs.

In the past, case studies and role-playing activities were the main sources of analysis due to the fundamental reason that these tools are good to identify and understand patterns that managers should replicate in their decision-making process. However, to understand the past is good up to a point; managers of the future need to quickly adapt and adjust to changing scenarios. Easier said than done, but business situations with changing scenarios, competency-based educational programs, project-oriented programs, international programs, a focus on sustainability and agile techniques for dealing with complexity, are certainly part of the solution.

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The diversity of participants of executive education programs

Diversity in boardrooms, although not a total reality, has increased a lot. CEO positions are not only filled by white, middle-aged men. Additionally, CEOs present a wider range of backgrounds. Such diversity should be also emphasized in the audience of executive programs, to help them to build connections and enrich the perspectives of the world they want to have.

Diversity should also be explored in the business classroom by giving students the opportunity and experience working in culturally diverse teams. Recent research by Jang [2] found that organizations using culturally diverse teams deliver better outcomes, but managers must be trained in leveraging the benefit of such diverse teams while mitigating the pitfalls. This type of training should happen in the management classroom.

Education vs Research: an old division

Probably, the old schism that separates graduate programs in management will come to an end. Whilst most business schools around the world tend to develop expertise in one path only, either focusing in education or in research, the interface between teaching and research will be more fluid because programs in business are being increasingly ranked by their value to business, society, and academia. Although the top institutions such as the Oxbridge ecosystem in the UK, the Ivy League in the US and several universities in Europe are equally relevant both in research and in education, they are the exceptions that justify the rule. A focused research program increases the quality of the educational program while high-caliber programs attract executives with problems that challenge the current literature in management.

Relevant programs outside the US and Europe

As mentioned in the previous topics, top-caliber universities seem to present a cluster effect because they tend to be in specific areas of the world. However, as the 2018 Financial Times [3] ranking of customized Executive MBA programs shows, 11 out of the top 50 and 5 out of top 20 business schools around the world are in Asia, Central, and South America. Top quality Business Schools can be seen in non-traditional places for management training, an issue that increases competition in the management education industry but at the same time reinforces the importance of an international understanding of business operations and a global diversity in business education.

The future of work – and of management education

Work as we know it is changing from an individual task into a collaborative model. As an NYT article [4] shows, the kind of jobs that grows the most are the ones that require social skills. The jobs of the future that will require working in small groups when sharing and negotiating with co-workers are common. Therefore, business education should focus on developing skills that improve the quality of interactions, such as cognitive flexibility, negotiation, coordination with others, critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence and people management. Many of these skills can be taught in business schools, but more can be done. As David Garvin presents [5], “The single strongest theme… was the need for MBA students to cultivate greater self-awareness… The second theme we heard was the need for practical skills: how to run a meeting, make a presentation and give performance feedback. The third theme was the need for MBAs to develop a better sense of the realities of organizations within which leaders operate. Politics – issues of power, coalitions and hidden agendas – are part of that reality… [managers] need to develop cultural intelligence, specifically a better understanding of which practices, strategies, and behaviors are universal, and which are contingent.”

The nature of work is expected to change drastically due to increasing automation technologies like artificial intelligence, robots, 3D printing and the increasing reliance on mobile technologies. This disruption in the workplace at an accelerated pace will have much farther reaching consequences besides a reduction in the number of jobs. The social implications for society may result in “two incompatible societies. For every job that can be automated will be automated. The only non-automated jobs left will be leadership jobs“ [6]

These changes will affect the nature of employment relationships and the organization of businesses. Workers will have to become accustomed to working beside robots, increased workplace monitoring and the end of retirement as we know it.

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Changes in the structure of the industry of education of management

Universities and business schools can be segmented in the same way traditional industries can [7]. While some business schools are focused on Executive Education, such as IMD, others offer both degree (M.Sc. and Ph.d.) and non-degree (MBA and Executive Education) programs, as Oxford´s Saïd Business School. Like any business under global competitive pressure, management education programs have several growth paths, such as Organic growth, Strategic Alliances (through partnerships between international schools such as One MBA), Mergers & Acquisitions and Diversification. The game is open for movements.


For many years, management education has been under pressure. From the one hand, executives sought quality education to help them to understand the complexity of businesses. On the other hand, companies looked for educational programs to develop leaders to contribute to the success of their businesses. However, the world changed due to several factors such as the globalization, the development of technology, the changes in demography, and the rise of an Asia-centric world. Business schools responded to the new world with different strategies: adoption of different curricula, use of teamwork approach, development of global immersion experiences, use of technology, partnering in knowledge creation between academia and industry, and development of a lifelong learning approach with executives.

In conclusion, business schools are feeling the pressure of the change. Will they be able to apply what they teach to their own classes?

Evodio Kaltenecker, Ph.D., is responsible of Management research and executive education in international business schools such as the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), WU Vienna University of Economics and Business (Austria), Management Center Innsbruck (Austria), Samuel C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University (US), BBS Business School (Angola), and Professor-in-Residence at Austral Education Group. Focus on strategy, Latin America, multinationals from emerging markets and international business. Frequently interviewed by specialized media to provide insights about business matters: Financial Times, Valor Econômico, O Globo, IstoÉDinheiro, O Estado de São Paulo, Providence News e The View (ING Bank). Board Member of Corr Analytics. Author of “Quality According to Garvin”, listed among ten must-read books on quality management in Portuguese. B.S. in Metallurgy by Military Institute of Technology (IME), M.Sc in Industrial Engineering by Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ/Coppe), MBA by Harvard University (Harvard Business School) and Ph.D. in internationalization strategy and digital value chains by Polytechnic School at University of São Paulo (POLI/USP).

Lisa Kahle-Piasecki, Ph.D., APTD is an Associate Professor of Management at Tiffin University USA with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. A researcher and consultant with a focus on the training and development practices of Fortune 1000 and multinational companies, she is currently a visiting international professor at Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico) in the Department of Management and Leadership. She is a regular faculty member in the Executive MBA program with Tiffin University Bucharest, Romania and has additional international teaching experience in Costa Rica.


[1] Weybrecht, Giselle. The future MBA: 100 ideas for making sustainability the business of business education. Routledge, 2017.

[2] Jang, Sujin. The most creative teams have a specific type of cultural diversity. Harvard Business Review. Extracted Jul 24, 2018

[3], extracted Jul 31, 2018.

[4], extracted Jul 31, 2018

[5], extracted Jul 31, 2018.

[6], extracted Aug 1, 2018

[6] Union of International Associations. (2017). Negative social effects of automation. The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. Extracted August 5, 2018.


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