Bringing Business Schools Into The STEM Era

Johan Roos

Professor Johan Roos is Chief Academic Officer, Hult International Business School (including Ashridge), which he joined in January 2016. Prior to joining the multi-campus Hult, he worked in six business schools and a non-profit organisation in five countries. Most recently, he was CEO and Dean of Jönköping International Business School in Sweden.

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Johan Roos argues that today’s business students must be given a grounding in science disciplines if they are to prosper in a world increasingly driven by science and technology.

Science, technology, engineering and maths (the so-called STEM subjects) are the driving force behind the most promising and lucrative businesses of the future. But turning such developments into commercially successful innovations requires people who understand STEM as well as organisation and management.

Gone are the days when an MBA generalist with a strong marketing education could fathom the potential of new businesses creating products and services to utilise STEM advances. Today’s managers need a solid business background but also the knowledge of the innovative potential deriving from their company’s progress in STEM fields.

In the March / April 2015 issue of AACSB’s BizEd magazine a series of well-written and persuasive articles argued that business schools ought to be reaching out aggressively to STEM students to attract them into dual-bachelors or MBA programmes specifically designed for them.

I agree and praise all these initiatives and am implementing them myself. For example, in my own business school, Jönkoping International Business School (JIBS) in Sweden, we are launching a new masters programme in Engineering Management for engineering students, starting this autumn. Soon after we opened it for applications this spring, the programme quickly filled up with incoming students from many countries. In addition to learning about organisations and management such programmes complement the natural science way of explaining reality in objective ways with the more social science approach of questioning and changing reality in subjective ways.

However, I want to argue on behalf of a complementary view about what business schools should be doing to ensure that our students are prepared for the management and leadership jobs of the future.

I am convinced that business students need to be “conversant in STEM” if they are to have the intellectual capacity and skills to survive in the technology-driven organisations of the future. We can no longer produce responsible graduate business students who are ignorant of basic vocabulary and syntax in the STEM fields.

They at least need to be aware of recent advancements in multiple fields, ranging from genome coding via nano-enabled engineering to the explosive (and controversial) developments in artificial intelligence. In addition, considering that all of these subjects are moving at breathtaking speed, with the borders between them becoming hazier, we are already behind in preparing business students for the jobs that will exist in the future.

For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.

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