Graduate Management Education in Disruptive Times

Rachel Edgington

Rachel Edgington is the Market Research Director at the Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®). She worked with editors Brooks Holtom of Georgetown University and Erich Dierdorff of DePaul University to produce the GMAC book, Disrupt or Be Disrupted: A Blueprint for Change in Management Education (Jossey-Bass/Wiley), on which this article is based.

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A new book warns of troubled times ahead for business schools unless they embrace disruptive change says Rachel Edgington.

In the late 1990s, Andy Grove, cofounder of chipmaker Intel, described a strategic inflection point as “an event that changes the way we think and act as a result of action taken by a company, or through actions taken by another entity, that has a direct impact on the company.”

Eastman Kodak Company encountered just such a strategic inflection point in 2012. Kodak had dominated the photographic film industry for 121 years and was one of the most powerful companies in the world. But in 2012, after two decades of financial struggles and increasing competition, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The world of photography had shifted rapidly into a new era of digital technology and Kodak failed to anticipate its explosive growth, even though it had invented the core technology used in digital cameras. Kodak had the capability to compete in the digital market but found itself becoming irrelevant as it failed to change course during a strategic inflection point in the industry.

Business schools around the globe are today facing a similar strategic inflection point as management education is besieged by rapid change driven by multiple market forces—increased competition, technological advances, customers, suppliers, and regulation.

A new book, Disrupt or Be Disrupted: A Blueprint for Change in Management Education, examines these disruptive forces that are challenging the very core of management education. The book provides an historical perspective, analyses today’s world of management education and provides a scholarly framework for change.

At the beginning of the book, J C Spender and Rakesh Khurana examine a previous period of transformation for management education; one that started in 1959 and ended up shaping the development of the modern business school we know today.

They argue that only by understanding how schools arrived at the status quo can they reposition themselves for the future.

In 1959, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation sponsored highly influential reports on the then state of US business education (written respectively by economists Robert Aaron Gordon and James Edwin Howell and Frank Pierson and others).

For the full article, please read the PDF or listen to the Podcast.

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