The Business of Business Schools Investigated

Eric Cornuel

Director General and CEO, EFMD

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Eric Cornuel assesses the results and implications of the EFMD’s first research conference.

An increasing understanding of our institutions and our industry confirms how vital leadership, change and innovation are for the business school and management education community.

The early days of the EFMD R&D initiative identified core research themes for management education as a research field. Now the first EFMD Higher Education Research conference, held in mid- February 2012 at The Lorange Institute of Business in Zurich, Switzerland, has successfully concluded.

The changing context of business and management education was highlighted throughout the conference. A wealth of papers focused on leadership and change in business schools, internationalisation, and on branding and reputation.

Much of the content of the conference reflects thinking that has been circulating within EFMD for some time, though further and more in-depth research work is required. Nevertheless, we have already reached an important milestone.

Business schools have traditionally followed a path of conformity and collective rationality, to some extent driven by external pressures from quarters such as media rankings and government agencies. But despite these (sometimes heavy) pressures to conform, business schools need to find and develop a stronger voice, to start extending their boundaries and to escape the tempting dangers of homogeneity. We also need to acknowledge how different dimensions of excellence may be defined by different stakeholder groups.

[Some of these issues are addressed by Peter McKiernan and David Wilson in their article “Pressures to conform” on page 28 of this issue of Global Focus. Professors McKiernan and Wilson presented their ideas at the EFMD research conference.]

Peter Lorange, who hosted the EFMD research conference, was of course the long-standing head of IMD in Switzerland and now runs his own business school, The Lorange Institute of Business, in Zurich. There he is trying to establish “the business schools of the future” as he foresees it – a networked, high-tech system with few if any full-time faculty.

EFMD is closely observing this experiment, with a generally friendly eye.

Certainly many of Professor Lorange’s ideas and concepts chime with our own.

He says, for example, that the business school of the future must be characterised by speed, agility and rapid adaptability rather than by bureaucracy, silos and axiomatic force.

This is a true and very important message for business of schools of today to take on board.

For the full article, you can view the PDF

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