The Business of Change

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Garth Saloner

Garth Saloner is the Philip H Knight Professor
and Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Latest posts by Garth Saloner (see all)

Business schools must change if they are to serve theirstudents and society well, says Garth Saloner, Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Just over a year ago Stanford Graduate School of Business in California took the unusual step of launching an institute aimed at poverty alleviation. When most people think about relieving poverty, the next words out of their mouth are usually not business school. Nevertheless, as we undertook the process of establishing the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, known as SEED, we began thinking about how entrepreneurship and the management disciplines we teach could be used to make an impact on poverty alleviation and on other pressing global challenges.

Some of the world’s biggest problems – education, environmental sustainability, healthcare, country governance, and access to food and clean water – are not just technical challenges; they are business, leadership and management challenges. For example, the problems of healthcare are not simply those of new drug discovery or medical device innovation but of healthcare delivery, including hospitals, healthcare systems and innovation in healthcare delivery organisations.

Those of us in the field of business education know that today’s students are eager to address these types of challenges. The millennial students, those earning higher-education degrees in the 21st century, walking through our doors don’t just want to make money; they want to make a difference. They want to lead lives of impact and meaning and they see the challenges I have described as opportunities and as problems to be solved. And I believe we have the opportunity to equip our graduates with the skills they need to meet those challenges. It is an exciting prospect and it is what energises me for my job every morning.

I realise this view may not obviously fit with our day-to-day thoughts as business school deans, senior administrators or even faculty members. In so many ways our business schools feel beleaguered, challenged and stressed. The prolonged global economic crisis and the Occupy movement have put business schools under intense scrutiny.

Internally, we face curricular pressures and the need to adjust our programmes to meet the demands of a changing student body. We face new competition and a changing industry environment that is different to what it was just a decade ago. The return on investment of the business school programmes we offer is also being questioned, a business model that is likely to be enormously impacted by online education.

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