The contemporary purpose of a business school is to develop and enhance the individual’s and the collective’s abilities to innovate. That means not merely creating, inventing, and imagining but also commercialising products and services and contributing to new theoretical knowledge.
More speci cally, to achieve positive impact the role of business schools is to create and disseminate knowledge that can be applied to enhance the practice of professional managers, whatever their organisations’ purpose, scope, size or location. It is imperative that business schools foster an understanding of the human behaviours that both facilitate and impede the achievement of organisational and social goals.
At the same time, these need to support pressing concerns such as environmental and demographic changes, health, hunger, inequalities, ageing, poverty, geopolitical and technological shifts, and so on.
In this respect, business schools are key integrating actors and anchors within the academic world, the economy, and society more broadly. Integration implies proactive engagement with collaborators and the designing of business schools that are institutionally and socially embedded while retaining a degree of self-determination.
Now that is a tall order. It is, therefore, unlikely that any one business school can be all things to all people. A large part of our argument revolves around the need for specialisation. It is by standing apart from the crowd, rather than through delivering to the “common denominator”, that we can achieve meaningful impact.
Business schools are clearly in the reputation business, with a strong focus on brand, journal citations, league tables, and the professional careers of staff and students. How can they make their mark?
Despite those who bemoan the unful lled promise of the project to professionalise management and the suggestion by Howard Thomas, Dean of Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University, and others that business schools may have reached a “tripping point”, there is no denying that we have done well to professionalise ourselves.
This has been achieved through accreditation agencies and national business school bodies.
In the context of criticisms about business schools’ isolationism in iconic buildings, disciplinary silos, decoupling from wicked interdisciplinary problems in society and being distinguished as “cash cows”, we argue for integration and further differentiation.
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