By Hanna McLeod, Manager, Research, AACSB International
Though business schools and higher education currently face extraordinary challenges, for 60 consecutive hours over the past week, the only "jam" that was on the minds of over 5,700 registrants representing over 100 countries and spanning a variety of organizations and sectors was the open global discussion known as the Business Education Jam, hosted by the School of Management at Boston University and launched in collaboration with IBM and other premier sponsors.
The Business Education Jam, as most of those close to management education may already know, was organized and launched with the goal of "revolutionizing the future of business and education in a massive global brainstorm."¹ Academics, students, and practitioners engaged in insightful dialogue organized under 10 unique Jam Forums which included areas such as Producing Research with Impact, Increasing the Value of Management Education, and Evaluating Policy & Rankings, and which stimulated discussions covering an array of topics: the importance of soft skills, cultivating deeper industry partnerships, career readiness, the potential for the MBA becoming obsolete, and ways for accreditation to help bridge gaps with industry demands—just to name a very few.
At the School of Management, Dean Kenneth Freeman, staff, and fellow Jammers exuded a contagious energy, and the insights that poured from the hundreds of discussion threads fueled the dialogue, no matter the time or location of engaged Jammers at any given moment. AACSB's Dan LeClair was one of the 99 VIP Guests and Jam Hosts representing educators, deans, and industry leaders who helped steer the dialogue that will result in a much-anticipated white paper that will capture the major themes that surfaced from the dialogue and help frame a future direction for business schools.
Narrowing down on one or even two topics from the Jam would be a daunting task, as almost every discussion thread had something very valuable to share. However, each of the forum's discussions brought to light the level of passion and commitment that not only business school administrators and faculty have for improving management education, but also the hundreds of participating students who voiced their concerns, ideas, and opinions on the current status of business education. Business leaders shared candid remarks on what incoming business graduates bring to the table and what they lack, and how business schools can help fill such gaps. Across forums, Jammers engaged in debates over more focus on experiential learning and entrepreneurial development, for example, and topics raised in the virtual discussions carried over into the School of Management's physical hallways. Presumably, the same phenomenon occurred among thousands of other Jammers around the globe, and participants ideally will continue to share the emerging thoughts discussed in the platform across networks so business school leaders might find a place to incorporate them on their agendas. (For a glimpse of the action, be sure to visit the Business Education Jam Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/BusinessEdJam.)
The white paper that the staff at Boston University will develop jointly with the IBM analytics team will be interesting to explore in the coming months—particularly in light of these flourishing conversations. Although a dialogue of such scale and nature may prove challenging for anyone to identify concrete conclusions, the achievement of encouraging such a number of individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and desires to come together to discuss these very important topics to the management education industry is a significant step in the right direction for business schools.
¹ Business Education Jam platform webpage.