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A Light-Bulb Moment for Management Education

May 2015

By Hanna McLeod, Manager, Research, AACSB International

This year’s International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) was themed the “Currents of Change,” which held appropriate not only to the Tampa, Florida, USA, location of the event, but more importantly to the messages presented by the conference’s plenary speakers, such as Carolyn Y. Woo of the Catholic Relief Services and best-selling author Daniel H. Pink, in addition to the numerous concurrent session speakers at the event. As scary as the word “change” may be for some people, at this particular annual convening of management education leaders from around the globe, the word’s connotation presented opportunity for doing things better—an ambition for a better future.

Underlying this opportunity were the three themes of the AACSB Accreditation Standards—engagement, innovation, and impact—serving as the means for accomplishing positive change. Although these three themes have been emphasized for two years now, some schools have voiced perplexity on just how the themes fit in with business schools achieving quality management education. From my perspective, it was at this ICAM that I witnessed the light bulb flash for many of the attendees as they listened to colleagues and others share best practices, insights, and opportunities throughout the conference.

Goals for increased engagement were prevalent themes during the opening bonus session, which featured an update of the AACSB 2020 Committee. Speakers Mark Rice, Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, and Robert Reid illustrated to attendees the need to take globalization to the next level—and in order to accomplish that, increased engagement with schools in emerging markets is necessary. Only through such engagement can management education truly be advanced on a global scale and the benefits of AACSB membership and accreditation reach their full potential.

Daniel Pink challenged management leaders to rethink mechanisms for motivation among employees, as well as in the classroom. One area he stressed was the importance of invoking greater autonomy among individuals within an organization, and how it can not only lead to more desired productivity but also greater innovation. An underlying message of Pink’s presentation was to encourage leaders to think differently in how they run organizations and go about their work days; just because a certain formula has been in place for several decades does not mean that it is appropriate for the demands and challenges of the present day. The same message echoed through the hallways of the Tampa Convention Center as others discussed the importance of not being constrained by the notion of “this is how it has always been done,” and rather be empowered by the thought that “with all of the opportunities present today, this is how it can be done better.”

Finally, in regard to the theme of impact, Carolyn Woo certainly left her audience realizing the true (untapped) potential that management education and business schools have in making a positive impact in bettering the lives of the global community they serve. Woo emphasized the importance of collaboration with all constituents and a refocusing of management’s role in society and how business schools approach it within their classrooms in order to help recover the legitimacy of business and business education.

As we look ahead to next year’s ICAM in Boston, where AACSB will celebrate its centennial along with members, the three themes of engagement, innovation, and impact will not only serve as a way to see what has been accomplished by AACSB schools in those 100 years, but it will also help steer and encourage schools to tackle some of the challenges presented by the above-mentioned individuals and others from ICAM 2015, in addition to their own unique missions and objectives for a fruitful future.