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Dean's Corner: A Global Brainstorm Envisioning the Future of Business Education

June 2014

By Ken Freeman
Allen Questrom Professor and Dean
Boston University School of Management

If you had an employee who missed your point 85 percent of the time, would they still have a job? Business schools educate tomorrow's industry leaders, yet according to Inside Higher Ed's 2014 survey of chief academic officers, there is an 85 percent gap between industry and higher education's beliefs on how prepared graduates are for success in the workplace¹. In industry jargon: business school offerings aren't meeting customer demands.

Faced with this reality, it is surprising (and, yes, distressing) to see the general lack of dialogue between academia and one of our major customers—the employers of business school graduates—about what we do, how we do it, and how we can do it better. To remain relevant and respected by industry, we must better understand their evolving expectations of us and then proceed to meet them.

It would be easy to oversimplify the challenge of closing the industry-academia gap. Within industry and academia there are many stakeholder groups, each with different experiences and expectations from higher education. The view of higher education from the c-suite is often different from a recruiter's angle, and faculty don't often share the same perspectives as deans. Similarly, it is important to learn from the diverse groups of faculty, business school and university administrators, government officials, and students and recent graduates.

Closing the gap calls for creativity. Ingenuity. Collaboration on a global scale. Rather than do another survey we must build platforms that generate new knowledge from dialogue. Rather than limit our dialogue to executives serving on our advisory councils, we need to create an inclusive environment that benefits from the diversity of people's experiences. And rather than replicating conversations at each of our schools and offices, we should collaborate to strengthen the discourse. We can answer this call to collective action.

Where do we begin?
At Boston University School of Management, our approach is to launch the Business Education Jam: Envisioning the Future, in collaboration with and supported by leading sponsors, including AACSB, to address this essential question.

A 60-hour virtual online event, from September 30–October 2, 2014, the Jam is unprecedented in the history of higher education. Powered by innovative IBM technology, a "Jam" is a large-scale, collaborative online event that drives creativity and probing thought on a compelling subject—in this case, the future of business education. The primary objective of the Jam is to open up a new dialogue that will build a stronger connection between academia and industry, bolstering the growth and development of business education and businesses alike. The Jam format achieves this goal simply through its astounding capacity to unite thousands of people in conversation.

The Jam will enable a massive crowdsourcing of ideas, and thoughtful input from all of our biggest customers and stakeholders is essential: faculty, deans, and administrators, company executives and hiring managers, students and graduates, AACSB, and anyone who cares about business and business education.

Can't wait until September? Join the conversations already happening, and visit bu.edu/jam to explore the 10 discussion forums, pre-register, and see how the Jam's powerful social and analytic tools will make this an extraordinary conversation.

Embrace the upheaval
Boston University School of Management just turned 100 and, like many other long-standing business schools, we didn't get here by playing it safe. To succeed for a second century, we need to embrace this time as a critical inflection point and live AACSB's mission of advancing quality management education worldwide. Let's use this upheaval to redefine and reestablish the value of business education in a complex world—together.

When the Jam concludes, the real work begins. This opportunity is too rare, and our challenges too real, to let the dialogue end when the last participant logs off. After the Jam, we'll identify the topics that merit new research, inform the work of the AACSB Business Practices Council, and establish lines of communication dedicated to ensuring that business education is relevant, progressive, and valuable for our students and the businesses that employ them.

For 60 hours over three days the Jam is your opportunity to share your thoughts, see which discussions spark your imagination, and help shape the next generation of leaders.

Prepare for the brainstorm.

¹ Grasgreen, A. (2014, February). Ready or Not. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/26/provosts-business-leaders-disagree-graduates-career-readiness#sthash.tbJ4M28v.PVRGP8lD.dpbs.



More about Kenneth Freeman:
Ken has more than 40 years of professional experience, including five years at KKR where he was a partner and also served as a senior advisor. He is a member of the AACSB Business Practices Council.

Ken began his career at Corning Incorporated in 1972, progressing through the financial function before leading several businesses. He joined Corning Clinical Laboratories in 1995, and the company was spun off from Corning as Quest Diagnostics Incorporated soon thereafter. He led the dramatic turnaround of Quest Diagnostics as chairman and chief executive officer through 2004.

A study of global business leadership conducted at INSEAD and published in the January 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review named Ken one of the 100 best performing CEOs in the world.

Ken received an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School in 1976, and a BSBA, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Bucknell University in 1972, where he is now chairman of the Board of Trustees.


Ken Freeman
Allen Questrom Professor and Dean
Boston University School of Management