By Hanna McLeod, Manager, Research, AACSB International
While the 2014 International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) has successfully concluded, the messages exchanged during the event are sure to still be in the minds of the nearly 1100 higher education, business school, and industry leaders who came together in Singapore. The atmosphere seemed different at this year's event compared to other recent meetings. For many, it may have been the first time visiting the intriguing city state—home to AACSB's Asia office, but a long trek from its global headquarters in Tampa, Florida. For our members in the Asia and Oceania regions, the excitement may have been due to the relief of shorter travel and bypassed jet lag. This year was the second time in AACSB history that ICAM was held outside of the United States, and was the first time in Asia—a reminder that global boundaries are diminishing, and that collaboration and peer-to-peer networking have reached greater heights.
ICAM is a time to reconnect with familiar faces, as well as collaborate and learn from one another about the issues and successes within management education in all regions of the world. AACSB is honored by the level of trust in the organization its members have shown by making the journey to come together during those three productive days.
Trust. Aside from the conference's major themes aligning with the 2013 Accreditation Standards—innovation, engagement, and impact—the notion of establishing trust, whether through collaboration with other institutions, faculty, students, industry, or stakeholders, was another theme that organically emerged—right from the start.
During a pre-conference bonus session focusing on business school collaborations—presented by AACSB president and CEO John Fernandes, and vice president of outreach Michael Weimer—establishing effective communication, an equal understanding of quality and objectives, and as a result, adequate trust, were presented as important elements for effective collaboration. The value of trust was again emphasized during the opening plenary session with Rachel Botsman, global thought leader and founder of the Collaborative Lab. Botsman began the session with a presentation of a few innovative and potentially disruptive start-ups, whose organizational culture and operations suggest that trust is the new currency of the collaborative economy. According to Botsman, society is experiencing a distribution of power largely resulting from a shifting of trust—away from big, centralized institutions, toward dispersed networks of individuals and communities.
Just as the media has faced major disruptions to where "newspapers are no longer defined by paper, but by news," as Botsman raised, higher education is in a position where it, too, could be defined by something different than what it is today. She urged attendees that although technology and MOOCs play a pivotal role in such developments, the conversation ought to continue beyond this. The majority of higher education institutions are operating in an environment that no longer exists, and various elements of higher education are being disrupted. A major challenge lies not in that new providers and formats are appearing in the higher education landscape; but rather, how will business schools respond when such new formats provide attractive features the traditional environment cannot?
As the conference continued, messages raised within the opening plenary continued to be questioned, along with other challenges facing business schools, such as effectively managing faculty, incorporating sustainable financial strategies, and demands for visionary leadership. Attendee interest was sparked with such doses of reality, and although not all may agree with some of the above-mentioned predictions, the value of anticipating the future, and its challenges, resonated throughout the conference.
As AACSB reflects on the level of engagement, enthusiasm, and dedication across its membership, not only witnessed at ICAM, it trusts that the future of global management education looks bright.