Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Global E-School: A Plan

B-Schools had their day. There was a time when we thought we knew how to do it - capture the future in a web of models and processes - and created the big, successful institutions charging top dollars for educating business leaders. 

Then, a few things happened. We overdid it. There were just too many B-Schools and too many business 'leaders'. We also lost faith in big businesses. According to a recent Pew survey, only 40% of Americans have a positive image of big businesses, down from 75% a couple of decades earlier. And, big businesses stopped creating jobs, as they continued to automate and spread their global supply chains. And, then, came the Great Recession, sweeping away the dreams of middle class life of the most, and what emerged is a completely different future. No wonder that only a small fraction of MBAs now find appropriate employment, and all but the top B-Schools are able to fill their seats today.

The truth is, today, not the company men but those with enterprise rule the world. In this world, the B-School education became a hindrance, the proverbial chip on the shoulder that B-schools were designed to install became the stumbling block, as new values and competences are needed for the ever-reconfigured world of enterprise. 

So, we need a new education. It is no longer processes or models, but people, ideas and flexibilities. The aspirations can not any longer be limited to Business Administration, but must encompass Business Creation, and indeed, for the best, denting the universe. It is no longer enough to reside inside small, elite networks of people from similar backgrounds as us, but about being global and knowing people from diverse backgrounds and interests, because new ideas almost inevitably lie in the fringes. This is a topsy-turvy world of open business models and liquid networks, a new, global, diverse, enterprise-centred education is needed: This is the central proposition of a Global E-School.

Now, the question - whether entrepreneurs can be educated in a school - may come up here. But there is a difference between educating entrepreneurs and making all learners entrepreneurial. The E-School would be designed to operate with an 'entrepreneurial frame of mind', never giving final answers but always insistent on finding solutions. Its education will centre not around models and theories, but on finding problems by engaging in real life. And, its focus will not be on the past and who said what, but on the future - its emerging possibilities and how to shape it. As opposed to B-Schools, it would not be designed as a factory for the chip-on-the-shoulder, but a place for humility, flexibility and inventiveness.

How do we go about building a model? As with any good enterprise, we look to start with an existing model - yes, poor old MBA - and build a new-economy wrap-around to make it fit for purpose. The school, as we envision it, needs to be global, hence we need a framework that can be location independent. We also need a competence-based framework, which can be mapped to real life entrepreneurial activities quickly and cheaply. The idea, therefore, is to take a model of remote delivered, competence based MBA and turn it to be the basis of a global Enterprise programme.

What we add to this core framework is important. The idea is to add one or two global residencies to this framework - one in London or Cambridge and the other potentially in Silicon Valley - where the learners could immerse themselves in enterprise ecosystems interning in Start-ups. The other thing that we add is a T-Programme on New and Emerging technologies, an overview of new technological developments along with specialist programmes and internships focused on one or another area. And, finally, the third element to be added is a Social Project, an opportunity to set up a Social Enterprise inside a community, in close collaboration with a member of that community, which will integrate all that was learnt on the programme and off it, and provide an opportunity for application.

I have never been closer to realising the E-School idea, which I have spoken and written about for several years, than now. The expansive idea that I described above may be a hard-sell for some investors, but not to those who know the education market, and know that it has matured and differentiation is the key. The market of meaningless degrees, which swelled up with newly emerging economies joining up with their millions of students, is essentially over: China, India and other countries have expanded their education systems rapidly and the 'demand-absorbing' For-profit sector in the West has lost their appeal as job numbers shrunk in the wake of global recession. The education investment now needs to be serious and mature, focused on differentiation and value creation, and E-School is one big opportunity to establish a model that really works.


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