Companies are demanding new professionals whose training goes beyond traditional skills. Business schools must meet these expectations and reframe their methods to survive.

Cristina Giménez Thomsen
Alberto Núñez

A recent study showed that because of rapid advances in digitalization and business models "some 40% of CEOs believe their company cannot survive in the medium to long term". In this study, managers recognized the importance of reinventing their companies and the need for new management skills

In another recent study, the World Economic Forum identified the needs to be addressed by education systems. This report is the result of wide-ranging research on the future of work conducted by the forum and other organizations. It highlights that employers have identified as essential various skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and the development and use of technology; and are placing increasing emphasis on interpersonal and social-emotional skills, as well as attitudes and values.  

Are we preparing our young people with these skills, attitudes, and values needed? The report also mentioned a UNICEF study indicating that fewer than half of young people worldwide are likely to acquire the full range of skills required to thrive in work and life. 

Employers are placing increasing emphasis on interpersonal and social-emotional skills, as well as attitudes and values

These changes are an opportunity (or a necessity) for business schools in their mission to train students to meet the challenges of the business and professional world – and a matter of survival. However, many of the skills noted in these reports can be acquired more quickly, and probably more cheaply, in other types of educational or professional institutions

Necessary changes 

Predicting the future is notoriously difficult, and the proposals made are usually just more steps in a direction that is already apparent. We would like to be a little more daring in this article, and although not everything is new, we propose a more radical rethink of the type of education that a prestigious business school should offer.  

Our starting point is the following analysis of the current situation. The generalization of AI tools in the world of education is more than a mere acceleration of already observed trends and represents a qualitative and radical change in the understanding of what an educational institution does. The transmission and laborious acquisition of knowledge by students is being displaced by the interpretation and application of a huge document archive that is almost free to use.  

The generalization of AI tools represents a qualitative and radical change in the understanding of what an educational institution does

This major change brings three elements to the forefront. First, the need to develop systemic thinking that considers the many relationships and agents involved in any socioeconomic reality. Secondly, the importance of incorporating attitudes and values that guide the interpretation of this immense documentary archive. And, thirdly, concern for the psycho-spiritual well-being of students who face the heavy pressures of such a complex environment – but are also offered enormous opportunities for personal development.  

Our short description of the challenges facing education implies that changes are needed in business schools, including: 

  • Change in content taught. Current teaching divides the curriculum into areas of knowledge (finance, marketing, operations, strategy, and so on) that are taught in a modular fashion. Teaching in the future must focus on the fundamental skills that a professional or business manager requires, for example: mathematical and quantitative analysis; data analysis and interpretation; people management; critical thinking; self-knowledge; and systemic vision.  
  • Change in teaching-learning methodologies. These currently focus on individual efforts and interfaces (even in group work). Future-orientated business schools will contract the best educators in each field, look for knowledge connections, and make use of all the individual and social abilities of every student. The educator par excellence will not be the individual lecturer, but the whole educational community, which will have a greater institutional scope than at present. 
  • A new balance between practical application and theoretical reflection. Transformative learning experiences should be generalized and include much more direct contact with complex realities. Moreover, there must be a focus on the need for change to tackle the enormous challenges facing the world. Specifically, learning to listen to different interests and points of view should be mandatory, as well as thoughtful reflections that create a shared horizon and seek the greatest benefit for everyone. 
  • Personalize learning experiences so that each participant can advance according to their motivations and interests – while reflecting on their purpose, values, and role in the global community. For true learning, experiential projects must include a consideration of the content and its ethical and moral implications. In this way, it is possible to generate motivation and enthusiasm for learning in every member of the educational community. 
All written content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.