Innovative Higher Education at Business Schools: AACSB's Emerging Role

Innovative Higher Education at Business Schools: AACSB's Emerging Role

AACSB International received more than 300 submissions from 200 schools in 35 countries for its Innovations That Inspire challenge. See how business schools are innovating for the future.

Quick: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “AACSB”? Chances are, the words “innovation” and “inspiration” did not rise to the top. Then how would you explain the huge success of our Innovations That Inspire initiative?

We received more than 300 submissions from 200 schools in 35 countries when we asked AACSB member schools to share ways in which they have challenged the status quo, and made a positive impact on their school, students, and greater community at large. Reading the submissions reinforced my belief that business schools are indeed innovating. They are making learning more transformative, interdisciplinary, and experiential. They are building new tools and platforms to increase the accessibility and impact of research. They are convening and connecting students, practitioners, alumni, and faculties in new ways, often with the goal of positively impacting the communities they serve.

The reality, however, is that innovative approaches still represent only a tiny fraction of what’s happening in business schools and higher education. We created Innovations That Inspire first and foremost to collect and diffuse innovation across our network of 1,500 business schools in 90 countries. Imagine each school or groups of schools as running experiments and AACSB as a platform for sharing what we learn from those experiments, for combining and recombining ideas to create new ones, for bringing innovations that work into the core of what all business schools do. I could see this happening throughout the recent AACSB Deans Conference in Miami, where more than 600 deans from 55 countries gathered to exchange ideas. Visit BizEd’s special coverage of the conference to learn more about the conversations that took place.

We also built the Innovations That Inspire challenge for another important objective: to inform those outside of our immediate fold—prospective students, business and community leaders, policymakers—about the innovations happening in business schools. We wanted to reveal the ingenuity that has thus far gone unnoticed. Innovations That Inspire is a platform to recognize and showcase the exemplary efforts of AACSB member schools. Throughout this initiative, AACSB is partnering with schools to amplify their impact and visibility through PR, social media, and online channels. To start, AACSB is putting the spotlight on 30 of the submissions from schools in 14 countries. Explore each of these innovations and use the hashtag #AACSBinspires to tweet about them or add your own to the conversation.

Submissions to the challenge have also allowed AACSB to create a valuable database for studying innovation in business schools. We can see, for example, that schools are moving beyond the confines of the traditional academic calendar, engaging alumni in different ways, and creating new spaces and tools that enhance learning and research. As illustrated by the word map of the 30 spotlighted innovations, students—their success, in particular—were a key driver for the 30 spotlighted innovations. Business schools are, indeed, becoming more student-centric in their initiatives.

AACSB International Innovations That Inspire Word Map

We continue to explore all 300 submissions, considering how to group them and isolate the differences as well as the commonalities. Meanwhile, AACSB members are invited to visit DataDirect, where all of the submissions are stored in a searchable database. A more interactive and cross-functioning version of the database is being built and will be available by April for AACSB’s International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Boston, where we will celebrate our centennial and articulate a new vision for business education.

Thank you again to all who participated for sharing your innovations, and congratulations to the 30 spotlighted; we can’t wait to see what future calls for innovations may bring.

Dan LeClair is focused on strategy and innovation in business education. You can follow him on Twitter @DrLeClair.