5 Trends that Will Shape the Future of Leadership Education

Takeaways from IESE Global Leadership Conference


April 24, 2014

Business leaders and educators joined forces on April 3-4 at IESE Business School for a two-day Global Leadership Conference, tasked with rethinking how businesses should respond to the challenges of today´s highly disruptive and uncertain environment. A key factor will be how successfully business education itself can adapt and develop leaders with enhanced entrepreneurial and innovation competencies to meet these challenges.

Here are the 5 trends that will affect the way business education is taught in the future:

1. Digital Disruption
The boom in social media and rapid growth of digital technology is completely changing the rules of the game for companies and business schools. It is crucial business schools have the ability to respond rapidly to customer needs and can meet the challenge of providing students with a customer-focused approach.

Wendy Alexander, Associate Dean of LBS:
“Digital consumerization is affecting business schools. Content is available everywhere. We need to help participants to customize their learning.(…) The challenge is how you support hundreds of unique career journeys.”

2. Shift to Emerging Markets
Multinational companies are struggling to catch up with the global shift towards emerging economies. Companies from advanced economies’ need to be more agile, to understand local culture and practices, and to develop speed in decision making – something that managers in China are generally able to do well. Business schools can help fill the gap by encouraging:

• aspiration rooted in cosmopolitanism
• conceptual frameworks to understand cross-country differences
• self-discovery tools
• openness to foreign cultures and ideas through immersive modules

Pankaj Ghemawat, IESE Business School Professor
“Problems experienced by multinational companies in developing countries can be attributed to organizational dysfunction and leadership development. There are low numbers of top management being incorporated from the local culture, and the number of CEO’s from local countries leading business for multinationals in developing nations is also low.”

3. New Problem Solving Methodologies
Being innovative requires a shift from rhetorical to critical thinking. To develop the necessary skills, business education will need to do better at promoting:

• the ability to reframe problems
• the development of empathy to think in terms of human-centered innovation
• opportunities to continually practice problem solving and to allow students to make mistakes

Srikant Datar, Harvard Business School Professor and Associate Dean
“The key lies in overcoming functional fixedness, and developing and exercising empathy for human-centered design. The process is about clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing, with very real problems on the table to grapple with.”

4. Experiential Learning
More than any other skill, entrepreneurship and innovation need to be learned ´by doing.´ Business schools are now developing complete ecosystems to make sure their participants interact with real entrepreneurial projects. Among others, these include:

• incubators
• business and family offices networks
• in-company projects
• conferences and interactions with alumni entrepreneurs

Bernard Ramanantsoa, Dean of HEC
“We need to make sure that our participants work together with other entrepreneurs.”

Wendy Alexander, Associate Dean of LBS
“Initiatives such as Ted-x speaking events, social events and contact with new entrepreneurial heroes give students the opportunity to put their education in a larger, more concrete context.”

5. New set of values
Business educators can inspire future innovation by turning the focus on those people who are making significant contributions to society. Top social innovators should become role models for a changing business world.

Peter Tufano, Dean of Saïd Business School (Oxford University)
“We ask our students what are the forces in society and the economy that in 25 years will create tremendous opportunities.”

“Schools have a responsibility to stimulate thinking around important issues. We should challenge students to solve the ‘most wicked’ problems of society.”

More news about the conference:

Pushing Companies Out of Their Comfort Zone

Falling into Step in Innovation and Entrepreneurship