The economic crisis of the past decade has taken its toll on the lives of thousands of people worldwide, completely shattering formerly lucrative businesses and profitable ventures. But in the midst of bankruptcy, plummeting stock prices and massive budget cuts, there was a silver lining. Top-notch B-schools and companies in various industries internationally acknowledged the need to combine their efforts in order to educate the business leaders of tomorrow and equip them with the necessary tools to cope with the consequences of the financial downturn. The synergic effect of this collaboration has led to a new generation of business education.

New generation MBA: preparing today’s managers for tomorrow’s business world

Business schools have undergone a transformation that was unforeseeable a decade ago. If they were once perceived simply as graduate education providers, where you went to acquire your MBA and create valuable connections, today, more than ever before, these institutions have a responsibility towards the constantly changing business environment. Two thousand prospective, current and former MBA students from 57 countries participated in a survey, carried out by Access MBA in the Spring of 2013, on the topic of business schools’ responsibility regarding the economic crisis. The conclusions of the survey indicate an overwhelming need for business schools to address market sustainability and develop ethical management practices, with 62% of survey participants declaring that schools have “significant responsibility” in regard to the economic crisis.

The hands-on approach transfers classroom knowledge into the business reality

Sixty-four percent of the participants in the Access MBA survey believe that schools should actively encourage field immersion in order to strengthen MBA programmes’ connection with  sustainable business and management practices. B-schools are now offering students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations in companies. Shawn O’Connor, Founder and President of Status Prep, explains how Harvard Business School changed their decades-old curriculum in 2011 by introducing a programme called “Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development” where “students have the opportunity to apply what they learned in class to working with industries abroad.”  

In reaction to the economic recession, O’Connor comments that business schools’ “greatest trend is towards practical teaching methods or field-based learning.” In addition, regarding the need for field immersion, “with executives-in-residence and hands-on consulting, schools are establishing consulting organisations so that students get real-life experience and can transition more effectively,” says career consultant Roy CohenThus, students get to actively participate in situations in real companies, witnessing the impacts of various business practices on the companies’ bottom line.

Keeping up with the needs of today’s turbulent global business arena

Eighty percent of current MBA students and recent MBA graduates say that their business school adequately addresses the causes and repercussions of the economic recession. In response to this data, O’Connor comments that we can learn from the recession but “the most valuable lesson is anticipating what’s coming next” and taking measures to ensure stable business and financial success.

Clearly MBA programmes have a responsibility in training the world’s future business leaders and teaching sustainable management practices. By changing their curriculum, international business schools can have an impact on the workplace and alter global markets. However, the only way such changes could be beneficial to business schools, companies and prospective MBA students, is if they are up-to-date with and in direct response to all the fluctuations and needs of the players in today’s business arena.