SMITH BRAIN TRUST -- Challenges to business schools fall into five universal categories. “Any business school that aspires to become world class and contribute meaningfully to all its stakeholders” needs to address “leadership, execution, analytics, discipline and serving a broader set of stakeholders genuinely and rigorously,” professors at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business write to readers of India’s BW Businessworld.
1. Select academic leaders who are “either outstanding researchers themselves with demonstrated acumen for fairness and administration or those who have an academic mind to understand and appreciate serious academic scholarship.”
2. Follow the Chinese proverb, “It takes 10 years to sharpen a sword.” Some schools “chase fads such as online learning and technology deployment for their own sake and without thoughtfully considering the impact on overall learning.” Schools should report their plans and targets for executing their vision in detail to their key stakeholders such as senior faculty members. Avoid “pet ideas” and “rushing them through without sufficient deliberation and buy-in.” Consider that technology “can be a saviour if deployed thoughtfully to improve access and quality as a complement, and not just as a substitute for face-to-face interactions.”
3. Use “thoughtful analytics” to improve performance, and avoid “paying too much attention to rankings that are based on poor methodologies.” Measure student learning and the ability of students to analyze and solve problems. Further publish a detailed income statement and balance sheet with a candid management summary of risks and opportunities that a school faces as one sees in financial statements of companies.
4. Consider adopting the Baldrige Criteria for Education framework, similar to the model that many businesses have used to achieve success. “It is time that B-schools also tie their leadership, strategy, customer focus, information and knowledge focus, workforce focus and process focus with business results across multiple dimensions to evaluate effectiveness of their initiatives,” Mithas and Lucas write.
5. Given “faith is low in many other institutions of society such as religious, political and financial institutions,” educational leaders should recognize the opportunity to reaffirm higher education “as a foundation for hope” via high-quality research and dissemination of knowledge. “B-schools can inspire reflection and debate on what it means for business leaders of tomorrow to reform and help to serve their economy and wider society. Doing so will not be easy but is certainly worth it,” Mithas and Lucas write.