The evolution of business schools: ESMT

Written by
Emily Sexton-Brown

15 Jul 2016

15 Jul 2016 • by Emily Sexton-Brown

What was the first business school you worked at? And what were the core components of the MBA at that time? 

The core components of an MBA still contain business fundamentals such as finance, accounting, organizational behaviour, strategy and the like. Some schools have added courses on entrepreneurship or sustainable business to their core offerings over the past several years. What has changed are the opportunities that students have to specialize during their MBA. No longer are the choices only finance, marketing, consulting, etc. Some of the more recent trends include: innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing and data analysis to reflect new trends and needs in business.

Have you sensed an attitude shift regarding the goals and motivations behind business education through students and faculty members in recent years?  If so, how do attitudes now compare to back in the late 90s?

Business education has become less rigid. Students and faculty alike appreciate the value of being in classrooms with people who have experience from across the globe and from various fields. The opportunities that arise when people from non-business fields and those from the business sector work together in the classroom replicate the changes in doing business on a global scale today. As a result, more MBA students are seeing the benefits of working in start-ups, having international mobility, and considering quality of life first. A big salary is often a positive outcome, but not always the main goal of MBA graduates these days.  

What was the desired skillset for leadership positions in 2005 across large organisations? How much has the typical MBA syllabus changed in the 10 year period since, in your opinion? 

Management and leadership have always been synonymous in business. Over the last decade being a leader has been constantly redefined by cultural and economic values. As businesses expand their footprints there are more and more variables to consider. Soft skills have been around since 2005, but are now a standard in MBA programs. Companies realize that new MBA graduates not only come away with a good understanding of general business, but with cross cultural skills along with training in managing conflict, negotiating, public speaking, and ethics to name a few.

How much has the advances made in technology change how students are taught now?

Much of the data that students work with now can be obtained in real time. One of the biggest challenges is that there is so much data now that is being collected a real focus is on how to effectively manage, analyse, and secure the quantity of data available. Taking another look at this means that students and faculty have access to information on a global scale. Faculty who are working with their colleagues at another university in another country can offer an immediate international perspective in the classroom. This can bring another perspective directly into the classroom. Students and faculty are able to maintain constant contact and share ideas. Education becomes interactive even if portions of the course are not based in a traditional classroom setting.

What do you predict will be a required skill for the future of HR?  

Being able to adapt quicker than ever before and identify new opportunities. HR managers will look to hire people who not only understand the intricacies of their business, but who are able to manage and motivate people by encouraging them to innovate, take risks and thrive through change.

How do you see executive education evolving in the coming years?

Demand will continue to rise as the need for executive education by companies in emerging markets grows. At the same time, competition will also increase. The trend towards a diversification of executive education providers to include such diverse players as consultants, public universities, or digital companies such as Google, will intensify. Innovative forms of learning using new media will continue to change how executive education works, maybe not for members of the C-suite but for managers in other positions who, for example in the past, would have chosen an on-campus program.

What is the ultimate aim of executive education from a corporate perspective? Has this changed in the last 20 years?

From a corporate perspective, executive education should provide positive impact for the company. This has not changed in the last two decades, but the need to prove it through educational controlling has. More and more companies want proof that the educational investment in their employees is worth it.