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Smart business schools promise competitive revitalization

This is the first column in a series of contributions from professors and other experts at the Central European University Business School.

By Mel Horwitch

Dean and University Professor,  CEU Business School

Budapest and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe have a striking opportunity to become world-class hubs of business innovation and competitiveness. New style, smart business schools, acting with boldness, wisdom and vision, are essential catalysts.

Top management concerns are changing in significant ways. Today emerging and re-emerging economies are becoming the flash points for growth and economic progress.

However, top-ranked business schools are still clustered in North America, Western Europe and parts of Pacific Rim Asia. The very regions of the globe most in need of superior and relevant management education – emerging and re-emerging economies – are being bypassed.

Twenty-first-century MBAs increas-ingly aspire to participate in a more entrepreneurial global economy – not only as entrepreneurs per se, but also as part of entrepreneurial teams or as venture capitalists and professional experts. However, for much of their history, business schools have focused on producing executives for large corporations, including multinationals, and the professionals for financial services and consulting firms serving large companies. This is no longer the case.

Business schools now have to teach new capabilities. With much of business now occurring in the digital universe, acting with speed is a fact of life, and the pace of decision making is accelerating. Moreover, business is increasingly taking place in the midst of far-flung and vast spiders’-web-like networks, known as business ecosystems. Such structures often function differently from both large corporations and startups. Within these new ecosystems no single member has complete control.

In such an interconnected digital age, where leveraging speed is essential, global rivalry for preeminence is intensifying. Competition and collaboration take place simultaneously; entrepreneurship is increasingly global; and knowledge dissemination accelerates. Competitiveness now increasingly depends on hard-to-imitate innovative, entrepreneurial and professional capabilities. This new world now presents overlooked economic regions, and business schools in such communities, with bold new prospects.

Business schools can also provide leadership to address significant issues beyond the private sector. In a time of looming and massive economic, political and social challenges, including healthcare, environmental disruption, security, and population dislocation and migration, we need competencies learned at business schools to be applied across all sectors.

Forward-thinking business schools are rising to the challenge in at least four ways. First, they are redesigning curricula. For example, at CEU Business School new required courses include Innovation Imperative, Action Learning, and an MBA NYC module; new or redesigned elective courses include Entrepreneurship, Developing a New Venture (in our CEUInnovationsLab), Managing Risk, and Business Analytics.

Second, business schools are redefining and expanding the markets they serve to include the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. In so doing, business schools can offer communities a greater chance to become more valuable in the global economy by educating cadres of entrepreneurial and professional managers for all key sectors. In this regard, we just introduced a course, Managing Across Sectors, which explores the likelihood of holding multiple career paths, and we have launched such courses as Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainability in Business, both of which deal with innovation across both public and private domains.

Third, business schools are turning away from their traditional standalone posture within the university. Pressing challenges and opportunities today demand diverse perspectives. This is why CEU Business School is moving this summer to its modern new home on CEU’s main campus. This move will enable greater integration and collaboration with other academic units, including Economics, Environmental Sciences and Policy, Legal Studies, Public Policy, International Relations, and others.

Fourth, business schools must become more engaged with all relevant parts of society. That is why CEU Business School’s degree and non-degree programs are designed to provide all professionals a chance to learn the latest relevant management approaches, including digital management, applied data science, and global entrepreneurship. That is also why we offer our EMBA to government officials at substantial discounts.

With such new ingredients in place Budapest has a chance to become an increasingly valued part of the twenty-first century economy—and to be recognized and respected as such. This requires that business schools serving our community expand beyond a sole emphasis on large-corporation professional management and expand beyond a singular focus on private-sector concerns. Moreover, modern entrepreneurship is essential and must be nurtured. Business schools, using their knowhow, need to see themselves as valued institutional citizens committed to making their communities competitive in the global economy.  We should all embrace this singular opportunity.