Blog: Answering the Call for Bold Change in Management Education

Monday, October 1, 2018









By Amy Gillett

How we can  best prepare people to do business in a world changing fast under globalization, technological advances and the continuous disruption of industries is what drives us at WDI’s Education Initiative. One way we accomplish this is by identifying innovative models of management education and bringing these models to emerging markets. Ultimately, we aim to equip managers in these markets to compete in the global economy.

When I learned that CEEMAN would be focusing its 26th annual conference on changing the course of management development, I knew I wanted to contribute. CEEMAN is a network of more than  200 management education institutions from 51 countries. Its president, Danica Purg, also runs the IEDC-Bled School of Management in Slovenia, known for its innovative teaching methods. Last year, Professor Purg co-authored a fascinating article for WDI on the development of management education in Central and Europe over the past 25 years.

At the conference, CEEMAN issued the “Manifesto”  a clarion call for a change in the direction of management education. “Theory disconnected from practice no longer stands up as the only medicine managers need,” the document  states. It also suggests that the change may come from the rising economies versus the developed economies: “The center of gravity of innovation in products and services as diverse as high-speed rail transport, container-lifting cranes, hotels, and internet shopping platforms has already shifted from West to East, and there are strong reasons to believe that management development may be next in line.”

The Manifesto emphatically spells out the need for management education to be more relevant to managerial practice as well as to local issues and markets. It highlights the need for business schools to deepen their connections with, and understanding of, today’s business world. It also calls for more focus on teaching excellence.

I headed to the CEEMAN conference, held in Prague this year, to learn more about the Manifesto’s revolutionary vision. I also went to presentunder the theme of teaching excellence  — on WDI’s latest entrepreneurship program: M²GATE. This program connects Michigan college students with  students in four North African countries to work in teams to identify a social issue and pitch an entrepreneurial solution. The eight-week program is structured as a virtual exchange, connecting students across countries through technology. It is an innovative model, suggestive of the Manifesto’s calls for bold changes.

At the conference, I presented the structure of the program, the student feedback, the challenges we encountered and the benefits of the virtual exchange format. I found the conference attendees really sparked to the notion of virtual exchange. They recognized it as an innovative way to deliver management education.I discussed how it breaks down barriers between disciplines, connects students across cultures and is highly relevant to students’ lives as they identified and tackled a real-world issue. Importantly, it also shifts the epicenter of learning from the professor and the classroom to the students and the world at large. Furthermore, it focuses on many of the topics identified as critical in the Manifesto, including globalization, innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship.

After my presentation, I was approached by many professors and administrators who wanted to know how they, too, could implement virtual exchange. I was delighted to see that our M²GATE program could serve as a model for others. I hope it will catalyze many creative new programs and help advance management education into a new chapter in its evolution.

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