Small is beautiful; pushing for innovation at your school

22 December 2023

Claudia Monteiro reflects on how small innovations can have a big impact for business schools

November was, as ever, a month rich in colleagues coming together at conferences and plenty of knowledge shared. CarringtonCrisp was hosting conversations on innovations at this year’s GMAC’s Masters’ Leadership Summit in Milan and gathered plenty of stories from schools around the world.

AI and technology were of course on everyone’s mind. If last year’s tone to the conference season was about what AI meant for the future of education, business schools are now talking about how it can be used purposefully, and to that there are exciting – and humanising – stories of practice around.

HEC Paris have evolved their recruitment practices and instead of fearing how students might use AI to produce letters and statements of application, they’ve upped the numbers of faculty and professional staff interviewing prospective applicants to surprising results. And in South Africa, GIBS Business School have teamed up with a local wellbeing and mindfulness app to understand how their students are doing at different points of the academic year and feed that information – anonymised in banks of large data - back into curriculum and student experience design. That means the school can understand what is compromising wellbeing – from busy periods to modules or forms of assessment – and carefully consider how to tweak those to improve the cohort’s experience.

Innovation precedes the use of technology though, and how schools are experimenting with content is a testament to that. At University of Edinburgh Business School, a series of executive education programmes on climate change finance and participation in policy forums at local and global level (including COP 26) allowed the school to test the market and curriculum for what is now a Masters in Climate Change and Finance, a low-stakes tactic that clearly paid off.

And at BI in Norway, the marketing team have developed an effective model to work with faculty in co-designing programmes. It feeds into the business case of proposed masters early on at the ideation point. It does so by analysing data from trends, macro numbers on demographics and the labour market, competitor landscape, CRM and customer data, testing concepts in focus groups and looking at web and SEO data. It’s allowed BI to take to market much more targeted and successful programmes.

There’s often a tone to the conversation on innovation that it is connected to sweeping, groundbreaking change. But as business schools all over the world are finding out, there’s beauty in small pockets of experimentation as well; those plant a seed that may eventually be embraced by many.

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