The Role of Business Schools in Innovation

by Drew Boyd

The Role of Business Schools in Innovation“Innovation is and will always be a major driver of business and societal success, and business schools are doing much to foster innovation worldwide. The opportunities to do more to support innovation are many and the potential to create value is high.”

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) released a new report, Business Schools on an Innovation Mission. The report addresses what is meant by innovation, describes how managerial talent contributes to innovation, and outlines ways business schools support innovation.

Business schools must focus more on specific skills that support innovation, reinvent curricula to be more integrative, and convene executive programs that create new ideas and networks. Business schools must promote interdisciplinary research and recognize that innovation can come from advances in the theory, practice, or teaching of management. “Through outreach activities, such as business plan competitions, student consulting projects, and business incubators, business schools’ activities contribute directly to innovation in the communities they serve.”

The AACSB report recommends the following:

  1. Blend innovation with other themes, such as sustainability, vertical markets (e.g., health care), leadership, and ethics. Schools should not be afraid to combine themes to create new and valuable niches.
  2. Do even ordinary things differently. For example, one way to support innovation is to break down functional silos and disciplinary barriers in learning and research.
  3. Focus on developing skills to support innovation, not just on knowledge transfer. Think deeply about how best to develop these skills.
  4. Give special consideration to non-degree executive education. These programs allow for more current, research-driven content consistent with innovation to influence management practice quickly.
  5. Convene the key players in relevant innovation systems. They produce network benefits that boost creativity and facilitate the diffusion of innovation.
  6. Understand and leverage the importance of alumni networks and engagement in driving innovation. Alumni organizations can provide the networks and trust to make innovation more likely.
  7. Bear in mind that research does not have to be revolutionary to have an impact on innovation. Innovation also benefits from the testing, codification, and synthesis of what works and does not work.
  8. Explore partnerships with other academic units to develop outreach activities that most directly impact the innovation capacity of relevant communities.

The report emphasizes that “business schools do not and should not support innovation in the same ways; what each school does should depend on its context, mission, and other factors—which can differ significantly among schools.” It is clear that business schools should approach creating value at the “intersection of different perspectives and proactively advocate for their role in innovation.”

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at www.innovationinpractice.com and at https://twitter.com/drewboyd

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  1. Interesting that you are just now getting to the AACSB innovation report. John Kao, a keynote speaker featured at the AACSB meeting at which the report was released, used some of their stage time to thoroughly pan the report.

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