Never as today have job market trends and the future of work been so questioned. The challenges are enormous. Managing companies in a context of uncertainty, turning companies into sustainability providers, capitalizing on new technologies, adapting and changing business models, leading and motivating people who value the purpose of the business, the diversity of experience, and the balance between professional and personal life.
The evolution of these skills is closely followed by the best business schools, which, are committed to preparing managers who positively impact their organizations and society, redesigning their curricula, and aligning it with the most recent trends.
That's why I was puzzled by the recent Harvard Business Review article “Are CEOs Good for Business?”. It starts by mentioning that more knowledge and training can make leaders more innovative and productive, referring to a study conducted in the US and Australia, but then questions the possible negative effects of an excessive focus on profit, driven by the curricular plans of business schools.
I questioned whether they related to today's business schools offering. A few paragraphs below and I quickly concluded that most respondents had completed their MBA before 2000. In fact, comparing MBAs prior to 2000 with current ones, we can say that there is an abysmal difference in the content of MBAs.
So, I compared Porto Business School International MBA of the last millennium with the current one. I found that the entire fundamental knowledge base of a manager in the areas of economics, accounting, finance, marketing, people management, and logistics was maintained. But, at the same time, numerous subjects fundamental to good business performance were introduced, focusing not only on shareholders but on stakeholders in general, including the manager.
The changes since 2000 include a significant strengthening of team management, leadership, ethics, and sustainability skills. In the field of personal skills, disciplines such as “Coaching for Performance”, focused on improving performance based on a pre-assessment of performance carried out by peers, 'Personal Development', stimulating self-knowledge and individual understanding of the drivers of motivation and happiness, or even the award-winning ´Sailing With CEOs', centered on the development of teams and leaders, through the practice of sailing in a competitive environment.
Among the changes since 2000, there is also the innovative Be-Program, within the scope of Career services, including Career Design tools and personalized coaching sessions with an experienced team of consultants. In addition to people subjects, there was a significant reinforcement of knowledge related to ethics and sustainability, with the introduction of the subject 'Corporate Strategic Sustainability' taught by Richard Burrett, Fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership; and the themes of ‘Business Ethics’, addressed by Urs Muller, an award-winning professor at SDA Bocconi. In addition to specific disciplines, the theme of sustainability is now embedded in most of the program's disciplines.
The world is increasingly global and connected today, and a good understanding of stakeholders requires sensitivity and knowledge of different contexts. The IMBA has also embraced this trend. Created with a national genesis, in the last 13 years, it has become increasingly international, being now taught in English, with more than 50% of students coming from all over the world and 50% of foreign professors from some of the most reputed universities (Harvard, IE, Columbia) and companies (such as McKinsey or SAP).
In the field of strengthening the business community, a consultancy project was introduced at the end of the program, responding to challenging proposals submitted by companies, increasingly centered on sustainability issues and well-being practices. The international component was also reinforced with the Business Innovation Week, held in recent years in Berkeley (USA), and dedicated to the design of business models with a focus on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
Achieving a true integration of “People”, “Planet”, and “Profit” requires questioning the status quo, making business models more flexible, and investing in innovation. To support this whole process, there was a constant renewal of disciplines, and the introduction of topics such as 'Problem Solving and Decision Making', 'Corporate Entrepreneurship and Venturing', 'Innovation strategy', ´Digital Innovation´, 'Valuing Innovative Companies', 'Business Analytics', among others.
An MBA will always be an MBA, with extended training in management skills. But management is changing. Today, companies are required to have a positive impact not only on results but on their people, the environment, and society. That’s also our purpose: to make (positive) change happen!
As I finish this article I play one of my favorite Bowie songs:
(Turn and face the strange)
Article by Renata Blanc, International MBA Programme Director