Be A Catalyst.
Building on research across disciplines, business schools have already taken the lead in developing a body of knowledge about entrepreneurship and innovation. Incubators and accelerators, often in partnership with experts from other disciplinary areas, have records of success at many business schools, as do countless interdisciplinary student projects. Business schools’ multidisciplinary approaches; their strong alumni, donor, and business networks; and their power to convene across sectors represent significant assets for taking a lead role in fostering innovation in society.
Yet business schools have only just begun to embrace the opportunity to be seen as true catalysts for innovation. As an AACSB International Task Force wrote in 2012, the role of business schools “remains underdeveloped, undervalued, and too-often unnoticed.”
To start, business schools will need to place even greater emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration across university campuses, particularly with schools of engineering and sciences. They will need partnerships with businesses, community organizations, and industry associations. These collaborations will leverage the strengths of different kinds of drivers and leaders within the innovation ecosystem.
Important niche opportunities can be created by combining key strengths (e.g., centers of research excellence, community assets, and other professional schools on campus), with a focus on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. By aligning with community needs, business schools have the ability to influence the development of local and national innovation ecosystems and to create new organizational forms to improve performance.
Last, business schools cannot breed innovation without being innovative themselves. Their own structures and activities—whether approaches to extracurricular or co-curricular learning or to incentivizing multidisciplinary research projects—will need to adapt. Like the entrepreneurs they support, business schools will also need to embrace some risk—taking a stand, for example, to support students interested in careers at startups or socially oriented organizations where the impact can be great but the starting salaries unhelpful within some existing rankings schemes.