B-School Accrediting Agency Takes A Closer Look at Innovation

Posted by: Alison Damast on May 5, 2010

Innovation seems to be the new buzz word on many business school campuses these days, with B-Schools opening up new design labs, including the word innovation in their mission statements and weaving it into their curriculums. But just how widespread is the push for innovation on B-School campuses? The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), one of the leading accreditation agencies, decided to tackle this question recently, releasing a report today called “Business Schools on an Innovation Mission.” The report was put together by the group’s new Task Force on Business Schools and Innovation, chaired by Robert Sullivan, the dean of University of California, San Diego’s Rady School of Management. Stuart Feldman, vice president of engineering at Google, Inc., sat on the task force, along with a number of leading B-School deans and professors. To read the executive summary of the report, click here:

One surprising finding is that innovation may not be quite as widespread as people think on B-School campuses. Among the task force’s discoveries is that only 25% of the AACSB’s 728 member schools include the words “innovate,” “innovation,” or “innovative” in their mission statement. Meanwhile, just 14% use the words to describe their own program, while only 10% do so to describe the outcomes they are trying to achieve.

“The role of business schools in supporting innovation remains underdeveloped, undervalued and too-often unnoticed,” says Andrew Policano, the chair of the AACSB’s Board of Directors, in the report’s foreword.

The report goes on to describe the efforts that B-schools are making in this field and also offers up a list of five recommendations on what schools can foster innovation. Here's the list:

1) "Using our conceptual framework as a guide, individual business schools should develop and regularly evaluate their contributions to innovation in society."
2) "Individual business schools should develop an approach for creating value at the intersection of different perspectives."
3) "Individual business schools should advocate for their role in innovation."
4) "AACSB should determine the appropriate balance of collective pressure and support to provide for business schools to advance innovation in society."
5) "Determine the nature and extent of AACSB's advocacy role, especially as it relates to business schools' support for innovation in society."

Of all of these recommendations, I'm most interested in the last recommendation, which pushes for AACSB to play a larger advocacy role in promoting innovation on B-School campuses. It will be interesting to follow the work of this task force in the next year or two and see if they come to any more definitive conclusions for business schools. I'll also be curious to see how business schools respond to the initial findings of this report and if it spurs them to make any changes. Perhaps in a few years, all B-Schools will be required by AACSB to follow certain guidelines and mandates regarding innovation.

Readers, do you think that B-Schools should be required by accreditation agencies to include some aspect of innovation in their curriculum and mission statements? Would you like to see business schools doing more in this area than they are now?

Reader Comments


May 6, 2010 11:31 AM

I thought I had a general idea what innovation was. However when this becomes official and semi-"mandatory" I decided to double check the definition. The one I found confirmed my idea:
The act of introducing something new.

Something newly introduced.

And here is where I have a question. What exactly is innovation in the context of business school? The dictionary definition and AACSB guidelines are quite vague in that regard. What I am concerned about is that there will be either innovation for the sake of innovation, just to have introduced "something new",without regard to real value. Or, even more likely, business schools will just incorporate the buzz words of "innovation" into their mission statements without trying to introduce anything new. I had some thoughts in that regard in a much narrower context of bringing creativity into the MBA programs through Entrepreneurship courses: http://parttimembadegree.com/2010/03/23/creative-entrepreneurship-mba/
So is the creativity even tangent with this new push for innovation or it's something else?

Kathy Mast

May 6, 2010 12:51 PM


Absolutely! When executives are addressing innovation by telling their staff "go innovate," much work remains to be done. There are known organizational, financial, technological and, well, fun and creative ways to achieve innovation! Our business schools have the tremendous opportunity to educate and advance innovation in our businesses and world. Adding "innovative" descriptors and tag lines to courses and university highlights is not enough -there must be substance. We have great educators who are leading by example! Let's lead, encourage and incentivize B-schools to include innovation in their curriculum.

Vincent Orza

May 21, 2010 12:48 PM

I currently serve as the Dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University. I came to the job after having spent 25 years as the chairman and CEO of a public company.
Like many business leaders I believe all to many business schools teach theory with little regard to the actual practice. Over the last 5 years the Meinders School has developed a unique mix of theory and practice. Students engage with business leaders, compete in a variety of programs, travel domestically and internationally and attend events such as the World Business Forum in NYC.
This innovative approach is not always embraced by faculty. Academia offers few rewards for excellence nor are there penalities for failure.
The job security of tenure reduces the drive and ambition necessary to compete in the private sector which cannot help but impact the education provided students.
Business schools would do well to operate more in line with the business community measures of accomplishment and failure.

Silent Lamb

May 6, 2011 9:44 AM

I'm going to take a stand that tenure should be done away with. Not popular in academia, but I have seen colleges and universities saddled with professors who refuse to change the course work and/or the classes to keep up with modern demands. Yes, I know that tenure is supposed to create "academic freedom" to teach controversial topics, but leave tenure to the humanities. Take it out of business and engineering.

Why, in this day and age, are computer programming majors required to take Pascal? Why not give them something more beneficial and "real world useful" like C++, Java, Ruby, etc.? What do they learn from Pascal that they can't get from a language that they might actually USE once they graduate? Why do I still see some computer science programs requiring mainframe computing classes?

And business schools are often not any better. How many still do not teach ethics? Yet unethical behavior by companies is incredibly destructive to the business entity. Witness the cases of HD Gary, Sony, Enron, Tyco, etc. How many still teach the theory of comparative advantage? Yet that theory is 200 years old and in many ways, don't apply to the modern business globalized landscape?

My personal opinion is that tenure leads to what I refer to as dinosaurs. You get professors who have developed a course and they don't want to change it. Updating the course or dropping and going with something new means more work to create new presentations, new syllabi, finding a new text, writing new test questions, etc. And spending the time to do that work takes away from their time to do research, since they are on the "publish or perish" treadmill that tenure also creates. Work that also takes away from their lucrative consulting practices, as well.

There has to be a better way to ensure academic freedom and yet keep the professors motivated to create new, pertinent and engaging course work. We just need to find it.

Rob BusBec

July 4, 2011 12:52 PM

Thierry Grange, Dean of Grenoble Ecole de Management, argues that the current accreditation model is not appropriate for many business schools, especially in emerging markets


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