I am often asked what it takes to grow a successful business school in the developing world. I see six important success factors, some quite obvious, others perhaps less so:
1. Visionary champions breed success
It takes the vision and drive of an entrepreneurial innovator with a passion to make a difference for an effective, sustainable institution to come to fruition. The evidence shows that it takes a leader with a mission, vision and personal drive to make success possible.
2. Integration with the business community is key to success
If business education isn’t serving the business community, it won’t work. By working closely with business professionals, successful schools found ways to ensure that their students got relevant, applicable information that would help them in very practical ways once they completed their education. In addition, the involvement of the business community is critical to the sustainability of the schools themselves, as without their support the schools would not have students, experienced faculty, or jobs for their graduates.
3. Independence allows freedom to innovate
Problems abound in developing countries for business schools, including corruption, antiquated ideas about education and degree-granting, resource limitations and red tape galore. By decoupling education from government, or at least granting maximum autonomy to schools that are part of a public university, educators can respond more effectively to the market conditions. They can develop curricula that are appropriate to their students and the business community. They can ensure sustainability through financial success instead of constantly worrying about government budgeting and the changing priorities of officials. And they can prove new concepts that conservative government authorities may be reluctant to bet on.
4. Young schools can innovate more easily than old-established ones
Stale models won’t work in a dynamic developing world, so nimble new schools have an advantage. Even established universities sometimes take a novel approach, providing independence and flexibility to their new business schools to allow them to thrive.
5. Genuine partnerships matter
New schools can use the pedagogy, reputation, structure and teaching tools of more established schools without getting actual funding from them to help them build their capacity and reputation. Every successful developing world school owes that success at some level to the support of other institutions. The influence of more established business schools and other pioneers in the field can help new and emerging educators avoid mistakes others have made, guide curricular and administrative decisions, and provide critical mentoring.
6. Schools need a bold mission
The most successful schools in the developing world are driven by a mission to improve their community in some way. Each has at its heart a mission to make people’s lives better by fostering economic development through management education. These schools are not about people looking just to make their fortunes or to promote their name. They are of people driven to help improve their societies by ensuring they have the management and leadership talent they need to generate prosperity. Not one of them thought small, they focused on a bold, transformative goal and went for it.
I believe that it is no exaggeration to say that the most successful business schools in the developing world are themselves dynamic social enterprises.
Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network