Flexibility: a keyword for business schools in today’s changing contexts


Marco Serrato (PhD) is Associate Provost of the University of Chicago and Chair of the Board of Directors of UNICON, an international consortium for university-based executive education.

On the sidelines of the AUC Business Forum, Serrato spoke to Business Forward on the importance of business schools to embrace flexibility and technological innovations to remain relevant and ready for future challenges and disruptions.

Why should Middle East and North Africa (MENA)-based business schools embrace fluidity and flexibility in their education programs?

Business schools in the MENA region, as it happens in several other regions worldwide, need to embrace flexibility on the different types of programs and learning experiences that they are delivering. The reason behind this is that the context is changing so much and so fast nowadays that in order to support executives and organizations in the MENA region to be successful, we need to develop not only the skills, not only the knowledge, not only the tools but also the behaviors and values that are required to face all of these different challenges. At the same time, all of this knowledge and skills and behaviors need to be developed in a way that is aligned to specific characteristics and needs that are taking place in the region.

What questions should business schools be asking themselves regularly?

In order to stay relevant, we need to not only come up with different programs, not only with different content, but to provide a lot more flexibility on how we educate on business and how we educate on management and that is crucial.

What kind of traps could business schools fall into?

There are two biases that are very risky for business schools nowadays. The first one is the availability bias and the second is the confirmation bias so we need to be really careful about such confirmation bias.

How can business schools change their programs to better reflect the specific circumstances of their local regions?

Business schools can and must update and enrich their programs given the changes that are taking place worldwide and in their particular regions, the MENA region in this particular case. Enriching those programs implies three different or three key pieces: First one, in terms of the content, the academic fields that are relevant; we need to enrich and compliment that. Second, in terms of the different types of programs and learning experiences that we provide. In the past, longer programs were really valuable; one program that fits everyone’s needs. However, that is not the case nowadays. We need to provide a lot more flexibility. A lot more just-in-time learning instead of just-in-case to be able to provide the specific content that is valuable. We need to use digital technologies as a way to enrich and compliment our educational value proposition. Making the most of those technologies is a way to be successful in business education nowadays.

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