The recent turmoil in the global economy and the various (mis)behaviors in the financial sector that were among its attributed causes served to bring focus to the impact executives’ business educations may have had on their actions. The cries for “more ethics and corporate responsibility” echoed from every source. Here at the Opus College of Business, we are already committed to, and well-positioned as, leaders in business ethics. So, I wish to explore what it is business executives and business schools that educate these leaders should be doing, even as they focus on doing it with the highest ethical standards.

The “it” to which I refer is nurturing and stimulating innovation. I had the privilege of serving on a task force for the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) charged with exploring and understanding the impact of business schools on the economies in which they exist. After much analysis, introspection and thoughtful discussion, the task force concluded that business schools are ideally positioned to create superior value through educating future managers to be facilitators and enablers of successful innovation. To quote from the report’s executive summary:

“Managers possess specific, hard-to-transfer knowledge (about human capital, manufacturing processes, distribution chains and consumer behavior, for example) that is essential to the implementation of breakthrough ideas. They act as organizational architects and build the capacity of organizations to innovate in dynamic environments. Managers are also inventors; they develop new ways of making and distributing products and providing services. Finally, managers participate in the boundary-spanning networks that foster and enable innovation. For all of these reasons, managers are an essential part of the innovation process, and business schools can make an enormous difference in preparing them for success.”

We should note that innovation extends beyond entrepreneurship, which traditionally focuses on new business creation. It also extends beyond intrapreneurship, which traditionally focuses on new business opportunities within existing organizations; rather, innovation touches on all things new and how to facilitate their creation and transition into useful and usable applications and instruments or devices.

Does one really need a business education to do this? That seems unlikely, since innovation has been around for literally millennia and business schools are barely a century old; however, what business schools do so well is compress what takes many years of experience to learn into four full-time semesters, thereby accelerating their graduates’ paths to success.

A good M.B.A. program ensures that every student has a solid working knowledge of essential key concepts from all the business disciplines. Then it builds on this foundation by instilling the skills to analyze situations, recognize opportunities, assemble and apply financial, human and productive resources, and orchestrate the integration of all of these to engender innovations that enhance the human condition. At the Opus College of Business, students learn all this while concurrently integrating the ethical and moral values inherent in a faith-based institution. In other words, we educate them to be the very facilitators of innovation that today’s global business requires.

Note: The executive summary and additional background on the report “Business Schools on an Innovation Mission” can be found at http://www.aacsb.edu.

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