Thinkers50 Radar 2022: Paul Carlile

Paul Carlile is Professor of Information Systems and Senior Associate Dean for Innovation at Boston University Questrom School of Business. He is an innovative educator disrupting higher education business models, and has held a series of global collaborative events, named ‘Business Education Jam: Global Conversations,’ to identify changes needed in business education. He has developed a number of award-winning programs, certificates, and an online MBA program to address those needs.

His paper ‘Transferring, Translating, and Transforming: An Integrative Framework for Managing Knowledge Across Boundaries’ provides an integrative framework for managing knowledge across boundaries to drive innovation. This framework has been used to drive innovative outcomes across numerous organizations and many industries.

On Tuesday, 5 April 2022, Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove had Paul Carlile on for a brand new session of the Thinkers50 Radar 2022 LinkedLin Live series in partnership with Deloitte.

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Reimagining Business Education

In Reimagining Business Education, Paul and other Questrom colleagues explore how business education can be reimagined.

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VIEW PAUL’S RADAR BIO


Transcript

Des Dearlove:

Hello, welcome to Thinkers50 Radar 2022 series, brought to you in partnership with Deloitte. I’m Des Dearlove.

Stuart Crainer:

And I’m Stuart Crainer. We are the founders of Thinkers50, the world’s most reliable resource for identifying ranking and sharing the leading management ideas of our age, ideas that can make a real difference in the way world.

Des Dearlove:

In this weekly series of 45 minute webinars, we want to showcase some of those ideas to bring you the most exciting new voices of management thinking.

Stuart Crainer:

So please let us know where you are joining us from today and send over your questions at any time during the session.

Des Dearlove:

Our guest today is Paul Carlile. Paul is professor of management and information systems and the senior associate Dean for innovation at Boston University Questrom School of Business. Before coming to Questrom, he was on the faculty at MIT Sloan School of Management. His research focuses on the knowledge boundaries that exist among people in different expertise domains and is one of the world’s foremost experts on what can be done to address those boundaries to enhance collaboration and innovation. And he’s used this expertise to develop and design ways to drive innovation in the automotive, software, aerospace, and pharmaceutical industries

Stuart Crainer:

In his recent book, Reimagining Business Education, Paul, along with the other Questrom colleagues outlined strategies to address the highly specialized and siloed nature of higher education. The book proposes new approaches to teaching and research that generate more value for a broader set of stakeholders. At Questrom, Paul has put this into practice with a launch of an integrated and experientially based master of science degree in management studies called the MSMS that were cited as the most innovative business school idea of 2015 by Poets & Quants.

Des Dearlove:

So, Paul welcome. Before we get onto talking about business education and potential disruption to business education and where it all going. Can you start by just giving us a little bit of an idea of your own personal journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Paul Carlile:

Well, thanks both of you for having me on. And the journey’s a long one, but maybe to be… In the early 80s, I was in the startup world back when the startup world was a very scarce place. And so not a lot of roadmaps, not a lot of best practices out there. So I guess I got my desire and my love for independence for pushing the envelope and also relying on a team of people you work with. Then I chose an academic approach, did my PhD and went that way. In terms of the research. The research I was doing in the 90s was when organizations, this was kind of pre-op innovation, right? This was still the siloed approaches to innovation, but nevertheless, how to do that. So that’s where I kind of cut my teeth on… Back when concurrent engineering was cutting edge, etc.

And then when I was a young professor at MIT, I started working with Creon [inaudible 00:03:12] when he was a doctoral student there. And we started working on the realm of open innovation. And so that’s, in some ways, really changed the way I thought about value creation. So how do we reach out outside the boundaries, not of just the silos, but of the organization, to create value. And so in some ways that’s kind of pushed me a little bit more in terms of how do we change higher education? How do we open ourselves up? Because historically higher education is a very closed system, highly credentialed, that type of thing, but which makes it a little bit more insular and closed.

Des Dearlove:

It’s fascinating because that’s strange paradox with business education where business schools teach people how to innovate and how to do all these things. And yet I always think the business school world looks like it’s so ripe for sort of disruption and for innovation itself. And I think we are finally seeing that in terms of some of the online causes and stuff. You are very much in the vanguard though, of bringing innovation, bringing business schools to innovation or innovation to business schools, whether it’s kicking and screaming, it may be. But tell us a little bit about how that’s gone down and how that’s working.

Paul Carlile:

I think in 2015 or 2014, we held a kind of a business education jam where we invited authors, practitioners, academics to kind of say what are the challenge of business education? Because at this time this was still when the post recession was still there and there was a lot of negative press on business education. And a couple things, there was online issues, there was experiential learning, how to make it more practical. But one of my big takeaways from that was to say, how can business education create more value while charging the same price? And that, of course gets to openness, how do you open it up to create more value?

And the other one was how do we lower the price while still maintaining the quality, the value? And so in some ways that kind of 2014, learning from that was begat the MSMS program, which is in very much a higher, at traditional price, but this deep experiential learning, which allowed greater value creation. And then the program we launched in 2020, which was the online MBA, was a mechanism to lower the price, but still deliver the same kind of value. And of course that was a different kind of experiment because it got me into the realm of scaled. How do you create quality at scale whereas the MSMS program was a traditional 30 person face to face classroom experience. So in some ways those are those began the two pathways of experimentation.

Stuart Crainer:

In many ways, the online MBA is kind of the holy grail of business schools and Christopher Sprague from Dublin, New Hampshire asked a question about the launch of the Questrom’s online MBA. How does innovation challenge existing strategies? And he says, this opens up the closed system disruption enabled by new business models. And Des and I been writing about business schools for a long time. And they were ahead of the game really in the 1970s and 80s, with distanced learning. Actually someone like Henley in the UK was really ahead of the game. And then they seemed to lose their way. And tell us more about your own online MBA and how you’ve kind of squared that particular circle, Paul?

Paul Carlile:

I think in some ways, if you think about business models of three types, right? There’s a kind of a product business model, which was kind of dominated basically the 20th century where we… There’s a set of experts inside of an organization who defined the product. And then of course, as software as a service became more of an approach and we had a digital infrastructure, then service became the focus of it. So how do we have a connection to the end user learn from them rapidly? So we learned to adapt the software. So that shift from product to service.

And now the big shift we’re seeing is much more to a ecosystem which is truly open, right? Service opened itself up a little bit, the ecosystem even you could call those platform business models is another thing. So I think this kind of journey of openness. And so a little bit in the context of the online MBA, this is why, instead of having the faculty define the problem of focus, which may an accounting problem or an operations problem or a strategy problem… This is why when we realized that the untapped market was the adult learner, was to say, adult learners want to focus on a problem that they can apply tomorrow, a solution tomorrow.

So this is why we allowed the modules to be business problem focused. Which then of course required that the curriculum be integrated across different disciplines. And then the third element that we brought into that evolutionary path, that was to say, “And then how do we add peer to peer on top of that?” Because with adult learners, this is how you turn the high volume of this program.

We have classes 400, 500 people in them. This has allowed what you might call high volume. Actually, you turn it into a scaled network and allow the peer to peer to operate. And of course that’s what we have found with adult learners. They have tremendous amount of expertise. The question is how do we set a table with the principles that the faculty teach, the templates or the frameworks and organizing set of ideas so that they can also leverage that peer to peer the adult learners expertise and knowledge. So that’s both the business model pathway, but then it begat these kinds of actual things, how we designed the program itself.

Des Dearlove:

So that’s really sort of fascinating. Obviously classically one of the great benefits of going to a business school and doing an MBA was the network. But you’re actually turning the network into… It’s the MBA as ecosystem almost, you’re talking about. Because you’re opening it up to the peer to peer learning as well as the breaking out of just the silos. But as I understand it, I want to talk about the MSMS in a minute as well. See that’s the other model that you were describing. But in terms of the online MBA, so it’s basically there’s six modules.

Paul Carlile:

Yes, six modules

Des Dearlove:

And people can complete this over, you can do it in a couple of years, two years it’s done?

Paul Carlile:

If you go full time, it’s a two year experience.

Des Dearlove:

So give us a flavor of those modules and how they sort of fit together, how they sit together.

Paul Carlile:

Well, maybe I could just start with, we have an orientation module, which is we teach in teaming and communication and they get used to the technologies we’ll be using. That’s one of the essential elements of any online experience. But just to maybe go with module one as an example. It’s creating and capturing value for business and society. So that’s a big theme. So in some ways we have kind of a bookend where we have the professor [inaudible 00:10:40] who’s experienced in both strategy and technology. So he sits kind of what we would call connected capitalism. Some people might call it stakeholder capitalism. The fact that it is a much more connected world and value is created and crafted by a larger set of people. So that he sets the stage in that part. And then we have [inaudible 00:11:00] who comes in and teaches what we’d say industrial economics, but he provides that perspective.

And then we have currently Gordon Birch teaches the information economics, which would come next. And if you think about those two things, historically a more tangible, good economics and a digital good economics, those are taught as completely separate things, never to come together. And then, Ben Carr comes back at the end and then they go through a capstone project at the auto industry, which if you think about it has characteristics of industrial economics and has characteristics of information economics. And it’s the hybrid of those two, that in some ways, a lot of our society is trying to work out. How will that come together because and then there will be physical good elements and digital good elements to come together.

And the solutions won’t be by one company either, right? The solutions will be much more of an ecosystem. So that would be an example of how to have that kind of narrative, but then place, what we might say, the academic content within that journey. So it comes alive not only to learn it as a skill, but also to, as it comes alive, to think about solving problems in the industry they’re studying in the module or the industry that they might be in.

Des Dearlove:

So if I understood you correctly at the beginning, this is the part which is the maintaining quality but reducing the price point. So what is the price point for your online MBA? What sort of money are we talking about?

Paul Carlile:

So the current price for the online MBA is 24,000. So considerably less than our face to face. But what we also identified is that, historically, business education, in some ways, hasn’t been great at market segmentation. They had one dominant product, there’s the undergraduate, which is a nice product, but then there’s the dominant MBA product. And there was a little executive Ed or executive MBA part-time things. But what we found actually based on another experiment that we ran, we did a micro masters program, which was globally distributed. And what we found from that is there’s a lot of adult learners in the world who don’t want to move to Boston, work for great companies, have great school districts, have great family life, but they’re hungry for the lifelong learning.

So in some ways that gave us a sense, there is a large demographic there. So that segmentation also allows us to say, the adult learner also brings to the conversation, in some ways, more value. Because they’re not looking to switch careers. They’re looking to expand their career, move maybe from a specialty side of the business to a more general side. So in some ways their value proposition is very, very different. And again, what we’ve found is that those bright lines are holding because what a full-time MBA, you need an internship, so you need all those experiences to be able to switch careers and move that way. Whereas this adult learning audience does not.

And I think also the low price all also allows us to scale with the online because the online market that’s high price, which is the traditional online market is expensive. And so, this is why the question of scale became the nut we had to crack. So how do we do quality at scale, which gets, again, business problem, and then you go curriculum, peer to peer becomes kind of a necessary journey that we define for ourselves. And then the power of the network, in some ways, is not… I think Stuart, you mentioned the beginning, the power of the network is why you come, but we’re going to actually use the power of the network in the day to day learning in a more direct and deliberate fashion.

Stuart Crainer:

What about the role of academics, Paul? Without generalizing, well actually by generalizing, I would say that the academics in business schools haven’t been great adopters of open innovation in historically. Have you encountered attitudes you’ve had to change amongst your academic colleagues?

Paul Carlile:

I think in some ways one would expect. This is a highly credentialed industry. I’m an example of that myself in terms of the amount time I spent on a PhD and getting through the tenure system. So we could be one of the most extreme cases of this deep, deep investment in specialization. So even a little bit, like when I spent some time with NASA when they were going through that process. They were the specialists, they were closed. And then they had to open themselves up both to innovate faster, but also to show their value more to the world. And I think that’s a little bit of the same process that we’re going on. So I think also getting maybe even a little bit to the learning architecture, what it becomes is… And even it to the level of the asynchronous material, you can put all that content there. That’s the lecture, that’s the stuff.

But what it shifts then is the experience with the faculty, we do this in our live sessions, then has to be about its application. Has to be about its extension. And so this is why you start to think about the role of the faculty. Yes, they have to have some expertise around a framework, around an industry, around the history of evolution of a given industry or whatever the particular subject matter is. But they also then have to be stronger facilitation skills. And then I’m going to use a quasi fancy word here. Then we think about the orchestration, right?

So you’re facilitating conversation, but you’re really thinking about where in the learning architecture of the week, of course the designers help with that, our instructional designers help with that thing. So we’re orchestrating this collective conversation where these 500 people who are experienced across the globe in various things can engage themselves with technology. We have various technologies that allow that engagement to happen. So in some ways it takes the traditional skillset of, “I’m the expert. I’m taking the knowledge in my head and giving it to you,” but then adds layers on top of that. The facilitation layer and then the orchestration layer. So our goal is always to preserve the expertise, preserve that inclination, but expand the role that they are playing. And it’s not easy. I’ve had to go through this evolution myself.

Des Dearlove:

No, sounds fascinating. Let’s talk a little bit about the experiential learning and the MSMS because that was the one in 2015, that the Poets & Quants were excited about. And that seemed to me a very different sort of program in the sense that it was… I know you’ve built on it since with the online MBA, but the actual notion of the curriculum not being a curriculum so much. It’s just driven by projects.

Paul Carlile:

I have done a lot of experiential learning. When I was at MIT I developed a program with Don Lessard for BP. When they were trying to expand their project management skill set. So it became very applied. So I’d seen that experience with executive education where companies want to invest. But it’s been harder to do that experiential learning with undergrads or MBAs, because you need that deep investment from the other side. And so the analogy I often use is that when we did experiential learning in MBA or at the undergrad, it was often just a bolt-on that happened at the end.

And so what I wanted to do and what we, as a team did, is we kind of wiped the slate clean. And we said, how about if we make actually the partnership with the company the central organizing unit? What is that problem? And then you start to think to yourself and what are the pedagogical devices, the order of what we would need to teach things. So it’s a process of self discovery. And so, that is a year long program… And Fred Geier is the new director today, he runs it. But the model still holds out, which is the first module, the first half of the first semester is a lot of simulation where they are learning to the language of business, but to apply it to a setting and being comfortable with making mistakes.

Because that’s another strong mantra of me is I’d rather experiment than be right. That’s just my holistic mantra, how I lead people. So that was module one. And then module two, then they would work with a real organization. It would start a smaller, maybe a retail firm. Trying to work with that. And then the third module you would work for another firm that may be having an operational question, so more complex. And then the fourth module you would be working with a company who would be more complicated in the issue around strategy or cultural change or something like that.

So in some ways it’s a very kind of controlled set of experiments to kind of allow the experiential learning to accumulate and again, the faculty there are both experts, but they are facilitators and orchestrators. But it’s, again, more in the realm of a 40 person classroom. And maybe other one little thing I’ll throw in here is the fundamental thing of education. And this, I know I’m going to get maybe deeply philosophical about this, is at the end of the day, we have methodologies that we use to impart knowledge, right? If I teach accounting, I’m going to use that method to assess if you know accounting or not, right?

So again, whether you frame that as a method or a how or an assessment, but when we really think about the holistic approach to business education, is we actually, we have to get the student to realize they are the method. And then they have a lot of things that they can pull and choose from because that’s the beauty of business. Is that business will always continue to evolve and change because of competition, because of new technologies. And so it’s really about… And the MSMS, even though they were younger students, it was about allowing them to accept that responsibility that they are the method. And that maybe changes how you think as a teacher. You’re not always just trying to say, “How do I assess if you know what I taught in the lecture?”

Des Dearlove:

So what happens to the traditional lecture then? Are people pulling in the expertise as they… It seems to me they’re pulling it in as sort of as they need it, rather than it being just laid out and spoonfed to them in a certain sort of prescribed structure. But I can’t quite sort of visualize how that actually plays out.

Paul Carlile:

I think one way you have to think about it is as a designer. You have to think about how do you design with the end in mind? I think when you do a traditional classroom, “Here’s my 14 lectures and I go through them.” If now, if you pre-place this experiential problem to solve with a company is that’s the end in mind. And then what you do, then you just reverse engineer and think about when would I need to bring in which things to do that? Which may actually change the order of how you would’ve traditionally done it. You may actually think about, there may be a subject matter that’s really not essential here, it may be essential later. And it may be essentially taught maybe more from an ops person than a marketing person.

And so the integrated team is having those kinds of conversations. And so in some ways there are traditional lectures, but they are always the cadence of those and the content of that cadence has to be rethought. And maybe the module one, which I mentioned around the simulation, that’s the more traditional setting, a lot more lecture, lot more things, because they’re working to the simulation. I’ll just maybe say one other thing is in that degree we went to pass fail. Because the other thing that you have to think about is if you have 10 teams doing a simulation and the winners, there’s only one winner, then where does all that other knowledge go?

So instead if we had a simulation, which we would run every two weeks, everybody would share what they’re learning, which means everybody can get better. And so, in some ways one of the characteristics of education general is that we put scarcity on sharing what people are learning, right? It’s a highly individualized sport, whereas business is not an individual sport. So we went to the past, fail to open up that possibility.

Des Dearlove:

Yes. To stop people, I guess, being in direct competition and seeing each other as competitors, to some extent.

Paul Carlile:

In some ways you have they have to go through almost a cultural reframing because that’s what they’ve been used to.

Des Dearlove:

Yeah.That’s how [crosstalk 00:24:17]

Paul Carlile:

And of course the MSMS students are younger. They’re 22, 23. It’s inherently a younger audience for that degree.

Stuart Crainer:

I remember talking to a business school professor a while ago and we said, “How did you become a business school professor? What was the motivation?” And he said, I wanted to be an expert in something. And it seemed fair enough. Therefore he became a business school professor, but now if they’re facilitators, orchestrators and they’ve got to do this all on a global basis, their content’s got to be global, does it change the nature of academic research and the job of academics fundamentally?

Paul Carlile:

I think that’s kind of shifts are also going to be happening as well. In some ways what makes the life of a business school academic unique, if you go back to my notion of a product based business model, there’s two products they make. They make a classroom, teaching setting and they make articles. Those worlds often do not chat with each other, right? Those are very separate worlds. And so that’s the challenge that we have. And so if you think about the evolution to service into an ecosystem role of facilitator, orchestrator, that staircase is happening. So the question is how do we take the research staircase and how do we turn that into a staircase? And my fundamental hope, and I’ve drawn pictures of this in the book is to think about how those staircases could actually connect.

And so we even see this with our current Dean, Susan Fournier, who is focused on business institutes of various types. So a digital Institute, an institute on sustainability, things like those topics. And of course these institutes are now increasingly multi-disciplinary, people from different departments. So if you think about that is… And of course they have to be connected to funding sources that could be the NSF or something else. But ideally they are connected more directly to the world of practice, a corporation and association. So in some ways we’re in the process of building that staircase as well. One could argue that could be a harder one to build, we’ll find out.

But in some ways kind of a little bit of what it means is research a random walk? Because there’s a side of science that says it’s always a random walk, right? I get to do what I want. But if we think through breakthroughs and innovations, those have not been random walks. This is where people come from different disciplines, lots of collaboration, whether intermediaries involved or companies involved and allow that push through. We see this with COVID. This was not a random walk. This was a highly collaborative experience. And so, in some ways, these institutes could be that collaborative space.

And so in some ways, just like openness was a way to think about the teaching staircase, openness is a way to think about the research. And then, Stuart, to your point, then it evolves. It’s not just a paper. Yes, it still needs to be a paper because that doesn’t go away. But even with biotechnology, authorships went from two authors to 20 authors. We saw that changed over the last 30 years. This may be a similar change in business, as we think about what’s required to solve global problems and how does business have a role in that.

Des Dearlove:

No, that’s interesting. I think we shared last time we spoke, we talked about the fact that from sitting where we sit in Thinkers50, watching the ideas that are increasingly relevant and important. There was a time when they were much more siloed. It was a strategy idea, but now they’re much more… There’s a great blurring of divides between different, in kind of business school world, would be this different silos. So the innovation cuts across strategy, which cuts across marketing. There’s a more of a mashup, if you like, of that stuff. And you would expect to see that reflected somewhere in terms of people doing interdisciplinary research. But as you say, how you encourage that and how you…

And I guess it’s competing for resources, like everything else as well. Obviously there’s progress going on in your part of the world. What about other parts of the world? What about Europe and Asia, do you see the same sorts of innovations in business schools? Or do you feel that you are sort of the pioneers?

Paul Carlile:

I see it but I think it pocketed, i.e in Spain, I think, is a great innovator. I would say maybe the more extreme innovators in Europe. Parts of Asia, it’s happening there. I think one thing, disruption as you know, is a very glib word. Disruption is a contact sport. And as we know, as an incumbent industry of which all education is, this is about fundamental transformation. And I think one thing we should not fall into trap of is to think that COVID somehow solved all this. COVID in some ways pushed Zoom on us because we had to come up with an alternative. The pandemic didn’t necessarily reset the DNA of an incumbent institution. And of course it’s hard to reset that. That’s just the significant difficulty that we’re under.

But I think going back to the questions of whether it was a luxury 20 years ago to say a strategy problem is just a strategy problem. It’s certainly the world we live in today, whether you want to call a climate change a trade. I’ll just use the word peace, I think I can say peace on this conversation, given what’s going on in the world. I think we see that the tremendous interdependencies of society more clearly than we did 20 years ago, 30 years ago. There were maybe some people who saw that, but I think even the average person sees that. And so I think this is, what’s also asking us to see these wicked problems. However you want to frame these complex problems that there has to be collaboration. And the question is what’s the infrastructure and the incentives and the governance to allow that to happen?

And like any incumbent industry, we have existing incentives and governance on the teaching side and on the research side that make that hard and there’s pockets that you can change more rapidly than others. And I would prep that in the realm of where can I run the first experiment to get some traction to prove that out? Where can I run the next experiment? So again, thinking about the micro masters, I largely took that outside of the system. It’s there’s faculty involved, but it’s a certificate. It doesn’t get inside the machinery of that. That allows you to prove certain things out.

And then the next step, the online MBA program, that’s much more in the strong machinery of this incumbent organization that’s operated this way for a long time. So that’s one way to kind of think about, I guess, that’s both advice on how to get the innovation going, but also as to why it’s hard. I think Arizona state in the U.S. is significantly digitally transformed itself in how it approaches things. It embraces scale very much. We’ve taken an approach, which is scale, and I’m going to use the word quality. I’m sure they would feel that way, but in some ways, once you get to scale, quality changes.

What was quality for a 40 person classroom is just fundamentally different. And I think that’s if we were chatting, if we were a bunch of online people, I would say, that’s the thing that surprises me most fundamentally. Is every day I learn something new about scale. How it’s hard and what it means to change, truly change to allow scale to be this positive force.

Des Dearlove:

It’s almost how you leverage sort of network effects, almost. It’s that sense of, if you can get it so that scale becomes the advantage. That sort of platform logic.

Paul Carlile:

And I think this is a really interesting… Think about it, in some ways I use… I have a teaching note, I wrote the teaching note in mode one, the product service platform ecosystem. That’s one of the teaching notes used in mod one. And we also talk about higher education as an example. So here’s the particular challenges, a lot of traditional business platforms if you think about… They’re very good when the information product is defined. How you price it, how you organize that, how you generate network effects. But when it’s fundamentally an innovation platform, that’s harder.

And so if you think about it and I think I’m sure there’s even some online MBA students hopefully listening in today, but they are very much partners in the innovation. So not only how we deliver rubrics, how we do things, but the innovation is also the conversations on Yellowdig, which is a kind of a Reddit-style discussion board, which we use to facilitate and peer to peer. That itself is innovation. Somebody who’s in the finance industry and the health industry wrestling with a common framework delivered by the faculty. They’re recognizing how it applies similarly, but yet different in two different industries. They then become the method, right?

That’s the ultimate kind of intelligence that we’re trying to help everybody develop. That itself is innovation. So in some ways I’ve come full circle to realize that innovation is learning. And I think we’ve underthought what learning can be. And so this is why, for me, open innovation applies network effects as an innovation platform. So think about a simple design decision. What’s too constrained of a definition of a problem that may narrow the network effects versus what’s too broad to lot… But at scale, it may be different than you think when you tried it in the classroom. So those are the constant experiments that we’re running because there’s always a sweet spot that you have to try to pull off to make innovation work. Otherwise, it dampens the network effect or it becomes too watered down. People can’t grab the value because in some ways, how do we create value together, which is a node of a network effect?

Stuart Crainer:

Rick Span from Amsterdam points out that if we’re talking about orchestration in business school education, we could also look fruitfully at music as a metaphor for the experiential learning you’re talking about.

Paul Carlile:

And I think the jazz metaphor, I’m not a jazz person, although I played the trumpet in previous life. But the jazz metaphor has made its way into management thinking for those of who know Carl White’s work. He brought that in probably 30 years ago. But what’s interesting there is that we have to become, maybe, the metaphor to compare it to symphony orchestra versus jazz. That’s a useful comparison. The score and the nature of symphonic orchestration is much more about control. Now, there’s inherent beauty to the Oboe in a certain Devaux Jacques piece. There’s an inherent beauty to that single or that sound. But once we get to jazz, it is a little bit more free form. It’s not chaotic. You tap a beat, who’s the lead, but there’s less control to achieve a different kind of beauty.

And I think a little bit, when you move from a closed system to an open system, open systems still have forms of control, but they’re very different forms of control. This is a little bit like teacher as expert adding teacher as facilitator, teacher as orchestrator. That’s you still have those full three elements, but if you are just teacher as expert, your definition of control would be quite substantial. And so I think that’s a little bit of maybe the jazz metaphor would be play out of leaving behind a set score, which at one level is beautiful, but it’s highly controlled.

Stuart Crainer:

Another question, Paul. How and why is an MBA still relevant? I think historically when people did MBAs, because you could kind of measure their relevancy in the salary uptick afterwards. So how do you answer that kind of fundamental question of how and why they’re relevant and important to do because you’ve got an array of different qualifications and ways into business now?

Paul Carlile:

Well and I think in some ways our online MBA is interesting for that reason. Because what you see maybe with our face to face MBA students, younger career switching, they’re coming to get a highly specialized MBA. Which I think is probably appropriate for the world they’re living in and maybe their inclinations, etc. But for our online MBA, the average age is 35, 37, 10, 12 years work experience. They’ve all been in maybe technical or project management, analytics, law, medicine, accounting, finance. They’ve been in those elements of a business.

And what they realize is that, “Unless I have a kind of a 360 understanding of that language of business and the trade offs to make, let alone the innovations to make,” they feel like they’re being held back. So in some ways I actually think that our online MBA is putting a shining light on exactly what the MBA is. It is this integrative experience where you realize to create value, to push a positive thing, to be all the things you can think about in terms of the company’s value or an individual value, it’s essential because the MBA allows that collaboration across different languages, different value systems.

Because in some ways that’s the beauty of business, right? Is it’s a complicated thing. And one of my worries is we step away from the MBA and treat it like a specialization. And I’m going to say something quite strong here. I would refer to this as the tyranny of specialization. And I don’t need to mention this, but if you think about the challenges of 2007 and 2008, what could you say explains what happened then? That was the tyranny of specialization and not understanding the ramifications of certain methodologies in the financial world. So in some ways I see the values in some ways have been proven out, particularly amongst the adult learners.

Des Dearlove:

Of course the NBA was the classic stepping stone from specialized into general management. That’s one of the functions that it always had. So I think that point still valid. Zaheer makes a very good point. I think it goes to the heart of all of the things we’ve been talking about. A cohort of 400 students is in fact a network of 400 value nodes who are not only learning, but bring innovation to the program in their own unique sense. I think that’s actually very well put. I think that’s what I was trying to reach for with the, to some extent, with the network effects and what we’ve been talking about.

But that does change the model so fundamentally, it disrupts the model in the sense that you no longer have the teacher, the all knowledgeable teacher standing up front. You’ve now got this dispersed knowledge, almost distributed expertise as well. It turns the whole thing on its head. Sorry, I’ll let you [crosstalk 00:40:38].

Paul Carlile:

First of all, I love the Zaheer’s… That was a really great telling of it. And I agree completely with him. And maybe what I would add, let’s say a traditional model, let’s say a traditional undergraduate model or freshmen. Maybe the faculty member has 90% of the knowledge, that will take place over the course of that semester.

Des Dearlove:

[inaudible 00:41:03].

Paul Carlile:

You can imagine a context that Zaheer is describing is maybe the faculty member has 50% of that knowledge, less than that. Now the question is what that knowledge is becomes really, really essential in terms of that ability to… What are the principles of economics? How are those used in the given industry and how might that be extended to another industry? And then as that’s delivered, that becomes then the what, how and why that the people in that distributed network then generate all that other knowledge in ways that as… What we know about an open innovation is that you can never predict what’s going to get created by that network in a million years.

And so this is where, as the network affects fire, it creates so much stuff that becomes both global, because that’s how it’s achieved, but it’s locally relevant and sourced. So it’s that. It’s how do you make global and local work? That’s how you make it work. But you have to kind of… You have to take the control away or you have to allow the openness to work its magic. Now again, you can’t be completely open in the sense of things like that, but it’s a very different model and it has a lot of…

And maybe a thing I would say just partially to elongate, but going back to… If I have 18 year olds in the classroom, that’s a different animal. Now, I still need to look for opportunities for that, so the MSMS program, now, if we ran that conversation, how do I get them so those network effects can fire with people who don’t know a lot? Well, I have to give them all this real world experience through the experiential learning so they can become this rich network effect. So I have to, whereas if I only gave them tests all the time and no access to the real world, the faculty would still be 90% of the knowledge production. Hopefully that helps.

Des Dearlove:

No, it’s very good.

Stuart Crainer:

Where does this lead then, Paul? How do you think your programs will be different and shaped differently in five, 10 years time? Looking further ahead.

Paul Carlile:

Oh, good question. I think, listening to somebody like Zaheer, if he’s a part of a network that is constantly producing knowledge, he wants to stay a part of that network. So I often use the analogy just like the Toyota supply chain was so invaluable, you couldn’t afford to leave it, now why was that? Because the learning in the supply chain was the power. And so, my hope is that to deliver on lifelong learning is we have to create that, that network has to be the value. If lifelong learning is I’m the expert and I’m telling this network out there what they need to do and believe, I think that’s not going to have the network effects.

So I think that’s kind of the next set of experiments we’re going to be engaged in, is now that we understand what it looks like a little bit with these MBA students, how do we replicate that for them when they leave for our other alumni, for alumni from other universities, for executive education? And so I want to keep this kind of momentum going. Because the other thing I’d say is that people do want community when they learn. And I think that’s behind a little bit of Zaheer’s comment, right? It’s a community, it’s a network, it’s friends, it’s all those things. And I think that’s the opportunity that I want continue to do. And I think that will make the world a better place, not to get to a platitude. But as we get to this common shared learning networks, that’s going to help the world solve problems, see what we have much more in common that we don’t have in common.

Des Dearlove:

We’re actually running out of time, but let me just ask you a final question. How does all this that we’ve talked about, does it alter the skillset that people working in your industry need to bring? Are we still going to be recruiting the same people? We have seen, I think, an input of former executives, you’ve got much more practitioner based people now, I think, kind of coming into business schools as well as alongside the academics. But does this new model, do these new sorts of experiments change the sort of people that you need to recruit at Questrom?

Paul Carlile:

I would say it does, but it’s a little bit like the market segmentation we see in the industry out there. Maybe there’s an internal segmentation because a little bit like the staircase of the teaching staircase and the research staircase. Those still may be very different people. Some of those people may be overlap. Some people are, can teach executive Ed, some people can’t. The people who are good at executive education obviously do well in [inaudible 00:46:03] because they’re used to that. They see their role as the translator not the, this is the way it is with everything.

So I do think about there are, as the clinical professors, professors of practice, those segmentations are happening here and other places. The key there is to put them in the roles where they are most effective at if I think about the two different staircases and then the goal to maybe bring the staircases together, that would be interesting. Where would we deploy them?

Des Dearlove:

Okay. And where can people go to if they want to find that more about… Obviously the book’s available from all good bookshops and I guess to come to the question, site to find out more about the courses we’ve been talking about.

Paul Carlile:

Those would be maybe, when the call is over, we can think about how to make those available on your website, ours, and then they can talk to our students too.

Des Dearlove:

Perfect.

Stuart Crainer:

Paul, thank you very much for joining us. Paul, someone and Questrom truly disrupting business education, making us all rethink about its role. Next week we’re joined by Tom van der Lubbe who’s somebody who’s actually disrupting financial services. And which is an interesting story and putting ideas into practice once again. Thank you everyone who’s joined us from throughout the world and thank you for your questions. And we look forward to seeing you all again. And thank you, Paul Carlile.

Paul Carlile:

Thank you Des. Thank you, Stuart.

Des Dearlove:

Thanks.

 

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