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The Executive Education Playlist


As digital convergence, peer to peer, and global word of mouth is shaking industry from media to telecommunications or even banking, there is little evidence that Executive Management Education is evolving at the same rate. There seems to be a the discontinuity between trends going on in adjacent industries, and the way executive education is taught. As curiosity built, I had numerous discussions with renowned universities and business schools about the future of executive education, in particular around management education. Have those organizations integrated into their strategic thinking the recent developments in technology and society? Are they (we) willing to question why the majority of executive training hours still happen in a classroom? Who are likely to be the new players in this field?

The parallel with the media industry

One cannot help but compare Executive Management Education with other industries that have recently been shaken in their most basic principles by changes in consumer behavior and technology. In particular, I find many parallels with the media and publishing industry.

  • Similar to journalists, professors see their job as an art, more than a science
  • In the publishing world, newspapers traditionally rely on carefully selected full-time journalists, and occasionally sourced content from freelancers when subjects required a specific expertise. In Executive Management Education, the majority of courses are taught by tenured professors, with the occasional help from guest speakers, adjunct professors, or professors of practice when the expertise is lacking.
  • Newspapers editors play a key role: they select the content to be developed, set up the investigative work plan, edit the final product. In universities and business schools, the management committee and program directors defines course or programs to be offered, the research schedule, and consistency of the teaching material.
  • There is no systematic measurement system: universities do not grade or assess quantitatively which professors are performing, and rely heavily on the feedback from the course participants. In publishing, the editor judges of the quality of the content, and in a less linear manner, circulation and letters to the editors do the rest.


Time to review traditional measures or performance ?

In the business schools I spoke to, over 90% of professors have PhDs - this is probably the only profession where people get training on the content rather than the skill - most executive education professors have never been formally training in how to teach, build a lesson plan or even measure learning.

The measure of a professor performance is still based on the amount of publishing done. When probed for what publishing means in our days, the unique vocal answer is still almost unanimously "traditional journals". Yet, In a recent article in the economist, the author quotes Mark Thomas:

"Journals really only do one thing now -- help us to make tenure and promotion decisions. Nobody reads the journals themselves much anymore, but where a paper hits is critical for promotion decisions. That's where the pecking order is established. The sciences are trying to break out of this, to some extent, but econ is a long ways from doing that"

The Economist, March 23, 2011- "What good are economics journals? "


Is the fate of the media industry going to replicate for education?

I can envision how the world of Executive Management Education might be shaken up the same way the world of newspapers and magazine has been.

In the publishing world, print has lost the monopoly of the customer relationship - new players have emerged. The Huffington Post for example is shaking the world of publishing, allowing professional journalists and experts alike to publish and enrich the coverage of events. The quality of the articles might have on averaged decreased, but also has increased in diversity and timeliness. With Flipboard, one can aggregate content and create a daily newspaper by selecting specific journalists, or content they want to hear about.

I cannot help but wonder what a similar shake-up will do the education industry when the business schools and universities will loose that monopoly over the relation and face to face contact with students.



Towards an Executive Education Playlist

In a world when curation is the new buzz word, what would it look like in education?

Today, we do mix songs from different albums when downloading songs from itunes and are no longer limited by the choice of songs a singer has decided to add on his/her album. We make our own playlists, by mixing content that fits our preferences and needs based on content we know well, but also recommendations from friends - or even unknown similar souls through the Genius system. Why not apply this to business education and allow executives to create a playlist for education as well?

A potential participant for the executive MBA should be able to design his or her MBA by picking courses based on the reputation and skill of the professor, but also the geographical location of the institution providing it. For example, he/she could choose:


To support the decision, one could check what past participants have said about the course, combine this insight with recommendations made by people who share the same interest, follow up peer ratings. A system similar to could exist.  In fact, one could envision how "similar" training that might complement training already selected could be recommended, very much in the same line as what Amazon does.


Who will be the curators ?

I understand from my discussions that existing players - business schools, universities- would resist- after all, a professor from a well know Business School mentioned that no-one is going to take the risk to shake the industry as none of the professors will expect to be here in 20 years when the shake will have taken place.


  • So who will be the new players?
  • Will Skolkovo School of Management , the new business school created by Russia's leading oligarchs which just inaugurated a a $250 million high-tech campus complex be a player ?
  • Will they be new entrants, non-traditional players, who know how to curate content - maybe Amazon?
  • Will they be companies and firms branching out of their usual field - a public McKinsey Institute? A Deloitte Academy ? We have seen already Jack Welch using his personal brand to offer and MBA.
  • Will one institution take the lead? If Harvard Business School does it, will all follow?


What are the dangers of the Education Playlist ?

Two challenges would have to be addressed in this future of education:

  • How will research be conducted and financed ? If professors and lecturers are independant individuals braught together by the education curator, who will invest the time and effort to finance long-term research in management ? The answer might lay in the observation of the media industry. As the entire media industry is currently struggling to understand how investigative journalism will be financed, models are starting to emerge and might provide us a sign of what might lay in the Management Education Future.
  • How will the pieces fit together ? In business schools and universities, a great deal of energy is spent in ensuring that the program and the individual pieces fit together and provide a seamless learning experience. How would this be replicated as the Education Playlist prevails ?


What do YOU think ?


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  • Posted by Estelle Metayer said:

    26/05/2011 6:05am (9 years ago) Thank you Abhijit. Coming from the Chief learning Officer of a 90,000+ employees organization ( ) this is quite a compliment. Let's get the ball rolling and coordinate if this can be done...

  • Posted by Abhijit Bhaduri said:

    25/05/2011 6:28pm (9 years ago) Loved the idea of creating our own playlist. Add to this your own Facebook page where you can like (and possibly dislike) a Prof, a subject or applaud (we need that button) an idea. Based on which we will automatically curate the best of ideas, resources and facilitators. Let us make that happen.

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