Live Updates: Coronavirus Impact On Business Schools

What is the impact of coronavirus on business schools? We bring you the latest updates including campus closures, changes to MBA admission requirements, and more

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EGADE Dean: Business Schools Must Act To Combat COVID-19

COVID has accelerated many trends in business, and it is set to permanently change certain industries. Ignacio de la Vega, dean of EGADE Business School, believes b-schools must adapt and drive this change.

We're facing the worst economic recession in history. But Ignacio de la Vega, dean of EGADE Business School in Mexico, says the disruption caused by COVID-19 should be viewed as an opportunity for change.

Business schools, he says, should lead the way in developing future leaders who can combat some of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“Problem-solving is at the heart of innovation, and crises present the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to tackle the many challenges that we face,” he says. 

“Business schools are key to understanding these challenges and developing the leadership capabilities to respond to them effectively."


Turning students into responsible leaders

Business schools, often depicted as leadership factories, are the starting point for many business leaders, and are therefore well positioned to instil responsible values.

The trend towards responsible management has been growing for years, but COVID-19, Ignacio says, could act as the catalyst to accelerate this trend. Responsible leadership is bound to become a necessity, not a leadership choice. 

“Our societies and organizations need and deserve transformational leaders who can bring the communities together, promoting inclusion and a sense of belonging, but also capable of creating meaning out of the crisis, reimagining the future, and communicating it effectively to the shareholders,” he explains.

EGADE is ahead of the curve in actively driving forward responsible, people-driven leadership. The Center for Conscious Business for a Sustainable Future drives a people-centric approach which runs through the programs at EGADE. It emphasizes the belief that strategy should put the responsibility for employees, clients, communities, supply chains, and providers at the center of any business.

In this sense, Ignacio sees his graduates as ‘omnipreneurs’: “Leaders who create shared value and transform society.”


Making an impact through technology

Technology has already significantly changed the way business is conducted over lockdown. This trend is likely to continue, as many businesses continue to adopt a flexible or remote working environment.

But more than that, technology will also become an important tool for making a social impact, and b-schools ought to recognize this. 

Technology has for some time been perceived as a differentiator—disproportionately benefiting developed countries— and Ignacio firmly believes that it could now be used to widen impact across the world. From climate-led innovation, to widening access to education, healthcare, and other human rights, technology has the potential to create far reaching positive change. 

“Technology can also enhance human potential and can create opportunities. To address this challenge, we must prepare leaders to be agile and take risks in new forms of endeavor that we cannot imagine today.”   

“Business school graduates will obviously need to deeply understand technology, but, above all, have the skills to leverage its benefits to create a more sustainable future.”

Business schools should prepare their graduates to become technologically-literate leaders. Artificial intelligence, data analysis, and blockchain, among other technologies, will become as important as traditional business school subjects like marketing and accounting. 

EGADE’s focus is on imparting skills that complement technology, which makes them irreplaceable by machines. Ignacio lists some of these qualities: “Creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, civic responsibility, ethical and human values, resilience and adaptability, emotional intelligence.” 


Keeping the MBA relevant post-COVID

One thing Ignacio is confident in is that the demand for business education will remain consistent. But schools need to adapt their offerings to meet the needs of students. 

As international mobility remains uncertain, digital learning, Ignacio anticipates, will become a permanent fixture in b-schools’ curricula. He expects digital learning to go even further than just remote classroom settings, shepherded in by what he dubs “the democratization of technology”. 

“Remote teaching and online education are not the real digital education, or at least they do not develop the complete potential of digital education. Digitalization, hybrid education, and lifelong learning will become the new normal.”

In a rapidly shifting business landscape, are traditional skills going out of date? Ignacio believes they’re still important, but instead the focus should be on “competencies”, not skills. Competencies such as resilience, managing under uncertainty, collaboration, agility, and communication. 

Given business schools’ strong position to create transformational leaders, driving change and having impact relies on keeping business education relevant. 

“In this uncertain and volatile context, business schools are more relevant than ever,” Ignacio says. “They are key to understanding these challenges and developing the leadership capabilities to respond to them effectively, as they are committed to prepare the next generation of leaders with the knowledge, competencies and attitudes that are required to shape the future.”

These London Business School MBAs Launched A PPE Startup To Combat COVID-19

As the world ground to a halt due to coronavirus lockdowns earlier this year, Jayne Lawson and Claire Blumenthal were just getting started. 

With their final MBA term at London Business School (LBS) disrupted, they quickly turned their attention to supplying reliable, certified, and cost-effective personal protective equipment (PPE) to care homes and corporates in need. 

“In the first week we were starting the business, I had this advanced corporate finance exam on the Friday. I was in the US and Jayne was in London” explains Claire. 

With the help of an expert team, not to mention a commercial plane-turned-PPE-freighter, Jayne and Claire’s company ShieldWear has gone from a bright idea to a successful business venture in just three short months. Currently, the number of masks they've sold increases 50% month over month. 

They’ve already helped carers and residents stay safe during coronavirus. Now, with several million high quality masks and respirators in stock, Claire and Jayne are scaling up the operation to help businesses get their employees back to work safely. 

The pair credit their success to the lessons learned and connections made during their MBA. 


Jayne Lawson and Claire Blumenthal met on the London Business School MBA before founding ShieldWear


Learning the ropes at London Business School

Before business school, Claire had experience as a consultant in the e-commerce and retail sector, but was keen to gain more entrepreneurship experience.

Jayne has a background in finance, but had already begun to pivot her work towards startups before her MBA. “My passion has always been growing businesses,” she says. 

Alongside their professional experience, they both credit their MBAs for helping get their company off the ground. “ShieldWear is a global business,” explains Claire. “So it’s been really helpful to have done case studies of worldwide businesses at LBS, as well as to have collaborated with international peers, who all have different backgrounds and working styles.” 

The pair first discovered they’d make great partners when they met in a class which challenged them to start their own company from scratch. 

“The courses at LBS were great hands-on experience, teaching us different frameworks that we could use to shape our business model, as well as how to build and grow a team," says Claire.

When launching ShieldWear, they were also able to lean on the LBS alumni network in order to gain vital insights about the industry they were going into. 

They also used their personal networks to get in touch with importers who had decades of experience in procurement from China, as well as legal experts with knowledge regarding due diligence processes for assessing the quality and safety of the products they bought.



Turning a business idea into reality 

The pair put the speed of their success down to three key elements, which they strongly recommend to any other aspiring entrepreneurs in the current climate. 

Firstly, they tried to identify what the future may look like, and how they could help.  

“At the beginning of COVID-19, people were a bit stumped,” says Jayne. “When the world changes, industry changes, but I think in those sorts of environments there’s actually a lot of opportunity.”

Secondly, they thought innovatively. The pair evolved their business goals as the demand for PPE expanded; they took risks. It was this attitude that helped them problem-solve, even in a global crisis, leading to creative ideas like adapting a commercial plane into a freighter when normal procurement processes were disrupted.

Finally, they built a strong team. “You've got to hire the right people, leverage their expertise, and give them an opportunity to make a real impact,” Jayne explains.



What’s next for ShieldWear?

As much as we may wish the opposite, Jayne and Claire say COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Even if it does, the post-pandemic world will be more hygiene-conscious and PPE is a new market businesspeople will have to familiarize themselves with. 

“As soon-to-be business school graduates, we’re keen to help companies get their employees back to work safely,” says Jayne. ShieldWear is now expanding to corporate clients as well as launching an online store for small businesses to buy direct. 

“We’ve also refined our procurement and due diligence work,” she adds, noting that it’s not just PPE that businesses need, but access to trusted guidance on what kinds of PPE products are most suitable for the workplace. 

A key part of their business plan is in going this extra mile to advise, not just supply their clients, and it’s this factor that’s leading the rapid growth of their company, with an expanding list of customers and repeat orders. 

What else lies ahead for the pair? Ideally an MBA graduation ceremony, though it may be mortarboard plus mask this year. 


Read more stories of MBAs who’ve started their own businesses

MBA Jobs Market To Struggle Post-COVID-19

New research from the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and Business Graduates Association (BGA) shows concern for the global economy and a hyper competitive MBA jobs market in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MBA employers report surveyed more than 1,000 employers that recruit MBA-specific roles. It found that despite viewing MBA-grade managers in a positive light there is a lack of confidence in the future of both global and local economies.

The survey opened at a time when the majority of the world was beginning to implement lockdown measures as a result of COVID-19. The survey closed as restrictions in many parts of the world were beginning to ease.


MBA recruitment prospects

Furloughed staff, job cuts, and the financial pressure placed on companies amid the pandemic mean that many companies have scaled back or frozen MBA recruitment for the time being—especially in the industries that have been hit the hardest, like hospitality and travel.  

That is reflected in the report, as more than a quarter of employers (28%) believe there are too many candidates for too few jobs.

Current confidence is low, with more than six out of 10 employers (61%) stating that they were either ‘not very confident’ or ‘not confident at all’ in the state of the global economy.

MBA employers have an equally bleak view of the state of local economies, with 60% saying they were ‘not very confident’ or ‘not confident at all’ in the state of their own country’s economic performance.


jobs prospects MBAs


The MBA jobs market is set to be even more competitive in the wake of the pandemic.

Across the survey, the mean number of new positions relevant to MBA graduates in the last two years at each company was 20. The mean number of MBAs applying for senior roles across respondent’s organization’s in the past two years was 93.

That shows that even before the pandemic the MBA jobs market was hypercompetitive. And the report shows in the wake of COVID-19 an approach of conservatism, cost cutting, and recruitment freezes among employers. But it’s not all bleak.

While more than a third of survey participants (35%) think they will be recruiting ‘a lot fewer’ management leaders than 2019, 14% do think they will be recruiting more management leaders than last year and 16% believe their recruitment of MBA-relevant roles will be the same as 2019.


Economy prospects because of coronavirus


Recovery and the future of MBA recruitment

Though the challenges facing MBA candidates applying for jobs this summer are obvious, the MBA degree is still sought after by employers. The companies hiring the most MBAs will continue to need top-level managerial talent, and as the economy recovers hiring will increase again.

The AMBA report shows that 31% of employers cite the country where a candidate completed their MBA as ‘not very important’ or ‘not important at all’, which is a positive sign for candidates who perhaps can’t enrol on an MBA program in their first choice country because of travel or visa restrictions.

It’s also now easier for candidates to find jobs in countries other than where they are studying their MBA. Virtual recruitment fairs launched by Highered and EFMD this summer give MBA candidates the opportunity to meet with recruiters from all around the world.

Good news for MBA candidates is that 68% of responding employers rate MBAs as excellent or very good employees. 80% strongly agree or tend to agree that MBA grads have the relevant skills to thrive at their organization.

An MBA is seen as a long-term investment rather than a short term fix, and so as economies around the world begin to recover, the skills gained on an MBA will still be desirable. It could be a way to stand out in the post-coronavirus jobs market.


Watch: Applying to business school during COVID-19



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4 Skills Healthcare Leaders Need In The Fight Against COVID-19

Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic requires a range of managerial skills—and business schools are well-placed to impart them to future health care leaders.

As organizations race to develop vaccines and therapeutics in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a range of medical and managerial challenges has emerged.

The spread of false information about COVID-19 and its treatment has put efforts to stop the spread at risk. The myth that ingesting disinfectants such as bleach can kill the virus, for example, carries significant health risks.

Meanwhile, the unprecedented race for a vaccine has led to a pipeline of more than 145 potential candidates, raising the challenge of global collaboration.

This race has sparked a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, the two largest vaccine producers.

For two senior lecturers at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, Supriya Munshaw and Bonnie Robeson, these challenges have highlighted some important skills that future health care leaders will need in order to tackle crises such as this one.

Below are four of the most crucial skills:


1. Decision-making

One of the major skills leaders require when dealing with a health crisis is making fast, ethical, and evidence-based decisions, with long-term benefits.

For example, at each stage of vaccine and therapeutic development, there are new business decisions to be made, explains Supriya. 

Managing large clinical trials, setting an appropriate price, manufacturing, and wide-scale distribution all exercise a leader’s decision-making abilities. 

“There’s scientific data you have to look at, but you also have to look at potential return on investment and market access,” she says.

Analyzing return on investment can be complex. Vaccines, for instance, are generally less profitable than therapeutics, but they can help a company build public goodwill that can boost value in the long run. 

At Carey, Supriya helps students prepare for this complex environment by focusing her teaching on real-world health care decision making. 

In one recent class, a group of her students (Mariia Salova, Sonia Toporcer, and Aastha Vashist) worked on a pricing strategy for remdesivir, a drug that prevents the coronavirus from replicating in the body. 

Bonnie, too, encourages her students to hone their decision-making techniques. One effective method is learning from past failures, she says. 

“You can ask what mistakes were made, and what failed to be seen.”

Her previous work with the National Cancer Institute gave her first-hand experience working out which treatments to continue developing, and which to drop.


2. Collaboration

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted just how crucial collaboration can be.

To control the virus, multiple groups like governments, public health experts, and business experts, have worked together to inform policy, educate the public, and develop treatments and vaccines.

Business school can help students develop the teamwork and communication skills that will enable them to lead such collaborations—both within their own companies and between organizations.

Bonnie Robeson

In the health care sector, government collaboration is especially important. The industry is heavily regulated, and much funding flows directly from government bodies. To help future health care leaders navigate this landscape, Bonnie (right) teaches students about joint ventures, partnerships, and collaborations in one of her courses.

Cross-functional collaboration within a company is equally valuable, she adds.

“Professionals have to have a business understanding of all the functions, and how they interrelate and communicate with each other,” she notes.


3. Adaptability

The health care landscape changes fast. New technologies are emerging all the time, and in order to make the most prescient decisions, health care leaders need to keep up. 

The outbreak of the coronavirus has demonstrated just how quickly treatments can develop. The virus was genetically sequenced as early as January, and new drug trials are taking place all the time. 

“In therapeutics and vaccines, we always have new technology emerging, so you really have to keep abreast of how new technologies advance, and how they can be applied,” says Bonnie.

Proximity to the research going on at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine means that Carey students have easy access to many health care breakthroughs. Business students often collaborate with students and faculty from the school of medicine and the National Institutes of Health on evaluating new ventures.


4. Critical thinking

The far-reaching impact of coronavirus has also highlighted the need for health care leaders with nuanced critical thinking skills. 

Without the ability to analyze views and data presented to you, it can be easy to inadvertently spread misinformation—an issue that has hindered progress in the fight against COVID-19.  

In the health, technology, and innovation MBA track at Carey, students practice their own critical thinking skills through experiences such as the Design Lab and Commercializing Discovery experiential learning courses. 

“Students come up with their own ideas on health technology developments and get a chance to prototype, develop a product, and figure out how to take it to market,” says Supriya. The process requires students to practice thinking critically about new ideas in the medical ecosystem, and how they can best be leveraged.

Bonnie and Supriya believe that courses such as this, and business schools overall, are well placed to train effective leaders who can help tackle complex challenges such as today’s pandemic.

“Business schools have a role to play in developing leaders—to develop well-rounded individuals that can lead health care organizations, including biotech and pharmaceutical companies,” says Bonnie.

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