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One Planet MBAs Are Exploring Emerging Business Models — From The Sharing Economy To Blockchains

The program is all about promoting, igniting and managing change

Wed May 11 2016

With tech-savvy disruptors such as Uber or Airbnb wreaking havoc on traditional business models everywhere, now has never been a better time for business schools to consider emerging threats.

The One Planet MBA at University of Exeter Business School is all about promoting, igniting and managing change — enabling graduates to become resilient in a fast-changing environment beset by environmental, social, and technological upheaval.

With that in mind, it launched the Emerging Business Models module, delivered over four days in January 2016, focused on topics including the sharing economy, the circular economy, 3D printing, and the rise of purpose-driven businesses.

As module lead and MBA faculty, Adam Lusby believes all MBAs will need to consider emerging business models.

“Businesses that don’t go on a path of innovation and that don’t embrace innovation and intrapreneurship will be superseded,” Adam says. “Young managers and leaders need to be aware of this stuff, which will always be coming at their businesses… Even the Uber’s and Airbnb’s can’t sit still. They have to adapt.”

Technology has spurred the rise of new business models, giving innovators fresh tools, and breaking down sectorial boundaries. Amazon spells the death of the traditional book store; Apple has shaken up the entire music industry; Airbnb has more rooms available than IHG or Hilton, the world’s top hotel groups.

“There’s a recognition that with the digital revolution, things are more fast-moving and dynamic,” Adam says, adding: “We do touch on disruptive innovation.”

Disruption is generally destructive, forcing firms out of business and sometimes people out of jobs. But it also presents opportunities for companies harnessing new tools such as crowdfunding or even blockchain technology.

Crowdcube, a UK crowdfunding start-up, is a good example. Company representatives were among many to take part in the One Planet MBA’s new module; students were also looking at blockchain technology within trade finance with Barclays. And a talk led by Gavin Warner, head of the circular economy at Unilever, is a highlight of the module.

Other corporate partners and external client organizations that took part in the module include Accenture, the Fairtrade Foundation, Triodos Bank, and the Met Office. Students were tasked with contributing fresh ideas to enhance the business models of some of these organizations.

While emerging business models have many executives scrambling to respond for commercial reasons, the One Planet MBA is also promoting “change for good”. Emerging business models should consider more than just profit; their impact on society and the environment is important too.

“We’re very keen to look at business models that can do good, or that can create a better outcome for society and the environment,” says Adam. “...That underpins the whole ethos of the MBA.”

Social and environmental impact are threaded through the entire One Planet MBA curriculum, which has been revamped to focus on how social, environmental and technological disruptors are reshaping the role of the professional manager.