Business Schools Find It’s Tough Out There

Business schools are losing popularity rather fast. The amount a MBA is worth in terms of salary boost is down around a third according to the FT in 2015. Result: pitiless competition. Schools that are not at the very top of the rankings are struggling, and some will close. But here’s a big exception to the MBA downturn.

By Richard Walker

London Business School (or LBS) has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and a lot more importantly (in terms of commercial security) it also celebrated rising in the Financial Times global MBA rankings to number two in the world, just behind Harvard – you can see those rankings here. LBS is part of the University of London and probably the most interesting place in the world to study business.

I know that because I spent part of last year working on the School’s 50th anniversary project, interviewing and writing about some of the 50 people we chose to represent the School’s achievements over the last half century.

One of the School’s biggest achievements has been in ‘executive education’ – going into companies and helping them learn how to turn things around. Perhaps the best known example is when LBS worked with Rolls Royce – at that time a company disregarded by the market and somewhat lost. I heard from the School’s Jules Goddard how he and his team played a part in the renaissance of Rolls Royce. 

Companies also have a lot to learn from each other. The School helps them do that in a unique programme called the Global Business Consortium, where six very large global businesses keep company with each other and try to solve each other’s problems. Mars, Nokia and airline Emirates told me how it works. 

Everyone watches TV. Not everyone thinks too hard about how they watch TV. Maybe they should – or so the School’s Professor Patrick Barwise persuaded me. Barwise has spent a career investigating how TV viewers consume what appears on the crystal bucket, and the results are not at all what you might expect.

Imagine: the Berlin Wall had just fallen. Across Eastern Europe economies were in meltdown. Former Soviet businesses – some of them very, very large – were struggling to come to terms with things that they have never heard of before, things like international banking, trade, marketing … Now read how LBS came to the rescue. 

LBS also has its share of academic stars. One of the brightest is Gary Hamel, the business prof who came up with the concept of ‘core competence’ and in doing so changed the way that very many large companies do business. He told me how it came about.

There are many more of these stories on the attractive website the School built to celebrate its first fifty years. Enjoy them here.


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