Financial TimesBusiness School Briefing: 2021 learning priorities, encouraging office return

May 10, 20210

Welcome to Business School Briefing. We offer you insights from Andrew Hill and Jonathan Moules, and the pick of top stories being read in business schools. Edited by Wai Kwen Chan and Andrew Jack.


Read the FT’s Executive Education 2021 magazine and find out what do chief learning officers (CLOs) want from executive education providers. Also view our directory of flagship management courses from business schools around the world, plus a list of providers of customised programmes.

Chart showing What makes providers relevant?

The directories, relaunched in a new online and responsive format, allow users to search and examine different data points including school name, location, numbers of participants and revenue range.

Andrew Hill’s management challenge

As employers talk increasingly about how to “entice” people to return to the office from lockdown, some seem fixated on rearranging the desk-chairs on the sinking hulk of the old workplace, rather than finding ways to encourage people to collaborate face to face.

As I point out in my column this week, Goldman Sachs tried a passive-aggressive approach, reminding staff that its “culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together”. For my management challenge, draft your own short memo to encourage nervous staff to congregate at the office again. Send your ideas to

Last week, I asked for your tips for vetting former chief executives for roles in the boardroom. Amanda Forsyth responded: “I would ask what was the single best thing that the company did under his/her leadership. The important part about the second question isn’t the answer, it’s the pronouns used. If it’s peppered with ‘I’ and ‘my’ he/she has forgotten how to be a team player (if they ever knew).”

In further reading and listening this week, Guoli Chen, strategy professor at Insead, tackles the age-old question of whether chief executives actually matter, in a podcast for Insead Knowledge. “CEOs and leaders are important, but maybe not as much as we thought”, he says, because of our obsession with individuals and “the romance of leadership”.

Jonathan Moules’ business school news

Executive education teams at business schools have had a difficult pandemic, but prospects for this vital area of revenue for many institutions emerging from the pandemic appear better, according to FT research. The study, published alongside our latest executive education report, shows income across the leading business school providers is recovering.

Washington University’s Olin Business School, in St Louis, has joined the elite cohort of triple-accredited business schools, securing the endorsement of AACSB, Equis and AMBA. It is only the second institution in the US with the “triple crown” – the other being Hult International Business School.

The global alliance of business schools, Cems, has appointed new leadership. Nicole de Fontaines, who has worked with the organisation since its creation in 1988 to offer a truly international business education for masters students, will lead a new executive team at the 34-school network’s global office in Paris.

For further reading this week, I recommend an academic paper: a study, published as a UCL School of Management working paper, into crowdfunding and why it delivers more than just money.

Data line

A global survey conducted by the FT with chief learning officers found that leadership, change management as well as diversity and inclusion are the top learning priorities for their organisations, say Andrew Jack, Leo Cremonezi and Sam Stephens. Other training priorities include digital transformation, strategy and innovation, plus resilience. More information about the survey can be found here.

Chart showing Key learning Themes for 2021

Top business school reads

US backs plan to suspend Covid vaccine patents Russia and China open to discussions over IP but Germany and drugmakers object

Johnson’s popularity and ‘vaccine bounce’ propel Tories to election success in Labour heartlands Boris Johnson tightened his political grip on England as he pushed the Conservative party farther into the country’s working-class heartlands, plunging the opposition Labour party into crisis

Yellen says rates may have to rise to prevent ‘overheating’ Remarks by US Treasury secretary exacerbate sell-off in technology stocks

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