Chairman’s Corner

Hybrid by Default: The Future of Education has Changed

Summer is almost over and the fall semester is about to start for most universities. I am reminded of this as I prepare to teach Cornell EMBA students this coming weekend in August. I teach online for now, but the future of how teaching will evolve this academic year is not clear. I fear that I am not alone. Most students, faculty and business school deans that I have spoken with in recent weeks have expressed both considerable uncertainty and concern about how teaching and learning during the semester will evolve.

In over three decades of academic life, I cannot recall a similar moment when such uncertainty and fear has hung over universities across the world. On one hand, the pandemic continues unabated in many parts of the world including in populous countries such as the USA, Brazil and India. There are concerns that while death rates have stabilized or decreased in most areas, clusters of infections are starting to appear in younger populations. This raises the risks of fatality or long term health damage among students. There are also additional concerns about transmission of infections across the key groups of an university ecosystem – students, faculty, staff and the surrounding town population. The situation in the USA is especially complicated both by the soaring infection rates and the specific positions adopted by the current administration. Compounding the situation is a growing anxiety about the implications of the pandemic on the financial health of universities and colleges. Many universities and colleges are suffering from significant budget shortfalls and it is not clear if this financial pain can be sustained beyond this academic year.

I hope that most of you read the Chronicle of Higher Education and subscribe to its many free newsletters. The Chronicle of Higher Education has done a stellar job in collecting and publishing information about the plans of different universities in response to the Covid crisis. In particular the Chronicle of Higher Education has complied information about the Fall plans of over 3000 universities in collaboration with Davidson College. As of 6th August 2020, the Chronicle finds that only 2.5% of universities plan to open fully in person for the fall semester while another 21% plan a fall semester that will be “primarily in person”. At the other end of the spectrum, 4.7% of universities plan to go fully online and 24% plan to be operating “primarily online”. It is noteworthy that a full quarter (26%) of the universities have still not disclosed what they plan to do for the Fall.

Waiting during the summer lull may seem easy to do, but things will only get harder in the coming weeks. Colleges with plans to open for instruction in person are being questioned about their decision as being motivated more by financial reasons as opposed to anything else. Pressure from alumni and parents is building on the leaders of universities to prove that they are taking the health and well being of their communities seriously. Interested readers can view a recent MSNBC interview with President Daniels of Purdue University about his plans to open for the fall in person.

While college leaders plan and hope for the best during the fall, a bigger question remains about how the pandemic has changed future of education. While many aspects will evolve, one important change is that the nature of education and learning will become hybrid by default. Online education has traditionally been treated with skepticism by many faculty. Many research studies have shown that online education does not offer the same quality of learning as face to face classes. In many cases, such as courses with labs and experiments, it is not easy to move the instruction online.

The Covid crisis has forced colleges and universities to move to fully online instruction over the last months. Some may yet continue in a fully online mode for parts of the next academic year. However, looking ahead beyond the pandemic, it is very likely that education will not revert back to the “way it was before the pandemic”.  Education will evolve to become hybrid in nature integrating the best what in-person instruction can offer and the unique aspects of what online education can provide. Some of these changes, such as flipped classrooms were already starting to appear before the Covid pandemic but these trends will accelerate now. While a small minority of faculty were doing flipped classes before, the vast majority of faculty will integrate such approaches and shift to a different mode of learning and class discussion.

We are entering a phase of rapid learning and experimentation in hybrid education. Learning platforms will evolve at a rapid pace as technology providers invest more in this growing domain. As business schools and colleges deal with the uncertainties and challenges of starting a new academic year, academic leaders need to also start evaluating what a hybrid future looks like for their institutions. This will entail a questioning of all aspects of their learning and business models. For one, schools will need to invest much more into building their digital competencies. New technology platforms will have to be built and integrated. Essential digital skills will have to be taught to faculty, staff and students. New partnerships will have to be formulated with technology leaders and startups. Further investments in buildings and other capital projects will have to be questioned and measured against the benefits of new technology investments. The benefits of access and reach provided by technology will have to be leveraged to reach new markets and launch new programs. Lifelong learning can be made into a reality and not just remain a slogan. The changes are many and the ultimate beneficiary should be the student who becomes a lifelong learner.

The future of learning is hybrid. Let’s embrace and create the new future together.

Soumitra Dutta

Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He is also the President of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Chairman’s Corner: Thriving in Technological Disruption with Outside-In Innovation


One of the subjects that I discuss with business students is how organizations respond to disruptive change, especially disruptions caused by technology. The short answer is – very poorly. Clayton Christensen was one of the early business researchers who rose to prominence in the mid 90s by pointing this out in his award winning book “The Innovators Dilemma.” One of Clayton’s key findings was that industry leadership changed each time there was a disruptive change in the underlying technology.

There are several reasons for this phenomenon of industry leadership passing from the incumbent to the challenger in the face of technological disruption. Clayton expressed the reasons succinctly and brilliantly with his framing of the Innovators Dilemma. The core insight in the Innovators Dilemma was that industry leaders usually resisted investing in disruptive technologies (even if sometimes the new technologies were created within their own organizations) as they tended to allocate resources to current clients who kept demanding increasingly sophisticated  features in products based on the current technology. As a result investments were not made by incumbent leaders in the new disruptive technology which was adopted and developed more aggressively by new challengers. When the new disruptive technology became mature for large scale adoption, customers shifted to the new challengers who had the best expertise in the new technology. The prior incumbent leaders lost their leadership positions as they could not meet customer needs with the new disruptive technology and industry leadership shifted from the incumbent to the challenger.

The above insight was radical in the 90’s and early part of this century when many industry leaders struggled and often lost their leadership in the face of disruptive technologies – remember Kodak and digital photography as one example of this traumatic shift? Over the last decade, as the pace of technological disruption has become faster, firms have realized that the best way to innovate in the face of technological disruption is to acquire the innovation from outside – by acquiring startups and forging relationships with new partners. Cisco was one of the first tech companies to essentially replace its corporate innovation strategy from internal R&D to external R&D acquisition through mergers and acquisitions. Over the recent past, this focus on learning and innovating from the outside has largely been accepted as the fastest and most reliable way to bring disruptive new products and technologies into the organization.

So where do we stand in business schools in the face of technological disruption? In response to the Covid crisis, we have just witnessed a rapid acceleration of the deployment of digital technologies in our teaching programs. Business school leaders now concede that online education will be a very important component of their future program portfolios. However, the disruptions being caused by digital technologies is much more than just in the shift of teaching delivery to the Internet. Digital technologies are enabling schools and universities to question some basic assumptions of their current business models and raison d’etre. For example, there are significant assumptions made about time and place in the business models of most business schools. Given the importance placed on students being physically co-located for most of the program duration, we have seen schools make significant investments in brick and mortar buildings and design infrastructure to support a form of learning and program experience which is capital intensive and requires the co-location of faculty and students. Now technology can potentially make these constraints  of time and place irrelevant. What will be the business school experience look like if the constraints of time and place are removed? How will the scale of learning in our schools be impacted if physical co-location is no longer a strict necessity? What will our budgets look like if we no longer have to make the significant investments in brick and mortar buildings?

To take another example, the business model of most business schools and universities is that of vertical integration. Schools today typically do all of the following key activities: create and deliver knowledge, assess the acquisition of knowledge and deliver a certification of the knowledge acquired to the student. What if technology allowed us to unbundle these three elements? What if we allowed our students to acquire knowledge from anywhere? What if we agreed to assess the knowledge of not just students enrolled in our school but that of any student who asked us for such an assessment? These are important questions and the answers a school chooses will have implications for almost every part of the business model of the school. For example, the role of faculty and the important investment that all schools make in hiring the best research faculty may have to be rethought. Technology now allows us to pose these questions and come up with credible alternative business models.

How will we as business school leaders respond to the many questions and challenges posed by the forces of disruptive technological change? If we can learn some lessons from other industry sectors that have gone through this disruption process, one insight is important – we will not succeed in innovating at a fast enough pace to leverage all the new possibilities if we only focus on innovating from the inside. If we are to apply some lessons from other industries, we have to look outside our schools for disruptive and innovative business models. We have to look at edtech startups that are innovating in learning models with new technologies and we have to partner with firms such as the tech giants to create new learning partnerships. We have to be bold to launch new innovative models and to experiment and learn in rapid cycles. We will have to resist the pressures to continue to invest in current programs and current customer segments. We will have to be bold to venture into new programs and new customer segments which may look very different initially as compared to our current student profiles. Doing this will not be easy and there will be significant cultural barriers to overcome.

Outside-in innovation is the way of the future for business schools. The sooner you adopt this mantra and excel at it, the higher your chances of thriving as a leader in the face of technological disruptions.


Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He is also the President of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

A Good Time to Experiment…Boldly


Business school leaders have been through a stressful Spring semester. A positive start to the second decade of the new millennium rapidly deteriorated into a scenario which few had imagined was possible, let alone planned for. In response to the growing Covid-19 pandemic, strict confinement restrictions were imposed by many governments and all non-essential activities were suspended. With student health and well-being  rising as most important goals, business schools leaders had little choice but to suspend on-campus teaching and send students back to their homes.

What could have been a chaotic disruptive change actually happened much more smoothly that what most had anticipated. Faculty, including those who had long resisted online teaching, moved their teaching to new video platforms such as Zoom with relatively little pain. While students sorely missed the in-person campus experience, most adjusted relatively well to live-virtual teaching. Most business schools also set up major initiatives to support the transition of faculty and students to online learning. Indeed, business school leaders deserve our thanks for having managed a difficult transition to large scale online learning.

As summer starts and the focus shifts to the reopening of economies and of our campuses, business school leaders are realizing that the process of opening up safely may be harder and more trickier than the act of closing campuses. Significant uncertainty remains about the further spread of the Covid-19 virus. The USA and Europe have successfully flattened the curve but these regions risk increased numbers of infections as their economies open up over the next weeks. At the same time, the virus is continuing to spread exponentially in many emerging markets, including key countries such as Brazil and India. There is also a high risk that infection rates could increase significantly in Africa in the coming weeks and months. One lesson that we have learned over the last months is that in the absence of a vaccine, no region is safe if the virus is spreading rapidly in another region.

Despite progress, a Covid-19 vaccine remains several months away, most likely 12 to 18 months away. In such a scenario, business school leaders have to formulate multiple scenarios for the fall semester and possibly the entire next academic year. While some universities and schools have already decided that they will hold the next academic year online, others are keenly observing Covid-19 trends and waiting to decide their precise course of action. Multiple scenarios are often being formulated – one business school dean mentioned that he and his management team had formulated 7 scenarios of possible responses in the fall. For each scenario, business school leaders have to decide on multiple decisions including the amount of blended teaching to include, the type of courses to move online, the maximum number of students to allow in classrooms and the seating arrangements to be used for teaching. Life is certainly not easy for business school leaders and they can hardly afford to rest on the laurels of having managed a successful transition to online teaching a few months earlier.

Many faculty are hoping that once the Covid-19 pandemic fears go away, we can return to our good old trusted ways of in-class teaching. Many business school deans are hoping that travel fears subside and international students enrollment figures rapidly return to their pre-Covid highs. In short, many are just waiting for life to return to the “old normal”. However, this is a misplaced expectation. An expectation that is almost certain to be proven false. This is an important conclusion from the interviews of business school deans and CEOs of businesses that Dan Le Clair and I have been conducting over the last 6 weeks on their views of life after Covid-19 (some of the initial interviews are available on the GBSN website at: Unanimously, the interviewees have told us that they see Covid-19 as a major global tipping point. They have told us that they see the world changing significantly for all key stakeholders in the years ahead – governments,  businesses, universities and society. While the contours of the precise changes in our professional and personal lives are not yet clear, we have to prepare for possible major changes.

What does this mean for business schools? This means that as we struggle to rise to the challenge of successfully reopening our campuses safely and restoring our program activities, we also have to experiment about what will change in the months and years ahead. As teaching moves into blended formats, we need to experiment about what works and which new formats remain to be discovered. What most faculty have done this Spring is to have simply moved their in-class lectures to a video platform. Few have taken the time to rethink the learning experience for their students in an online format. Can we learn from literary and arts festivals where innovative approaches are often used to engage with large numbers of people? Can we learn from film and television productions about how to create effective online experiences?

At the program level, we also have to ask some hard questions. Though the MBA has proven to be remarkably resilient over the last few decades, is the current format and structure the right one for the future, a future where mobility is very different and virtual interactions are more commonplace? We have often built the business models of our schools based on certain high priced programs. Are these price points sustainable? Or will we have to rethink our program structures and price points radically? On a different dimension, we have to question how business education is best delivered. Is the current campus structure the best option? What else is possible? Can we learn from the experiences of other sectors which are going through a radical re-evaluation of physical space, such as commercial real estate? The list can go on much longer. The questions are hard. The answers are not obvious. Nevertheless, we have to ask the questions. Good leadership is about asking the right questions. The only way to answer these hard questions is to engage with people to come up with possible responses and then to experiment.

Business school leaders should identify the important questions for their organizations as they face a post-Covid future. They should engage with key stakeholders and plan for controlled experiments to evaluate which answers may point the way to the right direction. An open mind will be important to consider all relevant options. Organizational agility will be critical to pivot when necessary and act on the desired action plans.

Now is indeed a good time to experiment, and to do so with conviction and urgency. The real test for business school leaders will not be how they survived the Covid-19 crisis but how they prepared their schools for the future.

 width=Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He is also the President of Portulans Institute and co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

 Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;

Chairman’s Corner: A Time to Shape our Future

 width=We are living in extraordinary times with the global fight against COVID-19. While the extent and speed has varied, governments around the world have imposed stringent controls on businesses and the movement of people. Non-essential businesses are required to close for several weeks and the livelihood of many thousands is at risk. Professionals are being asked to work remotely and universities are being required to rapidly move into large-scale online teaching, posing significant changes for both faculty and students. Borders are being closed and there is the risk of a retreat from globalization. Technology is enabling the utilization of invasive monitoring mechanisms which reduce the spread of COVID-19 today but present the opportunity for some governments to tighten the surveillance of their citizens in the future.

While we struggle to control the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives today, thoughts are also turning to what the world will look like once COVID-19 no longer presents a crisis. While much uncertainty remains about the duration of the current crisis, there is a growing consensus that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the world. In more ways than one, our behaviors have probably been changed forever. It is likely that governments, businesses and society will witness significant changes in the coming months and years.

Some questions of interest include the following:

  • As we imagine the world after COVID-19, is 2020 a global turning point?
  • How will governments approach globalization and balance economic and societal goals in the future?
  • Will businesses move away from globalization? How will they balance the interests of different stakeholder groups and manage the wellbeing of their employees?
  • How will we manage the tradeoffs between privacy and surveillance of citizens?
  • How will society balance universal human values with local cultural differences?
  • Will technology and remote working bring us together or make us drift apart?
  • How will learning paradigms and the business models of business schools change?
  • How can global leaders enhance global coordination and enhance trust in governments and business?

At GBSN, we are keen to explore the contours of the world after COVID-19, the world that is emerging as a result of the extraordinary times we are experiencing today. To do so, Dan LeClair, CEO GBSN and I are reaching out to our community to better understand the many ways in which the world after COVID-19 will be different for our key stakeholders including governments, businesses, universities and students. We are interviewing several Deans of GBSN member schools to learn from their perspectives to the question of whether 2020 represents a global turning point. If you are interested in taking part in this study, please do reach out to me ( or to Dan LeClair (

Nature does present us with significant challenges at times. Now is one such time. We have to use our exceptional talents individually as human beings and collectively as societies to rise to the challenge. It is not just a question of overcoming the COVID-19 crisis and reverting back to the normal. The normal will shift. And our leadership can help us to define the shift. Define the new normal. It is time for us to shape our future.

 width=Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl.

Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;

Chairman’s Corner: A Virus Teaches us a Lesson in Globalization


We are living in interesting times. Brexit just happened a few days ago. Earlier last month, President Trump proudly proclaimed the success of his policies in Davos. Leaders of some other countries are now looking to follow the examples set by the leaders of the USA and UK. Many are calling this the decade of deglobalization.

In this context, it is ironic that the coronavirus, first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan is now reminding us that we live in a global world. Our problems are common and the solutions have to be found in a coordinated way globally.

As of 2nd February, the coronavirus continues to spread at a rapid pace. More than 14,000 people have been infected globally and more than 300 deaths have been reported. These numbers are expected to rise significantly in the next days. More than 100,000 people worldwide are at risk of infection and the virus has been confirmed to be present in more than 25 countries.

Global Coordination

While much remains to be understood about the characteristics of the coronavirus, it is believed that the virus is easily transmitted through human to human contact, even before symptoms of the infection are visible. Given the global movement of people in today’s world, it is hard to control the spread of the virus without close global coordination. Some nations such as the USA and Australia have taken the extreme measure of restricting the entry of foreigners who have visited China in the recent days but it is not clear whether these measures are sufficient and if so, the length of time for which they should be applied.

Leaders of universities and business schools are impacted by the the global movements of mainly students, but also facutly and staff. A confirmed case of an infected student has been reported on a UK campus and it possible that other campuses may be affected in the coming days. As students return to our schools to start their Spring semesters, we need to be more aware of global best practices in containing the Coronavirus. We need to educate all members of our campus communities to be more aware and to take precautionary measures in case of any doubt.

Economic Impact

The economic impact of the coronavirus is still unfolding. While stock market jitters have resulted in significant declines in many indices, the overall impact of the virus on the global economy is still unknown. Given the large scale presence of China in global supply chains, stoppage of production in Chinese factories will certainly have an impact on prices and the availability of many products in global markets. Tourism related industries around the world will be impacted severely as people travel less and also the number of Chinese tourists venturing abroad decreases significantly.

On the macroeconomic level, it should be borne in mind that China has been and continues to be the largest contributor to global growth. If we extrapolate what happened during SARS in 2002-2003 then, as this new pandemic continues, the forecast is that the Chinese economy will lose 1% of its annual growth with a contribution to the global slowdown of 0.25 and 0.35%. As the US dollar strengths in the current situation, emerging currencies could fall, the yuan included.

China is clearly making all possible efforts to contain the coronavirus. Online videos of more than 50 cranes on the outskirts of Wuhan preparing the land to build two hospitals with more than 1,000 beds in 10 days, shows the resolve of China and its capacity for undertaking large infrastructure projects (it is worthwhile to note that the five largest construction companies in the world are all Chinese). However, China alone cannot solve the Coronavirus crisis. China has appealed for help from the European Union and many other countries are helping with medical supplies and logistical supplies. Research scientists around the world, including in the USA are working in close collaboration to help understand the new virus and to find a solution.

As we hope that the coronavirus will be contained soon and the tragedy of infections and deaths will end soon, we should not forget the lesson that the virus has taught us. We are living in a globalized world and this fact cannot be ignored or turned back. We are all affected by global problems and we all need to pitch in to find a common solution. What happens in one country affects others. The world is one and it time we strengthen our resolve to continue to make globalization work for the good of all. I hope that our membership in the Global Business School Network is a small but important step in this direction.

 width=Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chaired the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;

Chairman’s Corner: A Time to be Thankful and to Reflect – Making Progress on our Impact

 width=One of the most meaningful and beautiful holidays in the USA is Thanksgiving, celebrated on the Thursday of the last week in November each year. Thanksgiving is a wonderful celebration that cuts across religious communities and unites all in a unique moment of being grateful for the many privileges we enjoy and thankful to all those who makes our lives meaningful and happy.

Many years ago, when I was a foreign student at UC Berkeley, my host family, a Berkeley professor and his wife invited me and other foreign students at their home for Thanksgiving. Being alone in a foreign country for the first time and far away from my family in India, I still fondly recall the warmth and hospitality with which they invited us into their homes. Now my wife and I have embraced this tradition, and do our bit to give back by inviting each year a select group of students to our home over Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and the holiday period in December provide us with opportune moments to reflect on our lives, both personal and professional and be grateful for all that is good in our lives and also strengthen our resolve to work on areas where we need to improve. So I thought that I would use this last blog note of the calendar year 2019 to share a couple of reflections with you, especially as they pertain to business education and GBSN.

A strong network today, but how do we shape the GBSN family for the future?

We just finished a very successful GBSN Annual Conference in Lisbon. Special thanks go to Dean Daniel Traca and his colleagues who hosted the GBSN Annual Conference at their wonderful new campus. I have attended a few GBSN Annual Conferences over the last years, and I felt that this meeting was probably one of the best, if not the best. We had a very strong conference program and benefited from extensive participation by Deans, faculty and staff leaders from our member schools. The GBSN member network has expanded and become significantly stronger over the last year. This is both due to the leadership provided by incoming GBSN CEO, Dan LeClair and the particular resonance which the mission of GBSN continues to have with business school leaders around the world.

As we have successfully grown the GBSN member network, we have also been forced to confront the key challenges in advancing the mission of GBSN which is to improve access to quality, locally relevant management (and entrepreneurship) education for the developing world. The demands for quality management education in emerging markets is too large to be satisfied by the current group of GBSN member schools, no matter how good we are and how dedicated we are to the mission of GBSN.

To exponentially scale up our impact and influence, we will need to become more inclusive of which students we aim to reach and which institutions (including both teaching orientated academic institutions and selected corporate members) we invite to the GBSN family. This will allow us to create models of collaboration and delivery of management education that brings together GBSN member schools along with interested corporations and non-traditional academic partners. An early example of this are the programs for frontline healthcare professionals (nurses, field practitioners etc) which GBSN coordinates in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson and GBSN member schools in key African geographies. The target students for these programs do not have the usual MBA or executive profiles, yet, their real impact on the ground is significant.

Making progress on our impact, but are we asking the right questions?

The focus of the GBSN Annual Meeting was on measuring the impact of business schools. I was impressed to hear about the many different and innovative ways in which GBSN member schools are measuring their impact on not just student success, but also on a variety of other stakeholders including corporations, not-for-profits and even society at large. Driven by the actions of key accreditation bodies such as AACSB and EFMD, many business schools are formally incorporating measures of learning outcomes and overall impact in their programs and school strategies. From my discussions with delegates at the GBSN Annual Conference, I am convinced that there is a lot more that we can do within the broader GBSN family to learn from each other and to improve our collective ability to measure our impact.

An essential component of good leadership, it is often said, is the ability to ask the right questions. At the GBSN Annual Conference, Dean Peter Tufano from Oxford’s Said Business School outlined a process of rethinking that he is now leading with the help of his faculty and school’s advisory board. He has posed the following question to his faculty: what is our purpose? Or in other words, why do we exist as a business school? He categorized the responses he received from his faculty in the following categories: (a) to carry out our activities (research, teaching etc) in an excellent manner (b) to train leaders who do good things for their companies (c) to have a positive impact on the world (d) to tackle big problems like the UN’s sustainable development goals and (e) to instill virtues such as justice, courage, etc.

Dean Tufano then conducted a simple exercise with the conference attendees Ð asking them to rank where they thought the purpose of their respective schools was today and where they thought the purpose should be. As one can imagine, there was a gap identified in the conference group, with most thinking that their schools should move “up” from the initial goals of (a) and (b) to the later goals of (d) and (e). This simple exercise forced me and others to ask the question if we are asking the right questions of ourselves Ð of our own business schools (like what Dean Tufano is dong)? Of GBSN and why we exist as a larger family? I am not sure we all have the “right” answers for these hard questions but now is a good time to start reflecting on them.

With gratitude and best wishes

As I look forward to the end of the calendar year and the start of another new year, I am filled with gratitude for my own family, my professional life at Cornell and my role as Chair of GBSN. I am grateful to Guy Pfeffermann who founded GBSN many years ago and made it possible for us to come together as a larger family. I am thankful to Dan LeClair, Nicole Zefran and many others in the GBSN staff team who are doing all the heavy-lifting for us within GBSN. I am also grateful to the Deans, faculty and staff leaders of GBSN member schools for their many contributions and support.

As a final note, I would like to wish you all the very best for the forthcoming holiday season. May we all have a wonderful break with family and friends and look forward to another exciting year ahead. Happy holidays and best wishes for 2020!

 width=Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chairs the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;

Chairman’s Corner: The Global Innovation Index and Reflections from China


I hope you have all enjoyed a restful summer and are looking forward to a productive fall. My own fall semester started early as I had to start teaching in the Cornell EMBA programs in end July. However, June and July were good summer months for me in which I had both the chance to spend some time with family (my elderly parents came from India and joined me, my wife and her family in Spain and our Boston based daughter also joined us for some time in Europe) and also engage with some key professional activities. Notably, I was invited to participate in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Annual Meeting of the New Champions which was held in early July in Dalian, China. Also, I was pleased to be part of a high profile launch of the Global Innovation Index in New Delhi on 24th July. I will use this blog to share some of my reflections from these two professional engagements.

Returning to China after a gap of some months is always interesting as the country seems to continue to change at a fast pace. I had taken part in several prior editions of the WEF’s Annual Summits in China and it is interesting to see how the WEF China Summit has now become focused exclusively on technology and innovation. This is not surprising per se as China’s rise in the technology domain is now recognized by many.

As an example of this rise of China in technology, Tsinghua University in Beijing could well become the top-ranked science university in the world, having produced more of the top 1% most highly-cited papers in mathematics and computing, as well as a greater share of the 10% most highly-cited papers in STEM than any other university in the world (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Number of papers in the top 1% most highly cited in math and computing
by university, papers published 2013-16. (Sources: Simon Marginson, Oxford University, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University).

While many analysts had come to terms with China moving beyond its traditional position as a low-cost producer, few had taken stock of how far the country had come in the frontiers of science and technology (S&T) research. Figure 2 depicts how since 2017 China has overtaken the U.S. in three key innovation metrics: scientific researchers, patents and scientific publications.

China’s rapid progress is most visible in its companies’ success. Their global achievements would not have been possible without a disciplined effort to acquire new technology and a significant investment towards home-grown innovation. Today, leading Chinese firms such as Haier and Huawei produce consumer goods that demonstrate the technological progress underway, while the battle for future technological dominance intensifies.

Figure 2 China has become formidable source of global innovation, having overtaken the USA in many key innovation metrics. (Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) Database, WIPO Statistics Database, Clarivate Analytics, Thomson Reuters, Science Citation Index (SCI), Social Science Citation Index (SSCI).)
Note: FTE = Full-time equivalent.

I had gone to the WEF’s China Summit expecting to encounter some major discussions of the ongoing trade-war between China and the USA. I was surprised to witness little of this. It is not that Chinese colleagues were not concerned about the trade war; but rather that they had accepted the fact that the trade war existed and was really a proxy for the battle for global leadership as China rises economically and militarily. Most Chinese colleagues I spoke with expected this tension for global leadership to continue regardless of any future trade agreement that may be signed between the USA and China. The China-USA trade war and the surrounding battle for global leadership seemed to be something that Chinese leaders have already accounted for as they plan for the country’s future.

What surprised me was the Chinese leaders seemed to be extremely concerned by Brexit and the uncertainty that it creates for the global economy. There was real concern that a mis-managed Brexit would trigger a recession in Europe and that may in turn also tip the global economy into a recession or a phase of very low growth. Given how events have progressed in the UK over the last 8 weeks, I think that the Chinese concerns from early July were not misplaced. Even today, the outcome of Brexit looks murky and confused and few are able to reliably predict the fallout of a no-deal Brexit.

Returning to the theme of technology and innovation, many Chinese executives also pointed out to me that the US sanctions were against a small handful of Chinese technology giants which were all born in Shenzen and based within a few kilometers of each other. The joke was that it was not really a USA vs China trade war but more of a USA vs Shenzen trade war. This highlighted the absolutely remarkable progress made in Shenzen and the Greater Bay Area in the field of technology. Firms from this region dominate the world in some key technologies for the future: 5G, mobile, Internet of Things and AI. Although I had gone to Shenzen some years ago, I made the resolve to include it in my next trip to China.

I visited India, my home country in end July for the global launch of the Global Innovation Index (GII). I had founded the GII back in 2007 when I was a professor at INSEAD and I was very pleased to see the global launch happen in India (it was the first global launch of the GII in a developing country). The GII, (more details can be found on: is today published by Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization in cooperation with Cornell University and INSEAD. The GII is widely recognized as the most comprehensive measure of a country’s innovation capability. The ranking provides detailed metrics for more than 120 countries each year, representing more than 90% of the world’s population and more than 96% of the world’s GDP (in current U.S. dollars).

The results of the 2019 GII rankings confirms the rise of China in technology and innovation. From a rank of 34th in 2012, China has risen to the 14th overall position in 2019. This is absolutely remarkable progress for China, a upper middle-income economy. India has also made good progress over the last years but lags behind China in many ways. India ranks 52nd overall in the GII in 2019, gaining five positions since 2018. India scores high in some key innovation metrics such as graduates in science and engineering (7th in the world) and ICT services exports (as % of total trade) where it ranks 1st globally. While India has made good progress in some innovation metrics, there are many dimensions on which it needs to accelerate progress. Perhaps I will write about some of the innovation achievements and challenges for India in one of my future blogs for GBSN.

The 2019 GII rankings highlighted that Switzerland is the world’s most-innovative country followed by Sweden, the United States of America (U.S.), the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (U.K.). It also identified regional leaders India, South Africa, Chile, Israel and Singapore, with China, Viet Nam and Rwanda topping their income groups.

While the Global Innovation Index ranks economies according to their innovation capacity and performance, it also provides valuable insights into the dynamics of global innovation. For example, the GII shows how innovation is now prospering in selective African countries (see my GBSN blog of December 2018). The GII helps to highlight economies that excel in innovation and those that are more successful in translating investments in innovation inputs into innovation outputs. Lessons from these innovation leaders provide useful guidance on innovation policy for others. I am very pleased that today the GII research is used by many dozens of countries around the world to assess and guide their innovation policies.

 width=Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chairs the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;

Chairman’s Corner: Leading in a World of Innovation Acceleration

One of the privileges of being part of the Global Business School Network is that I have the chance to meet with leaders from business schools from around the world. One recent example was a special lunch hosted by Dan LeClair, CEO GBSN in May 2019 in Cascais, Portugal for GBSN member schools who were participating in the EFMD Annual Meeting being held at the new campus of GBSN Member Nova School of Business and Economics. Before I continue on the main topic of this blog, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the new campus of Nova is exceptional and congratulations are due to Dean Daniel Traca and his leadership team. I hope that many of you will have the chance to see the new Nova campus first hand when you participate in the 2019 Annual Meeting of GBSN which will be held there on Nov 6-8th, 2019.

Over the lovely lunch of seafood in Cascais, the conversation naturally drifted towards the constant change that business schools leaders are challenged with. As I visit business schools in my role as Chair of the board of GBSN I hear frequent voices about both the opportunities and risks facing business schools in a world of accelerating innovation.

The Technology Revolution

Most business school leaders recognize that we are living in the midst of a technology revolution, the likes of which we have never seen before. Ray Kurzweil, a noted American inventor and philosopher commented on the exponential nature of this change, “In the 19th century, we saw more progress [in technology] than in the nine centuries preceding it. In the first 20 years of the 20th century we saw more advancement than in all of the 19th century. And we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century Ð it will be more like 20,000 years of progress at the current rate.”

It is difficult to visualize the true impact of this exponential nature of the technology revolution. This is because we, as human beings, live in a world of linear time. If we are asked to predict the impact of technological change in 10 years’ time, we would typically think back to the world we knew a decade ago and extrapolate linearly from today. It is very difficult for school faculty and staff to accurately predict the impact of technological changes around us.

The Expectations Revolution

The technology revolution is being accompanied by an associated revolution of expectations amongst our students. To visualize this expectations revolution, image what the worlds looks like to a young student in one of our programs today. The world is global, open, real-time, transparent and interactive. Due to the ubiquitous spread of the internet, the world has become a much smaller place. Young adults can connect with friends around the planet with the touch of a finger. Access barriers have also come down dramatically as smart phones, data networks and other forms of connectivity at home and work have spread and become available to all. The inherent real-time nature of the Internet means that waiting times have been all but eliminated. Participation has become a way of life for all as the sharing of ideas, blogs, pictures and videos have allowed for the expression of ideas from all perspectives.

This scenario is not much different today across the developed and developing worlds. This expectations revolution – a broad and dramatic shift in expectations and needs – is fueling a demand for innovation from business schools. Business schools have to adapt to the new reality of the expectations revolution. Gone is the era in which we could take days to provide a response to a student request. In a world of instant social media, business schools need to keep their fingers on the pulse of student complaints and be ready to respond to them immediately when needed. For decades schools could be content working at a leisurely pace with limited transparency of actions to students and external stakeholders. Now, with increased expectations of transparency and participation (interactivity), students and a variety of stakeholders are placing new demands of change upon business schools, and we have no choice but to innovate in the way we operate.

Leading Change

While the acceleration of innovation presents a formidable challenge for most business school leaders, it also presents an exceptional set of opportunities for the few who dare to innovate and change. The few who are inspired to re-imagine the future and take risks. The few who are disciplined to execute with determination and resilience.

So how should business school leaders react to these accelerations in the pace of innovation? While there are no panaceas, here are three important recommendations to help frame your response.

First, don’t deny the obvious. Technology is disrupting education and no school is protected from its revolutionary impact. The speed of change caused by the dual impacts of the technology and expectations revolutions is increasing and creating both opportunities and risks. Acknowledging and internalizing the disruptive forces of change is essential to begin framing an appropriate response.

Second, have an active outside-in learning strategy. While you should certainly encourage all internally generated ideas for innovation, it is likely that most disruptive ideas will emerge from stakeholders outside our schools. It is important to have a dynamic intelligence and scanning capability that proactively reaches out to our alumni, corporate partners and other stakeholders. The focus should be to learn from these partners and so the best talent should be assigned to this role. Few schools manage this outside-in learning process effectively.

Third, lead from the top. Business schools are not designed for disruptions and so do not expect any revolution to start in a bottom-up fashion. Yes, the job of the leader is to listen to multiple voices within the school, but a more important need is the ability of the leader to make strategic bets on new potentially disruptive ideas and to steer the school in the right direction. Resources have to be allocated, voices of resistance have to be managed and the energy of the school has to be mobilized towards new directions. This requires strong and clear leadership from the top.

 width=Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chairs the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.

Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;


Chairman’s Corner: Digital Innovation in Learning Should Become a Priority


I recall the first wave of eLearning in the 1990s. I was a professor at INSEAD then and was instrumental in creating a unit called INSEAD Online to focus on creating e-learning courses. That effort at INSEAD and similar efforts in other business schools did not take off. The reasons for the failure were many but the experience was quite typical in terms of new technology adoption challenges in many sectors.

Business schools lacked the technical expertise to create e-learning courses and business school faculty were skeptical of the effectiveness of e-learning courses, something quite new then for most of them. Out of necessity, business schools had to partner with external partners who usually had high costs of developing courses and hence the revenue sharing arrangements were biased in favor of the external partners. The high development costs also implied that customers were charged significant amounts for the e-learning modules and customer demand was weak. Technological infrastructure also had limitations and bandwidth was usually not sufficient in most locations for high quality video content. Taken together, the first wave of e-learning in business schools in the early 90s had all the excitement that comes with any new technology introduction and all the disappointment when reality does not meet expectations.

Fast forward two decades. The landscape has changed significantly. For one technology has improved exponentially and what was technically challenging in the early 90’s has become commonplace and easy. Large parts of the world are now connected to the Internet and high bandwidth connectivity has reached even mobile devices in most countries. New private sector MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) players such as Coursera and Audacity have emerged with the goal to make learning from top notch faculty available for free (or for a small fee) to learners around the world. The technology to produce courses has also changed and costs of production have come down significantly. It is possible now for a faculty member to set up a camera (even a smartphone in some cases) in his/her office and create online content with a tablet (costing a few hundred Dollars) and simple editing software. Most business school programs now have a significant e-learning components and a range of fully online MBA programs are now available on the market. The age of digital innovation in business school education has now started in earnest.

It is time now for business school leaders to start investing significantly in digital innovations. Like any organization, going through the journey of digital transformation requires a focus on integrating digital DNA into the organization. Based on my own research and personal experience, here are some suggestions for business school leaders:

  1. Leadership from the top: Any significant change in the business model of the school such as the introduction of new online programs will have to start with leadership from the top. Leadership from the Dean of the school becomes even more vital as the school contemplates more radical questions from digital disruption. Is the school willing to address a market of millions instead of thousands? And if yes, is the school willing to reduce tuition fees to zero or a very small amount? Is the school willing to create a Uber like model which opens up the universe of instructors to anyone willing to teach? And so onÉ.
  2. Leveraging off the few: Most faculty in business schools are not eager to make radical changes in the way they teach and in the conduct of the classroom. However, in every school there are always a few pioneering faculty who are open to innovate and try out new experiments. These pioneers should be identified and encouraged. Their successes should be celebrated publicly and lessons should be learnt from some of their (inevitable) failures. The pioneers can be used strategically to lead the school into the era of digital learning. It is always interesting to see how others follow once the positive successes of the pioneers have been recognized.
  3. Set up formal structures and processes: While everyone today is digitally capable in one way or the other (after all, they all own mobile phones and PCs), it is necessary to structure and support digital learning efforts within the school. Bottom-up efforts are good only to a certain level. It is fine to get faculty to experiment with e-learning in a bottom-up manner, but a formal structure is needed if a school wants to launch an e-learning program. If virtual classrooms are to be launched, then faculty have to be educated in the process of teaching and managing the new learning process. Introducing a degree of formality also allows for the digital learning effort to be recognized within the institution and appropriate metrics to be put in place. Hence it is not surprising to see many Universities set up their own e-learning units, such as e-Cornell at Cornell University and EdX at Harvard and MIT. These units typically have to work in close collaboration with the rest of the school.
  4. Create a digital mindset of rapid experimentation and learning: Agility is a unique feature of digital startups that could bear positive results for business schools. Agility in the digital world is based on the ability to partner with a broad ecosystem of players and to experiment with ideas from which to learn rapidly. As is often said, fail fast to succeed sooner! This is a desirable cultural change for all business schools. Business schools are often criticized for being too slow and cumbersome to change. Changing the curriculum can take a couple of years and launching a new program can take even longer! This is no longer good enough in the world of digital agility. Practices can be adopted from the digital world Ð such as the practice of scrums. Thus, faculty and students at Cornell Tech get together every two months to have an open non-hierarchical discussion together of what is right and what needs to be done to improve in the program.

It is time to start investing seriously into the digital transformation of learning and the Global Business School Network can provide an effective platform to share lessons and create new partnerships across the member school network.



Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chairs the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum. Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;

Chairman’s Corner: Reflections from Davos

 width=It has been about a week since I returned from the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. It takes a few days to recover from the hectic pace of speed-dating type of meetings, chance encounters in the corridors with business titans, listening to global leaders opining on the state of the world and a large number of competing cocktails and dinners each evening. I still have a long list of to-do items from last week that need attention.

The Davos meeting has been criticized for being an exclusive meeting of global elites who are disconnected from the reality of today’s society. While there is some truth in the criticisms, I can attest based on my seventeen participations in the Davos annual meetings over the last two decades that the meeting has only grown in appeal and participation. There are many good summaries of the 2019 Davos meeting available online such as on the WEF link. In this short note, I would like to share a couple of my key takeaways from the meeting and reflect on their implications for our world of business education.

My most notable takeaway is the strong emphasis being placed on the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and how it is positioned to transform all aspects of the world around us. The overall theme of the 4IR permeated all aspects of the program. For example, there were many sessions on how the 4IR was impacting globalization and whether it was enhancing or reducing globalization (the consensus view was that it was increasing globalization despite current headwinds). I was invited to moderate one such session on how the 4IR was impacting the achievement of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the group quickly converged on how technology will have to play a key role in scaling up solutions to help achieve the SDGs.

Also of striking significance this year at Davos was the prominence given to diversity and the younger generation. Each year, the Davos meeting has a small number of program co-chairs who have typically tended to be industry or government leaders. This year, six of the seven program co-chairs were a diverse group of young people (see and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft was the only traditional business leader in the role of a co-chair. In response to some of the criticisms raised, the Forum has over the years started including more diverse groups within its community such as by creating the Young Global Leaders (below the age of 40) and the Global Shapers (below the age of 30) groups. These younger people were given a prominent voice in sessions and it was a pleasure to interact with them during the breaks and other discussions. The voices of diversity (the Co-Chairs for the Davos 2018 meeting were all women and younger people is growing inside the WEF and I am keen to see this evolve and develop further.

Being an academic for three decades now, I could not help wonder whether we are as a community taking the impacts of the 4IR seriously in what we do and how we plan our future. Yes, technology is used to varying degrees in our schools and yes, many of us have even created some elearning programs. But have we as a profession really used technology to scale up our offerings to meet the vast global need that is currently unmet? Given the global shortage of trained faculty and educational infrastructure, can we hope to meet the SDG goal 4 (“ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”)? I realized from the discussions at Davos that scaling up existing solutions (for us, educate several tens of thousands as opposed to a few hundred) is a key to success and we have be bold to push the frontiers here. Scaling up will require us to rethink our mission and mandates and adopt more flexible faculty and program delivery models.

In our business schools, we naturally deal with diversity and young people. Seeing how the WEF leverages these groups of diverse young leaders, I wonder if we are doing enough to deal with diversity and to give voice to the younger generation in shaping our institutions. Many of us tend to look at young people as “students” who have to be “taught”. While this is indeed part of the relationship that defines us, we have to open up our minds to also treat our students as equals, as important members of our community who need to be given a prominent voice in shaping and charting the future of our institutions. Some elements of this are happening, but I suspect that this is largely in an ad-hoc manner. I know from personal experience that significant culture change is needed to make these changes. For example, at Cornell Tech in New York city, faculty and students engage in an open and continuous dialogue to improve the course Ð comparable to agile software development processes. Transferring these processes of open sharing and criticism has been difficult to the mother institution in Ithaca. Diversity on all dimensions, especially gender diversity remains a challenge in most business schools for both faculty and students. I think that we could and should do better on these important aspects.

I am pleased that we are able to share and discuss these important issues within the Global Business School Network (GBSN). We all share a common purpose and I encourage us to share our good practices to help each other and to do our bit to support the UN’s SDGs.

Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chairs the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum. Email:; Twitter: @soumitradutta; LinkedIn: soumitra-dutta;