Linda Livingstone: seeking innovation and leading through change

Posted: September 1, 2014 by jennroig in English, Interviews
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Linda Livingstone, current Chair at AACSB

Linda Livingstone, current Chair at AACSB

As new elected Chair at AACSB, Livingstone share her perspectives and ideas regarding current and future challenges faced by leaders -both corporate and academic- as well as the Business Schools’ role in improving the quality of education.

This is the original, unedited English version of the interview to Linda Livingstone published on AméricaEconomía on August 7, 2014. 

You are assuming as Chair of AACSB in a time when B-schools from all over the world are competing even more to attract the best candidates and faculty. But there’s also a need to foster collaboration in order to give students exposure to various cultural and business environments. How will the AACSB balance its relationships with individual schools, and its role in improving management standards in different regions of the world?

We see those two issues as really working together. As we work with individual schools to help them improve and get better and to advance what they are doing, it obviously has an impact on the quality of management education in whatever region of the world that they are part of. In addition to working with individual schools and with schools within a region of the world, we are also working hard to find better ways to connect schools across regions of the world. We see how a lot of that has already happened. The more we can do about that, the more we can learn from each other, because in different places of the world, people think differently, have different challenges and different opportunities.

So it is about working at those three levels, individual schools, schools within a region, and connecting schools across different regions.

There are a lot of new concepts and notions claiming what the best management standards or strategies are. Looking at the bottom line and seeking efficiency is neck to neck with the need to take risks fostering innovation and creativity. How are the AACSB standards assessing the new programs that schools create to tackle new needs and concepts?

The way standards are written in AACSB, they very much focus on schools’ missions, wanting to ensure that any new program, anything the school is doing, is driving that condition as an institution. That’s at the upper level.

We are really trying to apply those across all process at the school, whether it’s existing programs they had for many years or its new programs, to ensure that they are really seeking to provide high quality at any program they are providing.

And they have standards for the kind of faculty they have in the classroom and the kind of services of support they provide to students. The standards are really applicable to all programs.

It’s all about helping the school to think about its mission and how it’s playing out in the different programs.

In terms of keeping up with new developments, we have conferences and seminars we give around the world, where deans and faculty and staff of business schools come together and share with one another what they are doing, what’s working, what the challenges are. What we are really trying to do is creating learning communities of business schools professionals to share and learn from each other.

It’s about the standards but also about other things business schools are doing. As we all think differently, we spend a lot of time learning from each other. Learning best practices of others.

Other thing that has been discussed about it’s this issue of efficiency kind of versus fostering innovation and creativity, which is a great issue we are all dealing with. I do think that the need for efficiency and finding the most cost effective ways to do things in business, as opposed to creativity and innovation and making think differently on how we do things, I think often they can work together. They may seem to be mutually exclusive and working against one another but I think in reality in many cases is the need to be more envisioned as to think differently helps us to be more creative and to be more innovative as business schools.

There has been a polemic around MOOCs. Despite different visions, opinions and implementations carried out by different B-Schools, it seems that online courses are here to stay and will impact even more the management education worldwide. Where is AACSB standing in this regard? Is there any debate, or consideration towards creating standards, or offering accreditation to some MOOCs?

The way accreditation works with AACSB is that we accredit institutions or business school units. We don’t accredit individual programs. When the business school unit is accredited, all of the programs within that institution are looked at. If the institution is accredited, then all programs are accredited.

When we revised the standards in 2013, we had a pretty significant discussion whether we should have a separate set of standards for online courses or online programs, meant for more traditional online programs, and we made a decision that we would not do that. We would have a set of standards that would apply regardless of the delivery mode, the location of the program.

We try to determine always if schools are delivering programs in a high quality way, regardless of the delivery mode.

The standards look across all kinds of delivery systems in a school.

What happens when a school creates an alliance with another school, which maybe not be accredited? Would that affect the initial accreditation received?

A school is reviewed every five years, taking the standards into account for that revision. As such, the school would maintain accreditation through that whole period. If it adds new programs during that five years period, then it would fall under the review of the next revision on schedule. Unless something very unusual happens, we would not go back to review a school that had received accreditation after one or two years.

If the school is partnering with another school that is not accredited, the program in which they are partnering has to meet the accreditation standards, even if the other school is not.

Today female leaders are under the spotlight -both in the public and private sectors. As female leader, what do you think will be the most important challenges that a woman in a leading position faces now and will be facing in the near future?

I don’t really think that the challenges women leaders are going to be facing in the future are going to be much different from the challenges male leaders will be facing. I do think sometimes society is expecting women to respond differently to those, which may or may not be the case. But I think in general, whether it’s in higher education or other areas, being able to drive innovation and change, and help lead an organization through change, it’s critically important.

Technology is having such an impact, also education reforms around the world is a bigger issue, we are getting a lot of pressure on pricing and cost of higher education. There’s also increasing competition and increasing quality of higher education around the world. Being able to manage in this ever changing environment, being able to innovate in it, in the middle of resource-constrains circumstances, it is a true challenge for anybody leading an organization, particularly in higher education.

As emerging economies, especially in Latin America, keep developing and attracting FDI, it is crucial to produce professionals with management skills able to perform at global levels. From the AACSB perspective, is there a perceivable evolution in the quality and competences of business graduates in Latin America? Is there any strategy or initiative or actions that AACSB will be supporting, or leading or contributing to within the next years?

We have already seen a significant growth and development in the quality of management education in Latin America. There are some outstanding schools in Latin America that are producing exceptional graduates. We are seeing an increasing number of schools in that region desiring to participate in the AACSB activities and seminars and conferences because they want to continuously improve what they are doing. I believe we will continue to see the enhancement of quality of programs and graduates.

In terms of strategies or initiatives from the AACSB, we have a task force now looking at how we can best serve management education around the world. We spend a lot of time in focus groups with different leaders from different regions of the world including Latin America. From what we learn, I think we will be seeing more and more tailor offering, based on the specific needs of that region. An example is a seminar we did, our first seminar in Spanish in Latin America. It was very well received, great attendance.

I think we will see a development of the quality, if in a somewhat different way than in other regions of the world.


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