This article was originally published on October 19th, 2012 by Forbes ‘Hult Breeds Disruption in the MBA Market‘.
The international business school hasn’t been around that long. But it’s coming of age at the right time.
One of the great perks of being a social tech consultant is that you get to speak at amazing venues. My favorite type of venue: universities. I am lucky: so far the list includes Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. But until this week, I had never spoken at a business school attached to any institution. I gave a lecture yesterday at the San Francisco campus for Hult, where the business school is the institution.
That’s one of several differentiators for the eight year-old school, and it’s a big one. Focusing exclusively on business — and most of it on the graduate level — Hult has been able to hone its craft at a time when playing to your strengths is becoming recognized as the fastest path to excellence. But here are a few other ways Hult excels and disrupts.
Reach: The school has five campuses: San Francisco, Cambridge, London, Shanghai and Dubai. And, by the way, those five campuses are open to all students. They are encouraged to move around, and gain the benefit of the school’s global presence.
In-school environment: Walk onto one of the campuses and you will be struck by the physical elements. Open, clean, and driven by the most advanced ideas in work/leisure space that first inspired companies like Starbucks and, later, workplaces like Facebook. Long desks, where people sit side-by-side (instead of opposite one other). Classrooms in a mostly crescent formation, adding a light touch of theatricality (just enough) to learning and teaching. Administrative offices behind clear glass and accessible to anyone. The faculty member who invited me to speak introduced me to the Dean within minutes after our class.
Out-of-school: But perhaps the most striking thing about Hult is the brand they are creating for themselves by sponsoring contests for budding entrepreneurs. This year — in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative — the Hult Prize will give $1 million to the university team that comes up with the best idea for addressing the global food crisis.
Several things I like about this. First, there’s the obvious social benefit we might derive from simply crowdsourcing actionable ideas for big worthy causes. Second, there’s the serious funding that the winner can use to actually go out and do something. But third is the less obvious yet-more-important message that the world of business happens outside the four walls of any school. MBA programs have struggled with their reputation for breeding entrepreneurs; they are better known for — and perhaps more capable of — breeding managers. And with Hult’s dedication to social entrepreneurship, the school may be positioning itself to serve a new market for business students. They are not alone in this regard, but the combination of global reach, classroom environment, and a structured approach to getting students out of the classroom, Hult looks pretty compelling … and disruptive. Where they are scoring points is where parts of the MBA market are going. Though young, the school is already climbing up the MBA rankings. The Economist lists Hult as the 21st best business school in the US. More interesting is the school’s ranking in the Economist for post-graduate salary increase (#1). And the school’s ranking in the Financial Times for international experience (#1). Everybody loves a winner, and imitation, as we know, is the highest form of flattery. I expect other schools will be more Hult-like in the future.
Read the full Forbes article. Written by Giovanni Rodriguez, Forbes Contributor for organizational leadership and social technology.