On Spanish business schools, and my experience at IE Business School…

An article written by Susana Blázquez in leading Spanish daily El País about executive education in Spain quotes me on what makes IE Business School, where I teach, different to the competition: it was set up by Diego del Alcázar, who has always been involved in its daily running. IE Business School has no religious affiliations, no hidden agenda, and by retaining its independence has always been able to set its own rules, the first of which is that the institution must be in permanent touch with the reality of business.

Most business schools around the world offer pretty much the same products: an MBA, an Executive MBA, a few functional programs, something for senior management… At IE Business School, even the professors find it hard to keep up with its portfolio of products. Rather than focusing on the needs of academics and saving them work through a professor-centric model, IE puts students first: if we think there is a subject that the market might be interested in, that might be useful to a meaningful number of potential students, then we launch the product, regardless of whether it evolves into something that cuts across different courses or ends up being integrated into another program.

My routine is preparing my innovation course while adapting it to six or seven completely different groups, from the most generic to the most specific, while at the same time keeping up with my case studies, my examples, and my exercises tied to a changing business environment, all the time looking out for new subjects to launch elective courses that will allow me to focus on developing additional material. At any moment, if I get it wrong and my student evaluations fall below four on a scale of five, then my area chair will ask me what’s going on, and if it keeps happening, then a work plan will be drawn up that may include specific measures such as other teachers helping me out. If that doesn’t work, there is always the door. I think we can say that IE isn’t a place for tenure-minded academics inclined to repeat the same courses year after year. In short, not your average university…

I have now been working at IE Business School for 26 years, and so I would have to admit to not being entirely objective about its merits. But anybody who knows me and follows me will know that working here has exercised a huge influence over me, and that quite simply, I find it hard to imagine being able to have the kind of freedom to make my own decisions in any other institution. It might be harder to explain here in the English version of my page, but I’m definitely not the discreet type: strong opinionated, and quick on the trigger when it comes to criticize those who go against innovation, freedom on the web or many other things that, after many years, I came to consider causes. It’s been quite a number of times that my Dean has had to defend me against companies or politicians with a soft skin.

It goes without saying that I have my own ideas about how the place where I work has evolved over time, and that not everything in the garden is always rosy. Things change and there are things that in my humble opinion could be improved, as is always the case. At the same time, I am also secure in the knowledge that I can discuss my ideas freely, and that what’s more, the place is flexible enough to actually be able to implement change. After 26 years, I still believe in my work and in the worth of the education we provide our students. And that, for me, is saying a lot.

(En español, aquí)

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