Executive DEVELOPMENT 30 | Developing Leaders Issue 27: 2017 Andrew Crisp of CarringtonCrisp examines the challenges of differentiation for business schools and how some of the major challenges facing business may hold some answers. A lmost 20 years ago I was working for a corporate communications agency in London and we won a pitch to help a business school rebrand. I’ve kept part of the brief from that school and often quote it. The pitch said “It’s a sort of generic world class business school. I would find it hard to articulate any tangible differences that it would have over any of its peers and the image differences are down to nuance.” Today there are estimated to be around 16,000 business schools in the world. While not all offer executive education, competition is intense. The latest Financial Times Custom Executive Education Rankings lists 85 schools, which is a wide pool of potential providers for a CEO or Head of Learning and Development to consider. However, AACSB and EQUIS accreditation schools number closer to 1,000 business schools and many of these have an executive education offer, even if it is restricted to their local market. With many schools under financial pressure, whether it is from reduced government funding, competition for students or demands from a parent university to generate more income, interest in growing or starting an executive education offer is rising. In this competitivemarket, one of the great challenges for business schools is differentiation. Most business schools tend to sound like one another. If you look at the websites of a range of top schools that provide executive education, similar words feature in straplines and mission statements – most notably “global, impactful, excellence, employable, leaders, transformative and sustainable.” Of course, all these things are important, but none of them make a school distinctive. Some try hard, but sometimes make things worse – one institution claimed to be ‘Elite without being elitist’, whatever that means. Distinctive, Different and Definitely Not Vanilla Building a Defining Identity for Tomorrow’s Business School By Andrew Crisp