Developing-Leaders-issue-27-2017

Executive DEVELOPMENT Developing Leaders Issue 27: 2017 | 31 Another good example of a message that many schools emphasise strongly is their combination of academic rigour and business application. Again, it is not a differentiating factor, but something that clients expect as a given from an executive education provider. Using academic rigour to underpin teaching, which leads to a practical application for clients should be at the very essence of being a business school. Similarly, the use of practical experience to feed in to a research agenda and then integrating that into classroom teaching must be a priority. Differentiation is always going to be challenging in the business school market. Most schools operate in a similar way, they are part of a wider university, have faculty measured on academic journal output and most possess similar portfolios – MBA, other Masters, undergraduate degrees, open and custom executive education. And then there is the ‘b’ word, brand, which some think has no place in higher education. However, Ian Pearman, CEO, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the UK’s largest advertising agency, writing in the Times Higher Education in 2013, expressed the power of brand clearly: “Wherever the target audience of an organization faces a choice of alternative competitors, branding is incredibly important for justifying price, avoiding commoditization, attracting, and retaining talent and ultimately, resisting rivals.” Add in rankings and accreditation which can drive schools to measure and report on standard aspects, and the tendency towards vanilla offers and a lack of strongly differentiated services becomes very clear. Specialisation is another solution that a school might consider if it wants to have a distinctive positioning – being known for strength in a subject or sector. Ask someone about Stanford and they’ll probably say entrepreneurship, ask about Wharton and finance is often the answer, but these are not brands. Part of a brand maybe, but not the complete picture. And there’s a danger in being known for just one thing, industries decline as well as rise, subjects become more or less important. “Wherever the target audience of an organization faces a choice of alternative competitors, branding is incredibly important for justifying price, avoiding commoditization, attracting, and retaining talent and ultimately, resisting rivals”

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