Business Essentials for Professionals


Lee Newman, Dean of IE Business School

“Education is about growth”

It's been a year since you were appointed Dean of IE Business School. What are your priorities and your roadmap?

I was appointed dean in 2021 with a mandate for innovation. I believe that the future of business education is about finding ways to deliver transformational experiences for students that not only accelerate their careers but also help them attain better versions of themselves. To that purpose, we have designed a new paradigm for curated and transformational educational experiences: “The Next Best You”.  Our priorities are to put in place (1) a new model of career-centric learning both in our general management programs and in our specialized business masters, (2) develop cutting edge new methods for training Impact Skills (the skills professionals need to make things happen even when faced with challenging workplace situations and difficult colleagues), and (3) and investing in training a new generation of professionals who use their business skills with a deep sense of responsibility and purpose.

IE University has been a forerunner in the field of educational innovation. For you, as behavioral scientist, how is the "educational experience" a lever for learning and personal development?

I think that higher education ought to be about transforming people in a deep way that goes way beyond the learning of facts, acquisition of knowledge, and development of skills. How?  It’s about designing the potential for “game changing moments” into the educational experience, and doing so explicitly. These transformational learning moments that an individual encounters can be uncomfortable. When you take a group of highly diverse students, give them a difficult challenge, a short deadline, and limited resources... what happens? You get turbulence, you get friction. When this happens in a safe environment, accompanied by facilitation and reflection – this turbulence can catalyze most important learning moments that a student has during their studies. So, our mission is about creating the potential for these types of learning moments and developing a readiness in students to look for these moments and learn from them when they happen. These are the moments that drive new mindsets, improved ways of thinking, and better ways of working with other people.  

From the point of view of teachers, what does this innovation bring to their way of teaching?

It creates a dual imperative for teachers to deliver both the learning objectives of their particular course, as well as to help facilitate and bring to life these deeper learning moments. It’s rewarding – one of the reasons we teach really is to see our students transform and grow as people and professionals –.

At IE Business School, you seem to place a premium on "self-discovery" throughout the curriculum. Why do you think this is so important?

Education is about growth. And, I believe the process for growth via education has three critical ingredients: openness, discovery, and experimentation. Learners must be open to growing – they have to be ready and willing to transform and to develop themselves. Not everyone, at any given time, is ready and open. We have a role in gently helping students open-up. Second, learners need a good understanding of who they are now and this is where self-discovery is important. What are your default mindsets? Your strengths? And your gaps? These are questions that need to be answered, and I think a critical role of our school and our programs is to help every student assess and reveal who they are now – what we refer to as discovering “the current you”. And the third ingredient is experimentation, which is the critical step to making the transformation from the “current you” to the “next best you”. Learners have to put in place new mindsets, new behaviors, new ways of working by practicing them. Thinking about it is not enough! So our mission as a school is ensure that every learner’s educational journey is a safe laboratory in which they can discover and grow.

The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have brought new digital formats of learning into the mainstream. How does the use of new technologies differentiate IE Business School today?

We have always been leaders in learning formats and pedagogies. We were pioneers in Europe when we launched blended MBAs and other business programs two decades ago. So, for us the pandemic – from an educational standpoint – was not very disruptive. We moved 100% of our programs and courses online immediately and it was only a question of quickly scaling infrastructure (screens, microphones, bandwidth) to take formerly face-to-face programs online.   
For us, the pandemic helped make online education mainstream from a market standpoint, and this is very positive. That said, while many schools see this as being about “hybrid learning”, for us it goes way behind the location of students. 

Our metholodlogy, Liquid Learning, embodies our purpose-driven vision for education as a powerful, fluid, and evolving force for positive change in a dynamic and unpredictable world. It is an educational paradigm able to adapt to the uniqueness of every learner while simultaneously helping learners develop a liquid mindset allowing them to adapt to the unique situations and challenges they face throughout their lives and careers. Liquid Learning champions a belief that education is not an event but a lifelong learning journey. And it holds to the mission of supporting the unique aspirations and needs of every lifelong learner as we navigate each of their unique journeys together.

For example, we are in the process of incorporating extended reality environments into our courses. It’s not about flexibility or location, it’s about enhancing learning using technologies that allow students to immerse themselves in realities that evoke feelings and experiences that you can’t get in a physical classroom, a zoom-room, or an online forum. It’s about being able to see data or contexts like a retail store in 3D in a way that enhances understanding and sparks creativity.  We are at the very beginning of a new era in learning environments, and it is very exciting!

The new generations are more and more committed to sustainable development and humanism in the broadest sense. They are also more demanding with regard to teaching. How do these new environmental and societal considerations translate in terms of training issues?

When I started my tenure as dean of the business school, one of the first things that I did was reach out to talk to our current students, our alumni, and our faculty. What I heard repeatedly was the word “purpose”. Many students and alumni, perhaps even the majority, are uneasy. They see world with many difficult challenges that need to be addressed. They are a “we generation” deeply concerned about addressing the many problems inherited from the actions of my generation often termed the ”me generation”. What I find heartening is that these new generations increasingly see business as playing a critical part in developing and implementing desperately needed solutions. 

So we have made Business with Purpose one of the three core elements of the Next Best You – Your Career, Your Impact, and Your Purpose.  We are committed to educating a new generation of business professionals with a deep sense of purpose and responsibility. We define this at three levels: planet (sustainable business practices), society (social innovation), and workplace (working, managing and leading “well” in the sense of creating workplace environments in which everyone can thrive).  

We are implementing Business with Purpose experiences and training as a required element in the journey of every student – this is part of the DNA of every IE business professional. We also offer students the chance to further develop their purpose and make positive difference via projects, immersion experiences and even purpose-driven concentrations in their degree programs.

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