By Azra Brankovic, IESE Research Associate

Two years ago we wrote here about business school offerings on innovation, and we returned to have a look at what’s new in 2010-2011. Once more we looked at MBA and executive education courses and faculty research at top schools in the U.S. and Europe.

The past two years saw a global recession and a slow recovery. We were curious to see how this might have affected offerings. Allowing for changes from year to year that are due to sabbaticals and the like, we found that the courses offered on innovation are largely the same, with some tweaks.

Strategy, Management, Leadership prominent

The dominant phrase in business school offerings on innovation right now is “strategic innovation.” Whether a matter of renaming existing courses or adding new executive education courses, strategy is big. Similarly, managing and leadership are more prominent than two years ago, both as new stand-alone courses and in new geographic locations and as added words or foci in course descriptions. It was interesting to find ourselves part of this trend, as the executive education course on innovation taught at IESE by Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg is now The Innovation Architect (from Creative Cultures previously). We are interested in readers’ opinions on possible reasons for this wider shift.

More projects have been added to courses, and toolkits. A hands-on approach is evident, which is perhaps related to the turn to making innovation practical, as reported recently in the news.

Creativity, Marketing, Design in retreat

Marketing innovation, design, and creativity are still being taught, although their prominence has lessened, particularly that of marketing. Exemplary is an MBA course redesigned to link design to strategy, rather than looking at design for marketing. “Hot trends” appear to be out and more systematic and directed approaches are in.

Courses du jour

Courses are available that focus on timely, select topics such as biodesign, innovation in energy markets, and innovation in health care. Corporate venturing is well represented. We were cheered to see a course on Improvisational Leadership, as we view improvisation as an important innovation competency.

Faculty research

Rounding out the picture is faculty research, which shows that certain topics that are not as dominant in current teaching are still alive and well when it comes to research. This includes work on open innovation, collaboration, crowd sourcing, and emerging technologies. Research is examining innovation challenges such as filtering ideas, execution, and managing teams and outside communities for innovation, as well as stalwarts such as patents and innovation policy.

To sum up, the innovation landscape when it comes to business schools is similar to what it was two years ago, while showing a more managerial and strategic bent.

August 2010. All rights reserved.