Reimagining the Future of Business Education

Client: Fudan School of Management
Fudan School of Management

500 Undergraduates|2,500 MBA and Masters|300 Ph.D. Students|30,000 + Alumni|245 + Faculty

Fudan School of Management (复旦大学管理学院), located in the heart of Shanghai China, is one of the most recognized and leading business schools in Asia. Founded in 1985, it has grown and transformed itself into one of the largest business schools in China. Its strong alumni network spans across China with many of its graduates holding leading roles in startups, private & public sectors in business, government and civil services.

Why is design thinking important?

Professor Zhiwen Yin

Associate Dean
Fudan School of Management

“We cannot nurture a new generation of business leaders and innovators unless we’re constantly innovating ourselves.”

When you’re one of the most respected and selective business schools in Asia faced with the challenges of globalization, growth and competitive pressures while trying to deliver an unparalleled student experience, it’s not enough to rest on your past laurels, you must have the tools and confidence to envision and shape an audacious future.

That’s why Fudan partnered with design thinking thought leaders from Infosys and d.Global and embarked on a 4-week design thinking sprint with the aim to radically reimagine the learning experience a future business school should provide in order to develop future leaders in a global environment that is changing dramatically fueled by technology and digital transformation.

How did we get started?

To get closer to our students, we must get out of our office cubicles…

Working alongside experts from Infosys and d.Global, we engaged on the ground, with hundreds of our students from full time, part-time and international MBA programs and other stakeholders including alumni, faculty, administrators, global exchange partners and employers.  Through empathy conversations, augmented by surveys and intercepts, we gained deep understanding of the full arc of students learning journeys, inspiring stories and the shifting needs from future business employers in China. Key insights opened ourselves up to scores of creative solution possibilities and inspired new concept directions, which resulted into rapid prototyping of 10 year vision, tested with our students and alumni.  

What has design thinking helped us discover?

Design thinking inspired us to uncover answers to the most challenging questions.

Exploring answers to the “How Might We…” questions has led to the creation of a new vision for the future learning at Fudan on a 10 year horizon. Fudan 2026 will anchor on five core tenets.

The accelerating pace of change in business is compounded by the fundamentally changing nature of work. Future learning at Fudan must shift away from the traditional MBA degree program offering as the main entry and exit point. Instead, lifelong learning designed to flex with one’s career, offering multiple learning entry and exit points, will help individuals successfully respond to future business, leadership, and social challenges.

In the innovation economy, companies want creative problem finders… and leaders who must exhibit the innate ability to challenge the obvious, discover big ideas, and embrace the unknown.

To produce the next generation of Chinese business leaders, Fudan must move beyond the bounds of traditional knowledge transfer, and instead offer a distinct educational environment and learning space to nurture a passion for discovery and invention (making/prototyping).

In a world of relentless change and innovation where the shelf life of knowledge is very short, compounded with the rise of alternative learning, many faculty discover that their student collectively possess an untapped well of knowledge and expertise in the areas that they teach.

Future learning at Fudan must shift the faculty role from a sole source of knowledge supplier to broadening the scope of building a learning ecosystem that helps connect people, curate information and ideas and, where everyone must simultaneously be learning, doing and teaching.

In the current ‘publish or perish’ academic paradigm, Chinese faculty struggle with research priority and scholarship required of top academic publications. This creates the growing disconnect between what’s offered and skills students need to succeed in drive change in China business and society.

To close that gap, future learning at Fudan must harness the China advantage by focusing on creation of business knowledge of emerging market of China, as a significant contribution to global business knowledge creation and teaching.

With the incredibly networked and fast-paced world, what was once valuable is now commoditized. New sources of value must be discovered and unlocked.

Future learning at Fudan will explore the value equation by turning our education into a vital epicenter of Chinese business engagement, creating conversations and inspiring change.

How are we making design thinking stick?

Design thinking has helped Fudan unleash new sources of value around which our institution will grow…
☛  Click on images to discover

Focusing on the most challenging problems

Design thinking takes us to step outside of the traditional boxes by questioning our own assumptions and status quo. It disrupts our own complacency that keeps things rutted, inefficient or not as good as they could be. As a result, it gives us a new way to focus on the right problems, thus freeing up energy and resources previously spent on issues what were urgent but not of the highest strategic importance to achieve our 10 year vision.

Breaking the bottleneck to innovation

We’ve empowered over 50 new design thinkers at Fudan as a result of the co-creation journey. This creates an environment where all of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and employers feel empowered to share ideas, bring many voices to the table, and find solutions to questions they never previously thought to ask. This represents a major cultural shift in our institution, and within the China context, where ideas are typically driven top down.

Building empathy @ scale

The design thinking co-creation journey put our students at the center of the process. We learned how to apply empathy at scale by getting out of our own offices and cubicles and getting close enough to our students to discover where their latent needs and expectations are. This empathy in action creates a sense of purpose and inspire our teams to come up with new solutions to make our students lives and experiences better and more fulfilling.

Changing the narrative of the role of business education

This is an exciting time at Fudan as we experiment our way forward to embody our new vision for what a business school can be. We are operating at the epicenter of innovation as we build a collaborative ecosystem that supports radically transformative experiences for our students, our Shanghai community and for China as a whole.


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