21st Century Business Skills Defined

1. Analytical

Analytical skills enable students to approach business problems with logical thinking, and then to model and solve them using measurable data, quantitative methods, and critical reasoning. Contemporary, real-world problems are often complex and cut across contexts. Analytical reasoning helps us make sense of this complexity, and analytical skills, which build bridges across business disciplines and organizational functions, help us to solve 21st-century problems. Building a framework that links analytically-based courses is a curricular focus, as is compiling a library of teaching resources (cases, assignments) to accompany that framework. Co-curricular opportunities exist with online resources (e.g. ALEKS), tutoring, and robust assessment at the beginning of the student experience.


2. Integrative

Integrative learning in business means addressing real-world problems and opportunities across functional disciplines such as marketing, finance, accounting, management, and operations. It means viewing business situations from multiple perspectives including customer, supplier, employee, shareholder, community, and the natural environment. It requires an understanding of the individual, the team, the business unit, the organization, and the broader world so that one can discern not just the facts, but what those facts mean. Integrative thinking uses other 21st-century business skills to consider a range of options before deciding. The capstone course (including the consultancy option) currently provides a fully integrative learning experience, and an integrative hybrid course that runs online is being considered. Co-Curricular skills development options include CapsimCore and COMP-XM Basic resources.


3. Spatial

A spatial approach to business involves analyzing business opportunities and problems through the lens of location, distance, and territory. With spatial proficiency, students can become professionals who use location intelligence to influence corporate strategies and create added value for organizations. Spatial business transformers boast a unique combination of skills: a strong grasp of business strategy and an understanding of the ways in which location intelligence can strengthen decision-making and improve operational and business results. The Spatial Business Initiative in the School of Business & Society incorporates curricular and co-curricular skills development, including an MBA with a concentration in Location Analytics.


4. Entrepreneurial

Those with an entrepreneurial mindset can extend their knowledge to recognize business opportunities where others do not. They excel in thinking at higher levels of complexity and are lifelong learners who continually challenge assumptions. Starting from a strong foundation of knowledge, they are able to analyze and prioritize information; to gather resources and take action; and to establish teams and alliances that can create solutions. Being entrepreneurial means turning creativity into innovation that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable and that adds value to users, investors, employers, customers, suppliers, communities, the natural environment, and other stakeholders. Curricular possibilities abound, including developing entrepreneurship modules for marketing, finance, and strategy courses, as well as the long-term possibility of creating an entrepreneurship emphasis. Co-curricular opportunities center on developing a network of entrepreneurs (especially from the large alumni base).


5. Collaborative

Collaboration connects people, engages teams, and delivers effective project management. Interpersonal skills are vital to collaborative endeavors, so productive collaboration brings together people with different expertise and a range of backgrounds and experience to analyze problems, generate solutions, and implement strategies. Collaborative approaches to business problems and possibilities engage students in ways that foster innovation and lead to creative outcomes. Curricular collaboration occurs in organizational behavior courses, where team concepts are mastered. Faculty are committed to integrating collaboration and teamwork skills into courses across the curriculum. Co-curricular collaboration skills are fostered in orientations, skills workshops, mentor program activities, and networking events.


6. Persuasive

Persuasive skills for business rely on critical thinking, data-driven analysis, and practical reasoning. With these tools, we learn to communicate the legitimacy of ideas and convince others of the viability of our proposals. Persuasion relies on a complex matrix of logical reasoning, grounded emotional appeal, and cultural knowledge. Underlying this is the understanding that persuasive communication is above all a relationship between people built on trust, empathy, and integrity. Persuasive skills are infused in the curriculum with emphasis on critical thinking, information literacy, and research-based proposal projects. Co-curricular persuasive skills are fostered in presentation and writing skills workshops.


7. Ethical

Ethical decision-making is a purposeful, character-driven, and values-based process that enables business decision-makers to effect positive social change by executing decisions that create value for all stakeholders. It reflects a deep and thoughtful appreciation of the moral and ethical responsibilities of leaders to society while remaining mindful of diversity in an increasingly integrated world. An ethical approach to business focuses on an individual’s duties and responsibilities within an organization and to society at large. In terms of the curriculum, ethical decision-making skills are mastered through standalone ethics courses within each of the academic programs. Faculty program directors are considering integrating cases-across-the-curriculum to create sustained attention to ethical decision-making. Co-curricular purposeful leadership skills development occurs within Whitehead Leadership Society, cohort student leader positions, and honor society opportunities.


8. Societal

A societal understanding of business recognizes that individual and organizational actions take place within a larger set of social, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Societally-conscious business decision-making strives to understand and anticipate the broader impacts of actions and practices, and recognizes the diversity of organizations and the people who work within them. Curricular efforts to highlight societal aspects of business include plans to include an environmental module in ethics courses, as well as “cases-across-curriculum” integration.


9. Environmental

We recognize that the balance of environmental, social, and economic sustainability must be considered in determining business success. A skill of the 21st century is understanding this triple bottom line. An environmental approach to business attends to the complexities and sustainable potential of the physical environment, the competitive environment, and the hiring and human resources environment. A sustainable business emphasis in the MBA is in development, and an environmental module within ethics courses is planned.


10. Global

In an ever increasingly interdependent and intercultural world, a global perspective of the business landscape is imperative to guide decision-making about the challenges and opportunities that arise. A global approach to business recognizes multiple, multinational, and multicultural perspectives and demonstrates awareness of the global impact of business. Curricular focus on global perspectives includes an MBA emphasis in global studies, with courses in global finance, global marketing, and spatial analysis. School of Business & Society International Programs include multiple study abroad opportunities and a global capstone consultancy. Co-curricular opportunities include site visits to internationally-focused events, class visits from visiting scholars, and a program which would have alumni who have participated on study abroad serve as guest speakers in classes and at events.