Which schools teach long-term thinking for business?

Which schools teach long-term thinking for business?

How important to you is planning and anticipating the future in advance? Would you instead prefer to make decisions on the spot based on the current situation? In Unimy’s Cultural Fit Index, this spectrum is measured in terms of long-term vs. ad hoc orientation.

While both types of thinking are important in their own way, it’s clear how having long-term orientation is essential in business. Every organization needs some sort of strategic plan to remain stable. Without long-term financial planning, budgets would run out. Without long-term goals and objectives, we might end up just running in circles. The same logic applies to business schools and studying in general. If you find value in planning ahead, you might want to look around for schools that reflect a similar view in their MBA programs.

Unimy’s Cultural Fit Index shows that business schools generally lean towards a more long-term mindset. Globally, schools score between 64.53% and 85.16% in long-term orientation, although there can be differences within that range.

If you find it difficult to relate this topic to business school, it could help to think of it in terms of describing your professional goals in your application essay or MBA interview. “Your long-term MBA goal is generally where you plan to be 10 years out, while your short-term MBA goals are the stepping stones paving the way to get there,explains MBA admissions coach and Stanford alumna Heidi Hillis. “Short-term goals involve your near-immediate plans – either for an internship and/or two to three years post b-school. During this period, you should be acquiring specific expertise or skills that’s essential for you to reach your long-term vision.

Where long-term orientation meets sustainable thinking

One way in which organizations today may demonstrate long-term orientation is in their sustainable practices. Put simply, the future of our planet depends on the steps institutions and society take to prevent pollution and climate change – and this obviously requires thinking in the long run.


KEDGE Business School is an interesting example of an institution which scores high in long-term orientation (4th in Europe, 17th in the world) and also emphasizes the importance of sustainability and CSR. This French school wants to accomplish several big milestones on the road to a better future. In 2021, KEDGE announced their 2025 strategy in line with a long-term commitment to sustainability and inclusiveness. They are using the Positive Impact Rating (a benchmark assessment of the positive influence of schools on society made by students) to assess their performance over the next years, with the goal to move from level 3 “Progressing schools” to level 5 “Pioneering schools” by 2025.


Another European institution that is open and vocal about the need to invest in long-term sustainable practices is Warwick Business School. Academics at this UK school conduct and publish research related to sustainability in the energy, technology, and other sectors. Warwick also happens to be the 5th business school in Europe and 18th in the world when it comes to long-term orientation on the Cultural Fit index. In 2022, Corporate Knights Magazine found that 69% of the school’s MBA modules include the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, while 79% of Warwick’s research centres on sustainability issues.


Regardless of these curious examples, it’s important to keep in mind that commitment to CSR and sustainability does not always equal a long-term orientation for schools and vice versa. This is just one of the many ways to add some context to the Cultural Fit tool and help you understand its value.

At IESE Business School, sustainability is also a central pillar and key guiding principle. The Spanish school has created a Plan for Environmental Sustainability which covers the years 2021 through 2035. The five goals of the plan include zero emissions, 30% improvement in energy efficiency, 80% renewable energy, 10% reduction in water consumption, and zero waste. Despite the 10+ years span of the plan, IESE falls closer to the ad hoc part of the graph and further from schools like Kedge and Warwick. It seems there must be other aspects of IESE’s learning environment and MBA services that shape its balanced long-term vs. ad hoc view.

Berkeley Haas

Another business school that falls in the middle of the graph is Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley (US). Its long-term score is similar to that of IESE and like the Spanish school, Berkeley Haas has made evident their passion for sustainability and future-driven thinking on their website.

This top-ranked American institution has its own Center for Responsible Business (CRB). Established more than 20 years ago, its purpose is to connect students and faculty with opportunities to promote sustainability in company settings. What you might find even more impressive is that the center offers a fellowship to prospective MBA applicants. Those who are able to “best demonstrate their commitment to responsible business” will receive the USD 20,000 CRB Fellowship (or USD 10,000 per academic year).

What might position these schools in a more balanced mix of long-term and ad hoc thinking is their willingness and ability to reflect the fast-changing world of business. Just like business professionals, educational institutions too have to be ready to switch up their approach when needed, despite what their long-term plans may look like.

In life and in business, long-term and ad hoc orientation are just two sides of the same coin. You need some sort of long-term plan to lead with stability, but also readiness to adapt when faced with sudden changes.


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