Is the New B-School more like a D-School?

After a mere 24 months (and some might say impossible challenge) of design and construction, the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation opened its doors Monday, August 19, 2013, to insatiable excitement and anticipation for the year ahead.

Bloch Executive Hall has all the typical program spaces students have come to expect in a top ranked B-School: a high capacity auditorium, tiered case study rooms, seminar rooms, and a finance lab.

top left: Finance Lab; top right: auditorium; bottom left: atrium and amphitheatre; bottom right: Design-led Innovation Lab

But what sets it apart is the unique program spaces found more often in design schools. Program areas such as a Behavioral Research Lab, experiential learning classrooms, Design led innovation lab and programmable circulation space set the tone for an atypical experience that is, as Dean Teng-Kee Tan put it, “not your father or mother’s business school.”

The first level of the four-story building is home to the school’s new Behavioral Research Lab. A program that once functioned out of available conference rooms and hallways, now utilizes a dedicated space with nine individual research rooms and two group research rooms with a shared control room. According to the lab’s director, Dr. Will Self:

“The Behavior Research Lab greatly increases Bloch's research capabilities in the areas of leadership and organizational behavior by allowing faculty and students alike to conduct applied research, experiments and studies that yield real-time insight into consumer behavior.

[It] is a space for collecting research data by allowing researchers to run experiments that help them better understand how people in organizations think, feel, and act. More than 1,000 MBA and undergraduate BBA and BSA students are expected to participate in studies conducted through the Behavioral Research Laboratory per year.

The Behavioral Research Laboratory will house a research group called the Self Lab, which consists of about a dozen graduate and undergraduate research assistants from across the UMKC campus who work on projects. This is experiential learning at its purest: students learning by doing outside of the classroom.”

Level two houses three of the five experiential learning classrooms in the building. Each of the classrooms is equipped with a combination of analogue and digital technology. All of the furnishings are mobile and can be reconfigured in multiple settings of groups of eight. Each grouping has its own monitor and whiteboard so that digital information can be shared within the group or with the larger classroom via Tidebreak’s TeamSpot and ClassSpot software used throughout the building and elsewhere on campus. The three classrooms on this level are side by side and can stand alone as classes of 64 or be combined for an experiential class of up to 192. The operable walls separating the classrooms are floor to ceiling whiteboards. A clear glass operable wall separating the southernmost classroom with the adjacent atrium amphitheater can be used to open the space for large-scale events.

The approach to circulation in the building is unique compared to other college campuses. There is very little dedicated circulation. Everywhere possible, places are incorporated for students, faculty, and mentors to gather. There are formal and informal settings; there are areas focused around analogue technology and areas focused around digital, interactive technology; there is a large, open amphitheater in the atrium of level two focused on a 20 screen media wall.

In these sketches, the idea emerged to empower new pedagogies and highly productive experiences for teachers and students. The building form evolved along this idea of the "Path of Innovation" being one of experimentation. A great deal of space is devoted to learning by doing.

If there is one thing BNIM has learned over the years and the many campuses we have had the privilege of working on it’s that there is never enough student gathering space. If you build it, they will use it!

The pinnacle program space in the new building is the Design Led Innovation Lab. The plan for the space was developed after touring Stanford’s d-school. Dean Teng-Kee Tan is a firm believer in design thinking – it runs in his family as his daughter and son-in-law both work for IDEO. The design of the d-school resonated with him.

Dean Tan developed this sketch on the walls of BNIM’s offices as we spent the good part of a day with him discussing the project and the goals for the new building.

The Design Led Innovation Lab consists of the following contiguous spaces: Experiential Learning Classroom [ELC], breakout rooms, simulation Lab, brainstorming, prototyping lab, Venture Accelerators, and executive mentor offices.

The Experiential Learning Classroom is used for faculty instruction and structured teamwork. There are four 6-person breakout rooms accessible from the ELC to be used for simulated negotiations and venture development. The Simulation lab, brainstorming, and prototyping lab are spaces for students to ideate/iterate freely. Directly across the atrium from the Innovation Lab are eight Venture Accelerator rooms that can be reserved for teams or individuals to incubate new ventures on a short-term basis before moving the projects to the existing campus incubator. Directly adjacent to the Venture Accelerator rooms are two offices dedicated to Executive Mentors. The Bloch School has more than 100 local leaders, each of which donates more than 10 hours a month to mentoring Bloch School students.


The team was inspired by the fact that this would be the top innovation school in the world, focusing on creating new business enterprise, new products and ideas — versus emulating a case method of study that has been used in business schools in the past.

As a result, there is no direct comparison between the Bloch School and other business schools. The focus on design-led innovation allows it to function much more like a design school than a business school — and we all look forward to seeing the results of that come to life from this innovation.