Real robots, often wheeled out at conferences to add a bit of technology wow to the same old flesh-and-blood panel discussions, are rather disappointing © Bloomberg
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Business School Insider

London's vibrant global business hub and entrepreneurship scene are still attracting potential MBA students from overseas to the UK. Plus, a fall in the pound means lower study costs. Read Brexit Britain’s MBAs defy expectations to lure overseas students by Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial College Business School.

Andrew Hill's challenge

I've been trying out a new virtual assistant called "Amy Ingram", powered by artificial intelligence, for my column this week about what I call "dull-bots" . These are the algorithms, automatons and cyborgs doing basic tasks for us. Amy specialises in arranging my meetings; other machine learning applications are trawling through loan contracts for errors or spotting weeds on large commercial farms. I think this is where the real robot revolution is gathering pace. 

For this week's challenge,I'd like to hear your ideas for mundane management jobs that could be handled by a bot or an algorithm. One condition: these dull-bots must help, but not eliminate, the human manager. Send your ideas to 

Last week, I asked for a better rebrand of Apple Stores than its choice of "town squares"Freddie W subverted the idea somewhat by saying the company should ditch the idea of rebranding altogether and stick with Apple Stores: "The company should return to genuine innovation, rather than trying to make its products and shops sound more fancy than they are with silly, and very transparent, marketing and branding guff."

I've also received a belated crop of responses to my challenge from earlier this month asking you how Alibaba could best lure more Chinese customers online. Elijah Hall suggests a network of physical hubs, "similar to a post office where there is power, an internet connection and storage" for goods ordered there. I also liked Yilin Liu's idea to "use augmented reality to show the benefits of shopping online". Perhaps Alibaba could link up with Apple for that.

Further reading this week returns to the robot theme. I was interested in the New York Times feature about the new jobs Amazon is creating for staff as it pushes more automation into its warehouses. It quotes Martin Ford author of The Rise of the Robots, who still believes the ultimate outcome will be fewer jobs for humans. "Maybe the first indication is they don’t get rid of those people but the pace of job creation slows down,” he says, gloomily., 

Mr Ford's book won the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. Last week, our judges narrowed the 2017 contenders down to a shortlist of six, on themes such as the challenges of reskilling and the evolution of financial markets. You can read more about these here.

And if you have a great idea for a business book, it's not too late to enter our £15,000 Bracken Bower Prize. You must be under 35 and the deadline is September 30.

Professor's picks

Niamh O Riordan, assistant professor, University College Dublin’s Smurfit School of Business, selects:

Bitcoin splits into two as transaction volumes increase Digital business leaders must formulate strategies to survive digital disruption. In the classroom, we are evaluating the impact of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are likely to have far-reaching consequences for business. Bitcoin has split into two, but prices tumbled when the Chinese government declared ICO — initial coin offering — fundraising illegal.

Several tech companies have joined forces to create the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. This, like bitcoin, is based on blockchain but whereas bitcoin is a digital currency, Ethereum is a platform for smart contracts. The question for my students is: how can these companies collaborate strategically whilst maintaining their own competitive advantage?

Facebook Watch fights for eyeballs from YouTube Another challenge for digital business leaders is to master digital business models and revenue streams which rely on users to provide and create content as well as value for customers. For example, Facebook and YouTube do not create products. Instead, their revenues depend on their users' activities. My students are asking how Facebook Watch can inspire its providers to generate compelling content. Granting their users the ability to generate their own revenues from this content may give Facebook an edge going forward.

Jonathan Moules' business school news

Business school students tend to revel in their status as global citizens, able to move across the planet to learn at the best schools and work for the best companies. But this has its limits.

Chinese students have traditionally travelled the world in search of the top MBA programmes, but as I found on my recent visit to China’s top schools in Shanghai and Beijing, many now focus their attention on local institutions, knowing that the connections they can gain to get the best jobs, in what is now the world’s second largest economy, are often worth more than the kudos of a degree from a top overseas institution.

Most business schools like to present themselves as institutions that foster free thinking individuals. But there is also a strong herd mentality among those seeking an MBA place as shown in my report on the latest applications data by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

The largest business education courses are far more likely to receive a rise in applications than those that have historically only attracted a small number of students. Only 6 per cent of the courses GMAC surveyed had more than 200 students, but they received 55 per cent of the applications, or 10 per available seat, and 73 per cent of these courses reported increased applications.

Courses with 50 or fewer students represented 56 of the programmes covered by the survey, but just 11 per cent of the applications, and only 39 per cent of these courses reported increased application numbers.

Business schools do encourage free thinking, globally minded people, but their students are still subject to the human urge to follow the crowd, and when it comes to the reality of finding work after graduation, local connections will always be more important than where you have been.

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Compiled by Wai Kwen Chan —

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