It’s a sticky subject. Is business education really necessary? Many believe such higher learning still matters – and so do those who teach it. Prominent professors (and their institutions) prepare industry leaders of today and tomorrow to navigate and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. They’re not merely masters in the classroom and of research and theory; their ideas are directly applicable to business, and continue to change how we think, work and live.

A recent Poets & Quants article took a look at the world’s top management thinkers (recognized by Thinkers50). Nearly 75 percent are renowned academics from the likes of Harvard Business School, London Business School, IESE, Wharton, MIT and Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. But their impact is not confined to the proverbial ivory tower. These professors – Michael E. Porter, Clay Christensen, Pankaj Ghemawat, Tammy Erickson, Hal Gregersen, Stewart Friedman, Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Rachel Botsman among them (all Stern Strategy Group speakers clients) – have launched start-ups, led corporations, advised governments, consulted with global organizations and counseled powerful executives.

Porter and Christensen, for example, rank in the latest Thinkers50 number one and two slots respectively for good reason. Porter, a distinguished economist widely recognized as the father of modern business strategy, is applying his latest ideas to help us prepare for and capitalize on the next industrial revolution. He believes smart, connected products will transform competition; the implications are profound and no industry is immune. Christensen, the foremost authority on innovation, continues to prove his work is more than theory, but a guide for innovating and disrupting in any industry. His framework offers a unique lens for understanding and addressing many of society’s most pressing problems – namely, health care and education.

The point is this: business school curricula and its teachers are important. They offer much more than concepts and conjectures. Not every MBA will conquer the world, but they have the potential to influence it. They are taught to think differently about management and business, and that knowledge is powerful if practically applied in today’s always changing world of technology, cultures and markets.