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BW Businessworld

Change Mindset, Attitudes, & Organisational Culture

Design the workplace so that employees are motivated to engage in evidence-based decision making, find synergies between human and machine intelligence, leverage the deluge of digital data available

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It is increasingly becoming fashionable to challenge the relevance of a B-school education. A flurry of articles from The Wall Street Journal to The Economist has asked if going to a B-school is a worthwhile investment. My answer is yes, but with a critical qualification. B-school curricula must change. They need to teach and infuse students the new narrative of business, where ‘strategy’ and ‘digital’ are inextricably intertwined, and digital transformation is the end-game.  

What is a digital transformation? Researchers and executives commonly define it as a fundamental change in the strategy, business model, tactics and operations of an organisation constructed around and enabled by the power of digital technologies. But success also requires recognising something nuanced about digital transformation.

Think about successful digital transformation as a function of the trifecta of people, process and technology. Industries and their players need B-schools to produce leaders to shepherd a buy-in among stakeholders and a grasp of information technology as a strategic and competitive differentiator. This is the essential transformation. It’s through a change in mindset, attitudes, and organisational culture – a vital willingness to adapt and innovate technology. That’s what we must teach.

To ‘go digital’ further means shifting to take advantage of the array of new capabilities that information technology and data offer. Design the workplace so that employees are motivated to engage in evidence-based decision making, find synergies between human and machine intelligence, leverage the deluge of digital data available.

Therein lies a significant payoff for companies. A case in point: India. You need to look no further than the subhead of McKinsey’s 2019 “Digital India” report: “Indian consumers have strongly embraced digital technologies. Now India’s companies must follow suit.” This reality raises the stakes for B-schools. Leaders in the rising generation must come to us for their first lessons in strategy, change management and data-informed decision making. These future executives will realise, through what we teach at B-school, that understanding the capabilities of technology and how to successfully incorporate them into a company’s DNA, in and of itself, is not enough. Further, to realise competitive advantage through digital transformation, they must understand the ways technology can generate new products and services, build stronger customer relationships, change the business model to enable greater efficiencies or reach new markets.

At Maryland Smith, MBA courses in strategic and transformational IT prepare emerging leaders to grasp how, why and where to infuse technology into business processes. In addition, traditional functional area courses in marketing and finance, take deep dives into topics such as digital marketing and fintech, as does the core course on strategy. The curriculum, especially, stands to impact industries such as retail and financial services – both early adopters of, and commonly associated with, digital technology. But there’s another, newer adopter to pay attention to: healthcare. Digital transformation in this field goes back less than two decades but the industry has been on the cusp of exciting outcomes in terms of patient safety, quality and cost. My executive MBA students constantly marvel at the opportunities for achieving truly significant gains through digital technologies, data and health analytics, across the entire ecosystem of industry players, including insurance providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals and physician offices.     

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Ritu Agarwal

The author is Interim Dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

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