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BW Businessworld

Going Beyond The Chatter

As we usher in the industrial revolution 4.0, it will be the quality of questions that will separate the men from the boys

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There is no disputing the fact that India is churning out MBAs faster than Donald Trump’s tweets. Invariably, quality is being sacrificed at the altar of ‘mass produced’ management graduates passing out of self-laudatory institutions in droves, reminiscent of cars rolling off assembly lines. Lulled into a false sense of complacency and lured by the prospect of fat paychecks, our greenhorn MBAs step into the echelons of corporate world only to discover that the rat race is not just a figure of speech.

Confounded by the daunting realities of a cut-throat business landscape, freshly-minted MBAs are often found wanting in application of their theoretical knowledge. It makes one wonder whether two years of formal business education has even altered their outlook towards business events that are unfurling around them. It is the worst kept secret that our bludgeoning professional education system is struggling to produce young adults ready for the future. It comes as no surprise when HR leaders voice concerns on the paucity of ‘plug-and-play’ talent available in campuses. Our nature of work places us in a vantage point of witnessing the dearth of employable MBAs and the sentiment is echoed by the B-school directors, faculty and HR chieftains that I regularly interact with.

It is evident how we lost the plot when students are saddled with a pedagogy that focuses on teaching rather than learning. The generation gap between teachers and students has never been more amplified than in this Google-era where information is available on fingertips. The teaching fraternity has not been able to embrace the changing world order and that is the reason disruptive new-age educational startups have caught the fancy of students and investors alike. However, in view of my own experience as a guest lecturer across B-schools in India, Dubai and Singapore, I can absolve teachers of the blame as the increasing number of students in every class, coupled with modest salaries, goes a long way in ensuring that the noble profession remains a thankless one.

The dichotomy of information overload yet precious little awareness is akin to social media where, so much chatter happens, but not enough discussion takes place. The seamless transition from information to knowledge to wisdom is the singular malaise that is plaguing B-schools today, and it needs to be nipped in the bud before it’s too late. Curiosity is abundantly present in kids, yet something lost by the time they step out college. As we usher in the Industrial Revolution 4.0 characterised by AI, IoT and machine learning, it will be the quality of questions that will separate the men from the boys.

The solution lies in broadening students’ perspectives and equipping them with the necessary orientation to contextualise theoretical knowledge at the workplace. It is time to revisit the basic virtue that is not extolled enough in B-schools; read the daily newspaper. We have designed a curriculum titled Business Affairs wherein we conduct bi-monthly sessions for students to discuss, debate and deconstruct learnings acquired from business events that have captured headlines in the preceding fortnight. The objective is to facilitate students to apply management principles to real life business situations. The course helps take dreary frameworks and unfathomable jargon out of the HR, Economics, Finance and Marketing tomes and replaces them with conceptual clarity, discernible observations and experiential learning. The simple act of voraciously consuming topical news will hold MBAs in good stead as they embark upon a life of continuous learning.

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.

Advait Kurlekar

The author is CEO, Upohan Management Consultants. He also teaches in business schools

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