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BW Businessworld

Reimagining The Business School Of Future

Focusing only on technology as an agent of change but missing out on the human resource development and management will create a society that will never be able to build inclusivity and happiness

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The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new — Socrates Reimagining the business school of future is closely linked with the reimagining of business, society and environment of the future. The future of these lie at the intersection of humanity and technology. The analogy of the current scenario can be compared to a nonlinear dynamic system. Whether the system is stable or chaotic depends upon the number of variables and whether they are linear or non-linear variables operating within or outside the system. The B-schools have become like the chaotic environment — their systems will have to display greater agility and adaptability in terms of designing and delivering its curriculum, bringing in new subjects, weeding out the old and irrelevant ones, developing new pedagogical tools, tackle faculty knowledge and technological obsolescence, ensure student engagement amidst reducing attention spans and so on, in order to tackle the uncertainty and instability. The education sector and especially B-schools are no longer insulated from change in the business environment and society. Each B-school will have to define its purpose and the problems it is trying to solve / find solutions for and how closely is it networked with all its stakeholders, especially the industry. 

B-schools of the future

The B-schools of the future will have to work under the new concepts and variables like “Bridgital” (bridging people with technology — a concept developed by Tata Group Chairman N. Chandrasekharan and Roopa Purushothaman, Chief Economist and Head of Policy Advocacy at Tata Sons), “Phygital” (bringing the physical and digital spaces together — concept stated by Future Group founder Kishore Biyani), “Slowbalisation” (as enumerated in by Kumar Mangalam Birla, Head of Aditya Birla Group), Reach (of the B-school — local vs regional vs global), Medium (of delivery of knowledge — online classes vs face-to face-lectures ), Niche vs Umbrella Management Programmes, Employability Focus vs Imparting Knowledge, Time Period of the Programme (long vs short duration programmes), Inclusive vs Elitist education, Rote vs Experiential Learning, role of faculty as enablers of knowledge or mentors, research focus of the faculty to create new knowledge, micro segmentation of the consumers, flexibility of entry and exit points in the education system rather than an assembly line methodology, modularity in learning, inter disciplinary and multi-disciplinary learning opportunities, fulfilling new regulatory requirements, etc. 

In the context of the education sector and especially when reimagining the Bschools of the future, I am reminded of the concept of the Abilene Paradox, which essentially says that a group takes a collective decision in spite of the individual group members not being in favour of it personally. A common phrase relating to the Abilene Paradox is a desire not to ‘rock the boat’ or ‘maintain status quo’, even though the decision under consideration should ideally be different. The fact remains that everyone agrees that B-schools need to reimagine their future and act accordingly, but in reality there may be resistance to change and getting out of the comfort zone of familiar routines, outdated knowledge concepts and conducting usual activities. 

The interconnectedness of life and living, animate and inanimate objects, rural and urban population, different income strata of the population, physical and digital divide has never been so starkly revealed as in the post-Covid world. The pivot of change and integration has to perforce be built around the UN enlisted Sustainability Development Goals of hunger and poverty eradication, to clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, peace and justice, strong institutions, and partnerships to achieve goals and so on. Business and business education have to be centered around and aligned to these goals. The old world came to an abrupt end in the beginning of 2020 — it is now time to relook at conducting business and business education with a new vision and objective.  

Holistic education

At KJ Somaiya Institute of Management, Somaiya Vidyavihar University, we endeavour to give 360-degree holistic education — we focus a lot on experiential learnings, simulations, holistic self-management, yoga, technology led subjects like Bloomberg and Media analytics, sports, business analytics, data science & technology subjects, apart from the regular chalk and talk routine. The institute has also launched two multidisciplinary full-time MBA programmes in Healthcare Management (Batch 2018 onwards) and Sports Management (Batch 2020 onwards), apart from an exclusive MBA in HR (Batch 2020 onwards). The institute has truly evolved offering as it does sector specific MBA programmes in international business, retail management, financial services, integrated marketing communications, reflecting the growing employment opportunities in these sectors. 

Focusing only on technology as an agent of change but missing out on the human resource development and management will create a society that will never be able to build inclusivity and happiness. Some of the ideals of humaneness, kindness, gratitude, care, collective vision and leadership are timeless fundamentals and still relevant today, and need to be taught in depth in the B-schools. This is also the reason why quotes of thinkers and philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle are relevant even today. As Aristotle stated many ages ago that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. 

Let us reimagine the future B-school built on the principles of inclusivity, humaneness and technology to create symbiotic ecosystems with the industry, society and environment.