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BW Businessworld

Time To Adapt Or Fade Away

The concept of ‘Business Studies’ is known to have laid its foundation in the early 1900s. The rationale behind MBA institutions back then was very simple. Well-explained case studies on development and functioning of companies to help students develop an ability to lead an organisation. Alas… there lies the problem; management is not a scientific experiment where one can make a simple statement ceteris paribus i.e., “with everything remaining the same”. But everything never remains the same. One cannot solve the challenges of today by learning scenarios that prevailed decades ago.

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The concept of ‘Business Studies’ is known to have laid its foundation in the early 1900s. The rationale behind MBA institutions back then was very simple. Well-explained case studies on development and functioning of companies to help students develop an ability to lead an organisation. Alas… there lies the problem; management is not a scientific experiment where one can make a simple statement ceteris paribus i.e., “with everything remaining the same”. But everything never remains the same. One cannot solve the challenges of today by learning scenarios that prevailed decades ago.

Another cliché in every case study model is that the “History is written by the victorious”. Today, a good number of people appreciate my endurance for sticking around in the digital marketing industry for 18 years. I love elaborating on my strategic thought process which paved the way for the insight that eventually digital will make it big. However, the objective truth is that if I knew that it was going to take 18 years, I would have thought of considering my family business. An aspiring MBA pursuer might end up waiting for 20 years in an industry, after following my career case study, even after realising there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The key challenge in the mentoring model of MBA institutions is that it encourages herd mentality. In certain cases, colleges do act as a catalyst in one’s career, pushing it to the top of the ladder; but they hardly impart knowledge that would help a person justify a position.

MBA institutions are walking on thin ICE; unless they radically change their approach to application, curriculum and alumni management, 95 per cent of them would cease to exist in the next few decades. We can analyse some of the key paybacks of MBA and how quickly the degree is losing on its assurances.

Alumni Benefits

At one time, the benefits were phenomenal. Even now, if you can call yourself an alumnus of Harvard or IIM, it can yield many treats for you. However, one no longer needs a master’s degree from these institutions to become an alumnus. In some cases, the newly introduced 3-4 week course, which makes a major part of today’s executive education, can also make you an alumnus. On a personal ground, I can say the networks I have been a part of such as Dentsu, Alum of Singularity University, Ted Global, Entrepreneur Organization, YPO, etc. have delivered me more value than the alumni benefits that many of my friends have enjoyed.

Career Growth

There was a time when some organisations accepted MBAs only. Today, to a great extent, performance matters more than education. At iProspect India, digital experience and expertise are preferred to an MBA degree. This is because such skills are scarce in the current employee market. Everyone is equipped with management skills. Strategical and creative approaches are seldom seen in plenty. We value and retain those talents who have the ability to adapt to new learnings and fashion their findings into creative strategies for the clients. I believe that career growth in an individual’s life is about how he or she can sustain enthusiasm towards new propositions.

Getting Placed
Verticals like investment banking and consultancy hire graduates from Ivy League MBA colleges only. This thought process is now undergoing an evolution. Personally, I would prefer an entrepreneur who decisively opted to be employed when he realized his business was sinking. He would have learned by then the practicality and risks involved in running a business. The experience of such an individual comes from his endeavours and not classroom studies.

Now the question is, if MBA as an institution is losing its relevance, what is the reason behind MBA degree holders outperforming non-MBA graduates?
I answered this question a long time ago when someone asked me that if I hold such thoughts then why did I hire graduates from IIM-A. My idea was pretty simple; I hire not because one studied at IIM-A, but because he got in. If one has what it takes to be the smartest in a 1,000, then in spite of an MBA degree, the person has more probability in outperforming the remaining 999. If only I could hire people who are drop outs from IIM-A.

I think it’s high time MBA institutions undergo a series of changes to adapt to current business needs. I believe the first would be a revival in the application procedure, especially for the MBA institutions in India. Currently, shortlisting candidates solely depends on the Common Aptitude Test (CAT). Though personal interview and group discussions follow, CAT forms the base of a student’s goal preparing for a career in management.

The role of MBA institutions is to prepare students for a dynamic environment. Train them to think on their feet and consider solutions by analysing a problem rather than going back to the case studies. The second important focus of these institutions should be on scenario building strategies than industry case studies. This can be achieved if 50 per cent of the courseware is based on conversations with non-academicians. Although time is a big constraint for industry leaders, webinars and Skype calls can to great extent justify the cause.

Another important aspect that needs immediate consideration is the working methodology of alumni groups. They need to perform like a mastermind group which the YPO and Entrepreneurs call forums. A group that has around eight members who belong to eight different academic years of IIM-A can create the best alumni experience ever; provided they carry the conversations in a structured format.

A frog when thrown into boiling water jumps out immediately. But if the water is lukewarm, it stays and eventually boils to death. The water might seem lukewarm to MBA institutions, but they are really put on fire. Hope they realise that the warm temperature that comforts them now, can soon be hot enough to kill them.

The author,Vivek Bhargava, is founder and managing director of iProspect Communicate 2

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 14-12-2015)


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