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BW Businessworld

Understanding Gen Z Key To Managing Change

The B-schools of tomorrow may need to define Connect 2.0…real-time…sustained connect. As the students who are groomed on business acumen at a B-school step into the corporate world, is there a way to sustain the connect beyond alumni connects?

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As we all know, business schools have played a pivotal role in defining the corporate world as we know it today. Hence, it will be interesting to share my thoughts on how they can continue to play that role as the world evolves to a new reality.

Outsourcing of yesterday is now the automation of today and tomorrow. The way we look at economics is changing rapidly as even the roles at organizations are evolving into new ones.  For example, one of my HR colleagues was recently cribbing (in a lighter vein) that one cannot even copy paste and modify a JD that was used even a year or two ago.

There are many roads and confusing directions. But at the same time, there are immense opportunities we have seen. Ola, Uber, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, etc., are companies which are into businesses that no one really imagined could exist…and we are to see much more.

The Gen Z are the early starters as they believe that formal education is not the only way to get good learnings. They are truly global and more influenced by their global peers than any other generation. Interestingly, they are on the one hand very tech-savvy but unlike the Gen Y who discovered the joys of social media. The Gen Z are born to it and hence understand its pros and cons. To put it the other way, they are virtually connected with peers and keen to collaborate…
Talking about disruptive forces, yes! the world is increasingly becoming automated with artificial intelligence taking away many mundane jobs. But that does not scare the Gen Z. In fact, they may place more trust in devices than people because devices have been their first and best friend. So we do not really need to teach them how to survive in an AI automated world…they can teach us that.

Second, VUCA (the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world is a challenge and an opportunity. We have to keep pace with the volatility, we (business schools and corporates together) need to coach our students to be versatile. To manage to sustain themselves and not burn out in an uncertain world, the students need to know how to be dispassionately passionate. They need to develop empathy for human beings beyond the virtual connect because that’s how they will have an edge over an artificially intelligent being in solving complex problems. Finally, to fight the ambiguity, they need to be quick to take action

Please note that three out of these four skills are related to EQ and not IQ and the last one is about Execution Quotient. Do we (business schools and organisations) need to re-evaluate how much importance we give to EQ and XQ vs IQ?

In the VUCA world, the biggest challenge is execution because of the very large number of variables. For example, in the telly calling space, because the world is VUCA, they need to practice execution and we need to see how the B-schools can help test and build their execution IQ because ideas and strategy are not enough.

Finally, the B-schools of tomorrow may need to define Connect 2.0…real-time…sustained connect. As the students who are groomed on business acumen at a B-school step into the corporate world, is there a way to sustain the connect beyond alumni connects? The reason is that the first few years are the toughest. They are handling all the variables we did and the new variables transforming the industry.

Equally as corporates how can we begin the connect early and begin introducing them to real variables even as they are beginning to learn new concepts at B-school?

As they say in Game of Thrones, words are wind. So from my end, I make a small commitment as a first step. I commit at this forum one hour a week to coach/mentor B-school students, four a month. I know the numbers may be small but I am hoping that if the idea has merit, many more leaders may pick it up. If not, we will explore new ways.

I want to conclude by paying tribute to the outstanding work that B-schools have done through decades in shaping the lives of many of us and my core submissions through this presentation is that as we prepare for the future let’s recognize but not be limited by the glitzy big changes of AI, machine learning, blockchain, 3D printing, etc. Let’s focus together as organisations and B-schools on the basics, on truly understanding Gen Z, and readying them from an EQ and XQ lens. As long as these are in place, we should be able to match the pace of change, no matter how fast, and lead the next curve together!

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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Sankalp Potbhare

The author is Managing Director, South Asia, The Kraft Heinz Company

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