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BW Businessworld

What Makes A B-school Tick

The ability to synthesise is very essential. The real world doesn’t have the perfect combination of variables to make the right choice.

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By Ashok Reddy

I went to IIM Bangalore and it is a great place to be ‘at’, and an even better to be ‘from’. That is the power of networks and the association credit the institute provides to its alumni.

I have fond memories of the campus, the seniors, the peers, the juniors, the faculty, the relationships and friendships forged on campus. In a way, they make me the person I am and have helped me on my journey in the professional world.

The world of work is changing by the day and we have many new industries, opportunities and challenges facing those joining the workforce. There is no longer a limitation of an industry, role, region or country for the aspirations of an individual. A specialised course in business administration is supposed to provide a platform and exposure to students that they can use to explore the limits of their career choice on.

Some of the key takeaways after B-school, working in the industry and having been an entrepreneur for the larger part of my career life have been that;

* We need to distinguish between the buildings of an institute and institution building. A B-school is not driven to greatness by pure hardware of large tracts of land and lakhs of square feet of buildings. We had a large campus and great designer buildings, but they were superficial and not what drove the engine of the institute. The focus has to be a lot more on the softer aspects, some of which have been detailed below.

* The curriculum plays a key role in the learning of individuals. That it stays revised and reflects the changing landscape of the industry/economy/world is very essential to ensure the alignment of student output to employability and engagement.

*  The pedagogy and the approach to teaching have to be redefined. Students have to move from rote learning to imbibing the thinking and questioning capability. My first great experience on joining B-school was an open-book and open-time based accounting exam that had only one question. The key was there was no one perfect answer to the question and one had to think the process to work the different potential answers. Marks were awarded to the process rather than the outcome.

* Faculty interactions and dialogues play a key role. The residential programs that have the faculty on campus have a clear advantage of increasing the interactions and engagement between students and teachers. Doing so fosters a continuous learning platform and breaks the barriers of formality and age.

* Industry interface is what carries an institution to the long term. To stay relevant and ensure the employability of individuals, it is essential to absorb from the outside world and give it back as inputs to students. The industry participation through lectures and case studies on campus and outbound activities to companies are very interesting ways to foster engagement.

* The ability to synthesise is very essential. The real world doesn’t have the perfect combination of variables to make the right choice. Most often it is a must make choice of bad or worse options, but the decision has to be made. The ability to pull the available data and make the decision is very important.

* ‘Leaders are not born but made’ is such a truism. Leadership is very situational and the ability of a person to stand up to circumstances and make decisions in a not so perfect world/situation is what really makes a leader by example. Fostering that ability to make decisions and course correct when required is very much the need of the hour. Leaders can be wrong but should not be confused.

* Teach a person that for one to succeed, all others do not have to fail. The aspect of teamwork is very important in the modern day world. In school, teamwork was another term for ‘cheating’; individual brilliance was rewarded. But teamwork, where one complements, supports and works with peers is part of the course in the real world and B-schools need to foster that teamwork.

Self-referential (on size, scale, age and alumni networks) and what athletes call the ‘Fast Track’ (run with people who are at peak performance and you push yourself to do better) are very important for B-schools to grow and become the institution of choice. A lot of the softer aspects that go to make a student more of a thinking, questioning, caring, ethical, team player and a willing learner are what stand out in the long haul of an institution. They enable an individual to make choices, create careers, become entrepreneurs and enhance the image of the institute.

I sincerely hope that we are not creating entitled students because of where they are from, but contributing team players because of the platform that has been provided. The canvas is large and you are what you make yourself to be. Institutes should provide the framework and scaffolding for success and the students need to build on this opening balance.

The author, Ashok Reddy, is co-founder and managing director of TeamLease

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

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