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New Frontiers For The New IIMs

We do a pretty good job with issues relating to IQ but less well with those relating to EQ – emotional intelligence

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Each new IIM starts with a huge advantage — the opportunity to build on the legacy of quality and accomplishment that the Indian Institutes of Management have established over more than half a century. But this legacy is only the first step. How can the new IIMs break new ground rather than simply replicate what others have already done and how can they differentiate themselves?

When one looks at the ranking lists of top global universities, one discovers that on most of them there are no Indian institutes, yet both Hong Kong and Singapore — much smaller nations — each have several. How can this be possible? The most likely explanation is that an emphasis on research is a key factor if an institute wants to establish an international reputation. The implications are wide-ranging. In recruiting young faculty, the new IIMs must seek out recent doctoral graduates with high potential as researchers and ensure that they are provided with a wide range of support. This would include looking at how faculty workloads are established so that adequate time is allocated for research, as well as  providing seed money grants for research projects, incentives for publications accepted by top tier journals, allowances for attending conferences and similar measures. We also need to look at the involvement of faculty in functions such as Programme Management, Placements, Student Affairs and Admissions. While faculty oversight of these areas may be useful, the actual management and administration of these functions might be better handled by professional staff.

Of course, all IIMs want to give their students a world-class academic experience. But beyond knowledge and facts how do we make their time at IIMs transformational? This is an enormous challenge.  How can we ignite their minds and expand their boundaries? I am reminded of an anecdote told by Sumantra Ghoshal, one of the most esteemed management academics India has ever produced. He contrasted the sweltering heat and humidity that sucked up all his energy on his visits back home to his family in Calcutta with the forest of Fontainebleau near INSEAD where he used to work, where the crispness in the air made him want to run and jump. He used these metaphors to describe how many companies have created downtown Calcutta in summer inside themselves, by focusing on constraints and controls.  The result is a context that stifles the people who work there. The question Ghoshal asks is how to create the Fontainebleau forest inside companies — to encourage an atmosphere of stretch instead of constraint. One could well ask how we can do the same thing in IIMs.

When students graduate from an IIM they need to leave with much more than simply functional knowledge. We do a pretty good job with issues relating to IQ but less well with those relating to EQ — emotional intelligence. We all need to do much more to broaden students’ perspectives, enhance their critical thinking skills and above all, improve their communication skills.  This is notoriously difficult terrain to navigate but the IIMs that find a way to make headway in these areas will certainly set themselves apart from the others.

One of the great advantages of being a new IIM is that there is little risk of becoming complacent — there is always more to build, more to accomplish. The 21st Century holds huge possibilities for India and the new IIMs can play an important role in helping ensure that these possibilities are realised.

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.

Janat Shah

The author is Director, IIM Udaipur

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