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Nurturing Disruptive Thinking In B-Schools

It is imperative for B-Schools to focus on developing a future-ready, resilient and agile workforce

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Over the years, Indian B-Schools have been trying to bridge the skill gap and produce a job ready workforce. However, the socio-economic disruption in the last couple of years has brought the spotlight on making the curriculum more dynamic and relevant to a hyper-connected global market. B-schools are surely making students job ready, but are they making them future-ready beyond early years of their careers? Are they giving them insights into how to build and shape their careers as well as a strong understanding of what a corporate journey is like? The following are my top five recommendations to make the Indian management education more competitive and future-ready.

Challenge the status quo

Stanford professor Scott Sagan once said something that every management student, practitioner, or academician should frame and hang on their favourite wall: “Things that have never happened before happen all the time.” While B-Schools have been doing a phenomenal job of training students on various models of how things work, there is scope for more emphasis on how things can work differently, unlike any precedent in the past.

The habit of thinking without the fear of failure is the stepping stone for innovation that sets businesses apart. B-Schools need to encourage students to always challenge the status quo, and the academic faculty and the pedagogy will need to take the onus for this to happen. The curriculum in itself needs to be progressive and must challenge students to think beyond the realm of possibilities leading to innovation.

Data-driven decision-making

Anybody who is not living under the rock knows data is the currency of a digital world. Today, most digital businesses have access to data like never before. However, the real challenge is to put it into perspective and derive meaningful insights. Future management graduates have the opportunity to move the needle by making extensive use of analytics to make rational decisions.

Today, most B-Schools have a dedicated course on data analytics. However, to fully exploit the potential of this field, it is essential to help students integrate data analytics into every subject. For example, we often believe that data is crucial for sales operations. However, if used really well, it can be equally effective for negotiations, conflict management, or setting up the right teams. The need of the hour is to practice data-driven decision-making right from the B-School classrooms, by equipping students with the necessary tools such as Excel, SPSS, Tableau, Microsoft Power BI etc.

Jack of All wins the game

In today's connected, fast-paced world, good corporate leaders are expected to have the mindset and skills of a general manager who can wear multiple hats instead of being a single domain or function expert. Hence, businesses are increasingly seeking B-School graduates who are go-getters and bring resource fluidity to their teams. To produce a talent pool with cross-functional skills, B-Schools need to acknowledge the changed industry expectations and add more dimensions to their existing curriculum. Even if you work in a particular function like Marketing or HR or Sales, a cross-functional understanding of the business and the business context makes one a more useful resource for the organization. It's not only essential to have a major and one minor specialization but equally important to be able to build a career around both.
 Institutionalize diversity

The importance of a diverse workforce is more pronounced than ever in the corporate world. Having people from various demographic and professional backgrounds, genders, and life experiences ensures that a business has diverse perspectives. B-Schools have the opportunity to be the workshop that breeds a diverse workforce. In addition, having a diverse set of students in B-Schools also helps prepare them to enter the workforce with the right mindset about appreciating, nurturing and growing diversity. It is also important to help students understand how diversity helps them – to understand complementary skill sets, advantages of teamwork and diverse thought, dealing with various ideas and yet avoiding decision paralysis. These need to be explored with students so that they are more prepared to understand, manage and nurture this diversity in the corporate world. Diversity is much beyond and deeper than just gender or disability. It should reflect personal choices, educational backgrounds, experiences, and approaches.
 Encourage the entrepreneurial spirit

B-Schools in India have typically been a place where students are very focused on landing the best job, and these are some of the best minds of our country. The Indian startup ecosystem is booming, and now is the time for this talented lot to think beyond the highest paying job, the consulting role, the FMCG role, the IB role – they must be encouraged to explore the idea of starting up on their own. The college ecosystem needs to be developed to make this happen. We have seen this change happening in some of the prominent engineering colleges of India, and it is high time the B-Schools join the startup bandwagon.

I believe that management education should be about preparing leaders for the future business world. We all know that the future of work will continue to be dictated by a need for critical thinking, entrepreneurial mindset and problem-solving skills. Some of the other key sought-after skills will be self-management with active learning, resilience, and flexibility. Moreover, the future workforce is expected to be diverse in every aspect, cross-cultural and multi-generational. And those who can relate to new technology and the rapidly-changing workplaces are the ones who will remain relevant in the long run. In the end it’s about shaping the mindset of talent to reflect knowledge, skills, leadership, and balance it with a strong emotional quotient along with inculcating a desire to make a significant impact at the workplace.

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.

Amit Malik

Chief People, Operations & Customer Services Officer, Aviva India

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