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Shaping Management Thought

The pandemic accelerated the challenge of maintaining relevancy while creating employability for professional education institutes. Dr Vishal Talwar, the newly appointed Director of the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, speaks to BW Businessworld about taking on this challenge, industry partnerships and prioritising student engagement

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Vishal Talwar began his career in marketing, going from advertising to automotive, before pursuing his PhD from Manchester Business School.  His academic career also began in marketing, with research being at the core of his work. Wanting to be part of the startup world, Talwar returned to India to be part of the nation’s institution building. Having held titles such as Dean and Director of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, his predominant role at IMT Ghaziabad in his own words is, to “work with people and help them reach their aspirations and dreams”. Talwar aims to ensure the right kind of dynamic learning environment is created and bring focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Future of Work Has Changed

“Work is going in very different directions, contributed by technological change during the pandemic. Covid however, accelerated the changes that were already in motion. Any professionally-oriented higher education institute has seen an increase in competition, from the graduate job market to education fees,” says Talwar. This has required a lot of recalibration that includes questioning the relevance of the curriculum, the approach taken to learning, unlearning and relearning new habits and techniques. Similarly, the business world has also had to recalibrate itself, advantages have turned into disadvantages, and vice versa.

“This has greatly impacted management education. Students want to return to the classroom, but the bigger question here is – what will they be returning to? For one year now everything has been online. Hybrid learning is here to stay, to what degree it will be implemented remains to be seen,” comments Talwar.

Skills for the 21st Century

The IMT Ghaziabad Director believes that students need to be taught a certain set of skills  like  problem-solving, problem identification, creativity, communication, ambidexterity, mental strength . The change comes in accordance with how the skills are learnt and subsequently applied.

“Decisions that used to be made in boardrooms are now being made in living rooms across the world. The nature and style of leadership have changed, one needs to know how to manage teams online and in physical workplaces. Processes such as tracking automation, overseeing projects and employee engagement, etc. have changed the management landscape,” he says.

Collaboration With Industry

Shaping business thought cannot be done in isolation. The strategies, conversations and what is taught in the classroom should not be limited to looking at the industry as a way to fulfil one’s placement cycle. It’s not sustainable, especially in this climate and environment.  

People are becoming more demanding, and that indicates that educational institutions have to be able to engage more with the industry in various formats.

Working with industries right now is more about internships and final placement, whereas it needs to be focused on engagement and collaboration.  

“It is equally essential for the curriculum to be co-created with the industry. The industry should know what is being taught in the classroom and then guide institutes on the relevance of that information. There needs to be an open dialogue between both boards for collaboration to succeed,” says Talwar, adding, “As a higher education institute, IMT Ghaziabad aims to develop a certain experiential learning method that allows industry participation. The focus is on building skill sets in coordination and closely with the industry, to make graduates employable.”

Learning and Placement

IMT Ghaziabad has a strong learning focus, Talwar explains. When trying to maintain a standard, it is not a matter of knowledge dissemination in the classroom but a function of how knowledge is created to be one step ahead in shaping management thought.  To maintain this standard, an institute needs to create a basket of programmes for the new-age nature of management education. This will include major elements of technology learning and orientation towards liberal arts. So while placement is a driving factor and a bidirectional causality, learning is paramount and research is key.

He also delves into distance learning and its various connotations. “In many ways, it refers to the levels of supervision and engagement involved in the learning process. A lot of educational institutes are trying to find ways to personalise education, in which case, distance learning may be beneficial. The pandemic has shown us that distance learning is possible for a large number of students,” he says.

The core idea lies within the consistency of engagement, constant dialogue and continuous guidance. If we can find the right balance of online and physical classes, learning in the right manner with the science behind it, and a certain level of creativity, learning will become beneficial for all.  

Talwar concludes, “Learning is not about what is there in the textbook. Learning is about inspiring and ensuring that you are creating an environment where the student wants to know more.”

Thus the emphasis should be on constantly questioning the relevancy of the curriculum, making sure the curriculum is challenging for the educators and students, and facilitating engagement be it in the classroom or online. 

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Vishal Talwar October Magazine 2021 pandemic management