Will B-school teachers rise to the challenge?

S. Raghuraman and V. Anantha Nageswaran in this piece argues for revisiting education at B-schools. They are Professor and Dean respectively at IFMR Graduate School of Business, Krea University.

Today, the world that management graduates step into is increasingly, to borrow the military expression, VUCA—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The dots that need connecting have increased exponentially. Issues that were non-existent a few years back are heated topics of discussion in boardrooms today.

For instance, Google’s issues with data privacy are no longer just a ‘customer’ issue. The contours of this problem touch multiple uncharted areas: contested definitions of privacy, what constitutes ethical use of data, regulatory oversight of data usage and storage. A map to navigate terrains like these, which are what the future holds, does not exist. It has to be created.

Current business education provides useful tools to grapple with these issues, but most of the financial, organizational and strategic frameworks are, as an Aspen Institute report (Charting a new course for next-generation business leaders, 2018) pointed out, tied to the logic of the marketplace and typically short-term oriented.

A typical case study that is used in business schools would describe the organization, the problem situation, and financial and non-financial data relevant to the situation. It would expect the students to arrive at a decision that would help the shareholder maximize value.

No doubt, it helps to sharpen analytical skills. However, for the wicked problems we face today there is a need to go beyond. Maybe, question what shareholder value is and at whose expense is it maximized, how might this solution look for a different stakeholder, does the solution have within it seeds for future problems and how to connect or contextualize the current solution in the light of learning from other subjects.

…..

The eternal perception war of the superiority of ‘hard’ courses (for example, quantitative or mathematical) versus the ‘soft’ ones will be an obstacle. Consilience is going to be hard but it is inevitable and, importantly, it is desirable. If students have to be taught how to think holistically and how to connect the dots, teachers need to be able to do both well and be comfortable doing so. Co-teaching—and that just does not mean dividing the course between two teachers—is the best way to set an example to students.

Changing our own belief structures is a critical prerequisite to changing the institution’s belief structure. All change must start from within to have a lasting impact.

Hmm..

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