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B-schools and Business

Anupriyo Mallick |

Over the past hundred years, business has transformed the world. It has been a driving force in shaping society and the catalyst behind extraordinary economic growth and opportunity.

Effective management of business has spurred the creation of jobs, the generation of wealth and access to opportunity for an increasingly diverse population.

Management education has produced leaders capable of creating effective organisations that are the core of these profound global achievements.

The complexities that global competition has unfolded have thrown up new challenges that threaten the very survival of many organisations and has rendered the current business scenario into an Olympics event, where only the fittest survive.

Business literature is full of articles that centre on whether business schools are producing MBAs in line with the needs of the business community. Some authors have expressed concern over the mismatch between the needs of industry and business school programmes.

Others have taken a serious view of the curriculum and teaching in the MBA programmes. Yet others have highlighted the skill requirements as areas of concern.

The world of business has redefined itself over the past two decades. Such changes have necessitated a change in the skills required of leaders. Given the relationship between management education and the business world, market forces such as globalisation, technology revolution and workplace requirements influence business education significantly.

The stakes are huge given that corporations and education institutions spend almost a combined $ 2.5 trillion on management education and training worldwide.

The tremendous impact that management education can create is true in the Indian context as this country is becoming an integral part of a globalised business agenda. Hence, Indian business schools need to be provided with the right direction to remain relevant.

The main purpose of MBA programmes across the world is to provide their students with the knowledge and skills required to function in this complex world of changing business dynamics.

MBA education must of necessity combine incisive knowledge of basic disciplines with the tacit knowledge that comes with practice. Many B-schools cater to this complexity by designing their curricula and teaching methods.

Various teaching methods like learning by teaching (lectures, case discussions), learning by doing (projects as part of courses and real life projects with industry) and learning by experience (workshops, international study projects) are common elements of top business school pedagogy. Along with this, a strong curriculum that is relevant to industry is expected to provide key inputs to MBA graduates.

The MBA programme also provides a strong platform for a change in the orientation of its students who not only acquire knowledge and skills but also understand the importance of attitudes in managerial life.

Successful students of management education acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes that enhance and enrich their lives and enable them to make meaningful contributions to their organisations.

In turn, organisations that are successful in meeting their objectives become enormous assets to society, fostering greater productivity and a more desirable quality of life. Thus, the value of management education is three-fold ~ to individuals, to organisations and to society.

India is becoming increasingly relevant in the global business space and will need managers and leaders adept in working and living in a global world. There is going to be a continuous change in the current chaotic business environment as a result of which more and more corporate leaders should be prepared to absorb and handle change, striking a balance with business and society. The occasion is right for India to rise and meet the growing demand for qualified managerial persons.

When foreign countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan and many European countries will have what they call a ‘wrinkling population’, India will emerge strong with a ‘twinkling population.’

The country’s demographic dividend with an estimated 600 million people below the age of 25 will be the global sourcing hub for human resources. The role of management education in grooming future leaders is hence very critical.

The success of any academic institution lies in its willingness to act as a learning partner along with the industry. This will give them the tools to ensure competence and an optimal portfolio of knowledge and skills.

The fundamental duty of the B-school is to impart relevant learning to its students and thereby add value. This value has to be high enough to meet the expectations of corporate enterprises.

Once a B-school understands the needs of business, it has to be suitably competent to teach its students what the business needs. In other words, it should have the right mix of knowledge and expertise among its faculty members, and this must be strongly backed by pedagogical skills. This should go beyond the traditional requirements of research and publications.

There are three important gaps that need to be addressed to ensure that MBA education is in the right direction. They are: Relevance gap, Delivery gap and the Policy gap. The purpose of any B-school is to ensure that gaps in each of these are addressed and hence the aggregate gap is reduced.

The relevance gap is the difference between the needs of the industry / ‘corporate clients’ and what the B-schools deliver. The delivery gap deals with the competence within the B-school framework to handle the MBA programme which predominantly lies with the faculty and their abilities to understand, conceptualise and deliver the needs of business education using proper pedagogy.

The policy gap is an enabler for B-schools to reduce the relevance and delivery gap. This is essential in the light of a rigid system that has no scope for innovation in curriculum design. The delivery gap may be minimum, but with a huge policy gap that widens the relevance gap, the MBA education offered will still be poor.

According to management professionals, the role of business schools is extremely important in shaping talent and developing future business leaders.

At the same time, management education has been criticised by the business world for not adequately aligning itself with the expectations of the industry that recruit or engage MBA graduates.

When business schools produce graduates who are unsure of the primary objective of business, how can a corporate enterprise survive in today’s globally competitive world? This gap between business and B-schools can be reduced only if the B-schools understand the needs of industry.

The triple value of MBA education coupled with the three-dimensional gaps make a strong academic-industry symbiosis imperative to push the frontiers of policy-making into progressive terrains. MBA education cannot afford to limp with a “best foot forward syndrome’’. It needs to leap with a “both feet jump syndrome’’ to address the policy slumber.

The writer is with the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM), Kolkata.