The World Development Report 2019, of which a draft has now been placed in the public domain, is focussing on ‘The Changing Nature of Work’ and contains some uncomfortable truths.
It is true that in some advanced economies and middle-income countries manufacturing jobs are being lost to automation. Workers involved in routine tasks that can be “coded to machine language” are most vulnerable to replacement. However, technology provides opportunities to create new jobs, increase productivity, and deliver effective public services. Through innovation, technology generates new sectors or tasks. The forces of automation and innovation will shape employment in the future.
Innovations are changing the basis of competition in many markets. This is also changing the business-critical roles — jobs which enable businesses to be differentiated for their competitors and deliver success while executing the business strategy. Businesses will be forced to rethink the talent they will need to play these business-critical roles in the future.
Investing in human capital is the priority to make the most of this evolving economic opportunity. Three types of skills are increasingly important in labour markets: advanced cognitive skills (such as complex problem-solving), socio-behavioural skills (like team work), and skill-combinations that are predictive of adaptability (e.g., reasoning, self-efficacy). Building these skills requires strong human capital foundations and lifelong learning.
For business schools, the implications are huge. If these changes are to take place in less than a decade, the challenge for business schools is to develop courses, programmes and initiatives that will align with business needs. Following decades of enthusiastic support, business schools now find themselves under attack for being irrelevant, inconsequential or of little real value in developing business leaders who can make a difference.
India’s complex economic environment, rising social expectations and fluctuating ideological shifts in the political space coupled with changes in student demands, technological advances and a cumbersome regulatory environment, and it’s clear that business schools are hard-pressed to structure a coherent formula to address all of this. Understanding the role of artificial intelligence in the future of work and creating flexible options for students with careers is not easy and makes the task of developing courses that adapt for these rapidly changing demands is daunting.
By positioning themselves as a partner for inclusive development, business schools could enhance their social licence among citizens and societal stakeholders. The business community views some of the business schools, unfortunately only a few of them, as beacons of excellence. A concentrated, coherent and thoughtful engagement with society and the business community could yield favourable results. Other challenge includes dealing with the “commoditisation” of management education through “Micro-specialised-Masters” supposedly designed to address “specific” needs. Unless business schools manage costs in a leaner way, adopt more efficient delivery models, examine educational-tourism as a potentially lucrative revenue stream and form strategic collaborations, they will find it harder to fashion a winning strategy to address the long-term needs of business.
Expect the ‘pecking-order’ and the face of business schools to look very different indeed by 2028.
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