Remaining Relevant in the World Obsessed with Disruption and Obsolescence: Challenge for Business Schools

In formulating strategy, shaping communications and improving their impact in the world, B-Schools, must answer two big questions: “What is important to our domain?” and “What is important to the world?”

B-Schools should ask, “What is important to the world?” And in asking this question, B-Schools must adopt broader timeframes, usually next 10-15 years at the minimum. Any existential challenge for humanity must be among the top priorities for any B-School. No B-School should end up with a short-sighted view of what will challenge its future — its students, its staff, its access to resources, and the societies in which it operates.

B-Schools must always delve deep enough to work with sufficient perspective and avoid serious blind spots. In today’s highly specialized environment, preventing blind spots requires a much broader inquiry. For example, a huge chunk of the value created by sustainability (and a big portion of the entire enterprise value in most sectors) lies in submerged value which normally represents around 80 percent of sustainability’s value contribution — or four times the apparent value. B-Schools should not overlook ‘submerged value’ — the dozens of hidden, unmeasured secondary and tertiary economic gains from sustainable practices, such as voice from their neighbourhoods, former students (alumni) and ex-employees, (willingness to talk to others about the B-School), staff loyalty and engagement, ordinary citizen’s emotional connection and the “clock speed” of innovation and operational improvement.

B-Schools miss dependencies — domino effects that can radically change the answers to the question, “What should this B-School work on?” Many of these dominoes are not immediately obvious. For example, a standard materiality assessment may not uncover the connection between gender inequity and media consumption — or even suggest that such a connection exists. Yet a complete assessment would reveal that, “If someone needs to stay home to care for the family or infirm household members, this will most likely be a girl,” thus preventing her from going to school and exacerbating gender inequity. In this case, day time tv viewing and consumption of media by the younger female audience would go up.

B-Schools miss time delays. Some issues have consequences that are years out but must be worked on far sooner than that. Delays are also frequently overlooked because materiality analysts don’t ask the right questions, such as the obvious: “How soon can our project achieve the desired results?”

[This is based on the results and outcomes delivered by the author as the head of top-ranked business schools, in India (2012-14) and in South Africa (2005-06). In either case, the path to accomplishment had hurdles and speed-resistors set up only by the internal stakeholders due to their inertia in breaking into a run from the usual crawl and their lack of foresight.]

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Published by

Mukul Gupta

*Educator, researcher, author and a friendly contrarian* Professor@MDIGurgaon

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