Having successfully impressed upon the entire business community the need for ‘vision statements’ and ‘defining their purpose and mission’, it is the business schools themselves who have failed to internalise these ideas and their own management leaves much to be desired.
If one were to use a simple input-process-output model to examine what they do, business schools are unsure about what the input (incoming students) they seek is, what the process they subject this input to is, and what is the output they churn out.
Business schools are unable to articulate, say and implement if they educate, train or facilitate learning among – future managers who would also have leadership and entrepreneurial capabilities; or future leaders who would also have managerial and entrepreneurial capabilities; or future entrepreneurs who would also have leadership and management capabilities; or something else.
Business schools fail to comprehend that their process for teaching and learning is completely different from the processes adopted in other streams of knowledge. Most other streams of education use methods of description and recreation of phenomenon through attempting to describe the how/why of occurrences and then letting the learner recreate the occurrence in the laboratory – thereby generating one’s own data to see if one can arrive at the same descriptions of occurrences leading to acceptable and replicable generalisations about the how/why of such phenomenon. In contrast, business-schools enable learning through ‘mimicry’ of some singular phenomenon. Learners receive descriptions of some episodes with some speculation about how/why of that occurrence. A learner is unable to generate own data to arrive at similar how/why of such phenomenon. No acceptable or replicable generalisations about the how/why of similarly repeating episodes is possible.
Unsure of what output they intend to produce using methods of mimicking, business schools are even unsure of the kind of student they wish to recruit. Business schools are unable to define the prior-learning (both through formal education and through experience) with which their students would come on board for a graduate degree in Business.
Many economic and competitive forces have directly impacted management education institutions during the last two decades or so over which, business schools had little control. Most institutions were far too risk-averse to adequately respond. There should be no doubt that the economic and competitive market in which we all operate has been permanently altered by Covid-19.
The demands of today’s marketplace call for a new set of skills and abilities. In this sense then, business schools must align themselves with an evolving context for leadership, which should be embedded in the curricular and co-curricular experiences of business students. These new models of leadership would be defined by instability, non-repeating and unlikelihood of events.
While ‘change is a constant’ and ‘all management is change-management’ are the clichés, the realisation that in spite of nearly everything changing continuously or discontinuously, human beings are not changing, and hence human needs are not changing, has to sink-in. The needs for survival, safety, affiliation, self-realisation (esteem, cognitive, aesthetic), self-actualization (achievement, accomplishment) and self-transcendence (visionary intuition, altruism, unity consciousness) are the same as they were in the last century. How people connect as informal organisations or formal organisations changes, but why they connect is not changed. Greed and selfishness for power and wealth has not changed, nor has altruism vanished. Right was never the might in human history and there is no change in this facet of civilisation. Might is right as it always was. What constitutes might may change. Means are constantly changing not the ends.
Business schools need to create reciprocal, mutually beneficial collaborations with all kinds of business and non-business organisations in order to prepare today’s students for an economic marketplace that, in many instances, doesn’t yet exist. This reflects an uneasy, but an essential sea-change. Curricula and related activities have historically been the sole domain of the faculty and an extension of the academic enterprise but business schools have to recognise that the curricula and related activities required for succeeding tomorrow is neither their monopoly nor does it probably exist with them.
Business schools have to equally appreciate that access and delivery methods – blended, synchronous, asynchronous, full-time, part-time, virtual or physical are all methods of delivery of knowledge and education. Learning is independent of these methods. Learning has always been blended and facilitated or mediated by multiple actors including peers. Business schools can only design and control the delivery systems but learning is a personal and internal process for an individual learner. Yet, business schools have to bear the responsibility of learning over which they have little control besides being enablers and facilitators. The need for business schools to adapt their approaches, as well as their requisite business and revenue models, to evolving learners’ convenience is imperative.
Near commoditization of the management education industry makes it difficult for all but the most sophisticated consumer to discern the difference between many of the programs offered and the new platforms for delivery. Undifferentiated products and undifferentiated marketing is recipe for failure. The opportunity lies in designing differentiated products for different learners segmented on the basis of differences in their prior learning. Allowing customer-self-selection would provide the benefit of customer preference rather than institutional prescription.
Business schools have to define the input-process-output of their enterprise and these three are the themes for defining the management education sector.
First Published 29 June 2021
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