Future Ready Management Education

The era of economic liberalization also saw a growing demand for management knowledge and education and the mushrooming of B-schools across India. From IIMs to private schools in large and tier-2 cities, we today have a little over three thousand Institutions catering to this growing demand. As per AICTE, the accrediting body that oversees the quality of management education in India, more than 240,000 students had enrolled themselves in 20-21. The number of students who got placements in the same year was around 92,000 with an average annual salary varying from INR two lakhs to thirty-two lakhs. The B-Schools charge course fees varying between twenty-five thousand to twenty-five lakh rupees annually. Current trends continue to indicate that management education will be sought after, and many young people will opt for careers driven by a gradually resurging economy in India.

With the country making a gradual recovery from COVID, this may be the opportune time to reassess the role of professional managers and the repository of skills they require to operate in a rapidly evolving world that is both complex and filled with uncertainty. This will not only mean a rethinking on how management education should look like but also the role that Institutions like AICTE need to play in shaping B-Schools to deliver future ready managers for a New India.

Lessons learned from global experiences over the last two years clearly indicate the need for and importance of leadership. It is the organizations and countries that had leaders who showed courage, humility, resilience, agility, adaptiveness, and the willingness to learn that managed the crisis reasonably well. Preparing the next gen of business leaders should draw inspiration from these success stories and the management curriculum should be embedded with the skillsets that made this happen along with what has been taught traditionally.

Essentially B-Schools should start to look beyond the traditional definitions and go beyond the intuitive understanding of management. They need to create disruptive thinkers who are willing to venture out into the real world with the courage to create and the confidence to accept failures thrown at them. Endowing them with the ability to handle both technical and adaptive problems that modern day existence brings in its wake will be a critical skillset. Students and educators should understand that management and leadership education is a lifelong process and goes beyond any two-year curriculum. What is needed is the drive to be a lifelong learner ready to experiment all the time and willing to pepper one’s personal requirements with a heavy dose of societal relevance.

As newer economic models emerge, business will now be forced to rediscover themselves. One can no longer use words like ‘triple bottom lines’ as mere fashion statements. Market pressures will force these companies to embrace sustainability as a lived experience. Operating and driving these eco-systems will require a new generation of business leaders who are socially conspicuous, environmentally sensitive, humane, and intellectually vibrant. They need to balance these concerns while not losing sight of their bottom lines. COVID has also shown how sectoral boundaries are more administrative than functional. It has also brought out the need for individuals who are conversant with how government and civil society groups operate. All this requires people who have the mindset for collaborative work and the skillset to manage relationships with diverse stakeholders.

B-schools will need faculty who not only teach innovation but are innovative in their teaching methods too. Case teaching can no longer be a mere post-mortem of events that happened in the past but needs to gravitate to newer methods like ‘case-in-point’ where the students and the ecosystems in which they live and operate provide the necessary case material . Students will need immersive learning experiences and schools will have to design and run ‘Studios & Case labs’ where subjects like Design thinking and Systems Approaches are absorbed rather than merely taught.

Internships need to now be carefully crafted to give students a real-world experience where they not only get exposed to what works but also provide the companies insights into what the students bring to the table. Capstones will have to be planned, driven and co-owned by both companies and schools to ensure maximum learning for the students. Emerging concepts like the ‘for-benefit economy’, ‘Hybrid organizations’ and ‘Social stock exchange’ have to be an integral part of the curriculum.

The emerging new world order requires a new generation of business leaders with the heart to feel, the head to think and the hands to act. What is needed are leaders who can operate both from their zones of competence as well as their incompetence. This new generation will be the ones that will not only have the courage to join hands to dream about the five trillion-dollar economy but make it happen keeping in mind the commitment made by Prime Minister Modi at the COP 26 summit recently.

(Dr R Balasubramaniam is a visiting faculty at Cornell University, USA and at IIT-Delhi. He is also the Member-HR at the Capacity Building Commission, Govt of India. _

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