By Prof. Vijay Page
"The Best lesson anyone can learn from business schools is an awareness of what it can't teach you-all the ins and outs"
Mark H. McCormack
Wharton, Harvard, North-Western and other top schools ….. all of their programmes serve up the same MBA meal. Only the spices and presentations of the business banquets vary. Steven Silbiger
Universally, the B-schools have been credited with delivering learning systems to provide the knowledge base and critical insights in trade, industry and business. Though rather harshly put by, Steven Silbiger above, most of them offer apparently similar content. Model building, case studies; role-play, scenario building, simulations, business games, etc. are used to make the process more dynamic and wholesome. Continuous dialogue and interaction are encouraged between the students and industry to develop familiarity with real life situations as well as networking. There is also an increasing emphasis on building competencies, so as to develop managers who can deliver. The aim is to minimise the corporate time and cost involved in internships and on-the-job training to shape their graduates conform to the highest standards of professionalism. A pipe dream or an empty slogan, is it?
The high expectations of industry obviously put great strain on students at the B-schools. In a matter of three or four short semesters they have to master the fundamentals of management as well as develop the art of relating the teachings to meet the business challenges. Thus, they have to be levitated beyond the cram-and-download syndrome. Past habit has to give way to understanding, experiencing and self-actualisation of the management inputs. However, by the time they have analysed and measured up to the complexities, they are often confronted with a paradigm shift caused by the unpredictable forces of the elusive market. This dynamism and volatility necessitate continuous modification and retooling of standard business applications. New formulae and innovative solutions have to be evolved and offered to students so as to smoothen their ultimate transition to professionalism.
Thus, the pursuit of innovation and creativity at the B-schools is neither a relic of the romantic era nor a revival of the renaissance art form. It is a strategic response to the yearnings of the learners who are craving to seek their chosen place in management arena. Their struggle to attract the attention of the industry for giving them an opportunity to display their wares motivates them to develop their creative instincts. Sooner than later, they realise the leverage offered by the power of innovation and the fruits of such labour. Probably unknowingly, by sheer coincidence, the poetic fancy of the Bard may have rightly summed up, Innovation and Creativity, as a bliss which,
Droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest
It blesseth him that gives & him that takes.
It is an attribute to God himself.
An earthly power doth then showest like God's
When Creativity seasons Innovation*
It certainly needs more input, a touch of earthly wisdom and realism to convert an idea into a concrete product or service. Even the process of scaling up a pilot to commercial reality is long and arduous. Moreover, the process of market acceptance and dominance is still more complicated and distant. Mass communication and media are continuously kept on the boil through such unique interventions. The task of empowering the students to develop this capability is the critical challenge of management education.
Therefore the B-schools have the unenviable task of shaping the students to compose unheard melodies, dispel doubts and uncertainty to ride the phantom of competition. They have to generate the passion for excellence to trigger the creative processes of the students. This necessitates building up of a dynamic learning platform where one has to 'keep running to be at the same place'. A whole new genre of management has therefore been scripted, where 'A' stands for 'Attitude', 'B' for 'Basics' in management and 'C' for 'Creativity.' The rich rewards/enticements/accolades showered by industry on fresh management graduates, is proof enough of the success achieved by some B-schools in such effort.
However despite achieving the synergistic combination of the forces of creativity/innovation/passion in the B-school grads, there is an element of loss of confidence or self-doubt at both the poles. The employer and the prospective employee often find themselves separated by a chasm of uncertainty, owing to lack of mutual faith. While the former may doubt the latter's capacity to stand up to the challenge of the market, the latter may be put off by the stringent corporate performance nor In either case, this mutual ambivalence vitiates the spirit and faith at the 'temple of learning'. Frustrations apart, the lowering of morale causes a far deeper hurt and trauma than one can imagine. Therefore besides the strengthening of the knowledge base, there is a great need to shore up the mind power of the students to meet the business challenges.
At MET, we believe that in order to develop the capacity of the students to break through the barriers of self doubt and faint heart, we have to look beyond the syllabus and the confines of the campus. This is facilitated, on the one hand, by developing sensitivity of the students towards the plight of the poor and deprived segments of our society, with students proactively undertaking social work programmes. Their first hand exposure to the ground realities of the masses lends an extra edge to the learning. MET students have been involved in implementing a tribal development programme near Vasai (Dist. Thane) in participation with a local NGO. This sensitivity generated a spontaneous response when the Tsunami tragedy struck the south Indian coast. They rushed to wipe the tears of victims – a break from the Ostrich syndrome.
Ultimately it is all in the mind they say, as the practice of yoga helps our students leverage pranah to achieve energy balance through meditation. Besides stress release and rejuvenation of the body, it provides holistic development of a mature mind. The emphasis here is not on rituals and the mechanics, but one of enlightenment and empowering. As we have observed, with enlightenment comes the broadening of the thought process encompassing not mere communities and corporates. But it helps develop the horizontal and lateral view of business, as promoted by De Bono.
This has taken our students to work with the United Nations ECOSOC partnership for implementing a unique "Paperless Committee Project" during the past three years. As we hold a Special Consultative Status with the UNECOSOC, we have been humbled by their unstinted praise and accolades showered on our students at the UN. While the UN partnership continues with over two dozen students donning the internship colours, we have been the welcome guests of the Chinese SEZs players. During the last three years student-faculty missions have been launched for studying the metamorphic growth in China and we have received exchange visits from the Chinese players. All this has certainly broadened our student's vision and understanding of the global scenario.
In conclusion, I would humbly submit that the march to professionalism could be best described as a journey where success lies in seeking knowledge with passion while applying it with compassion and commitment. It is our endeavor to stand up to the divine message of Swami Vivekananda who exhorted our nation a century ago with the call,
Awake, Arise, Stop not till the goal is reached!
Uttishstha, Jagrita, Aggresar!
(* With due to the adaptation of Merchant of Venice)