What should be taught at B-schools

Updated: Jun 30 2014, 20:21pm hrs
EducationAll B-schools should include practice-based learning models to create real-time solutions for problems. (Reuters)
A recent paper Appetitefor MBA Tumbles Down published by Assocham highlighted that only 18% of B-school students were fortunate to get satisfactory placements this year. Then, a decline of 9.5% in 2014 from 8.5% in 2013 was registered for CAT admissions. The economic slowdown, bigger batch sizes and stalling of employment-intensive new projects have contributed to the problem, but the question is whether we are really preparing our B-school students for innovation-led growth and for volatile changes faced by almost every industry Is it still relevant to carry forward the academic-focused curriculum influenced by analytical models and reductionism approach, in order to face the industrial challenges brought by the global financial crisis

Many B-schools are preparing leaders through curriculum straitjackets based on the premise of market equilibrium, which largely ignores the development of professional, managerial and leadership skills. The B-school curriculum theories premised on market equilibrium concepts cannot be supported in the current economic scenario. These pattern and law governed teaching approaches adopted by most B-schools are trying to instil a belief that markets are innately stable and human actions can be anticipated with the help of theories and formulae. Would it be sufficient to teach theories that were evolved in the context that is negligibly similar to the current business scenario and has limited application for strategic success

Vigorous churning of thoughts and questioning the conventional models in the classroom is imperative for B-schools to achieve the innovation-led growth of the organisations. The innovative entrepreneurial ventures are the temples of current economy, which demands that B-schools should teach the art of blending analytical and managerial skills to the future leaders.

To achieve these goals, curricula of B-schools should include social sciences and humanities. Management education, which is criticised on different counts like irrelevant research and failing to produce morally, socially and ethically responsible leaders, needs to emphasise on skills like problem framing, opportunity recognition, experimentation, risk selection, valuation of ideas, revenue model innovation, influence without authority, managing ambiguity, team creativity and adaptive governance. For inculcating these skills in our future business leaders, we need capabilities integrated curriculum, creative teaching approaches and a paradigm shift from departmental silo approach to holistic development approach. To implement capabilities integrated curriculum, emphasis should be given on the integration of concepts across courses rather than within-course disciplinary integration through collaborative teaching in the classroom. For example, the focus of the leadership curriculum should be on teaching the processes to influence without authority and mobilise people to solve problems rather than on discussing conceptual theories.

Industry accepts that B-schools put efforts to augment goal setting, information analysing and technical skills of MBA graduates but criticises that graduates are under-prepared for areas like sharing leadership, multicultural environment, building and running teams, interpersonal skills and global negotiations. This has resulted in a scenario such that industry is not certain that they can get the required well-rounded talent from B-schools.

The role of B-schools is to include practice-based learning models to create real-time solutions for problems. In a nutshell, we need rational reconstruction of B-school curricula through reassessing theories, rethinking the values and redrafting the skills.

Nidhi Maheshwari

The author is professor, Asia-Pacific Institute of Management