Being at an IIM isnt all that romantic

Updated: Nov 19 2005, 07:28am hrs
Graduating from one of the finest business schools in the country is a high point for most IIM alumni and so has it been for me. Entering and sustaining at the IIM-Ahmedabad is a steady flow of blood, sweat and, of course, tears!

Churning out business leaders with buzzing minds and great ideas year on year is no small feat, and the IIM to me was a fantastic experience that offered wide ranging multi-cultural and multi-dimensional knowledge across various subjects.

One of the most important things I derived from the IIM was that there will never be a time when you know enough to manage a business. In the dynamic work environments with growing economies, emerging businesses and budding entrepreneurs, there is always plenty more to learn and assimilate.

Personally, a key take-away from the IIM is a hunger to constantly study and rediscover newer and finer aspects and applications of business skills, irrespective of whether one is a student or a manager.

Being at a B-school isnt all that romantic though. No doubt there is a lot that you learn, but there are an equal number of skills that a B-school cannot teach you. A business school can impart training in managerial skills but cannot inculcate an appreciation for the emotional quotient that is becoming increasingly important in todays multi-faceted business environment. Application of theoretical learning and engaging soft managerial skills like leadership, team play, corporate and business ethics, etc are still perhaps undervalued.

This is significant for todays business leaders, especially when there is a tremendous increase in business and cultural interface outside of the Indian milieu.

The institute gives you a great theoretical sense of the business world. But if your target is to be an ace manager, it makes better sense to enroll in a business school after some relevant work experience. The IIM is a cauldron of aces in their respective fields pursuing a common academic goal. Relevant work experience and interaction with the finest professionals who are now aspiring MBAs, make the learning at an IIM a richer and more fulfilling experience. It will offer you an opportunity to compare what you are learning in a B-school with real life scenarios and thus, come up with more innovative business solutions or managerial philosophies. As they say, there is no substitute for hands-on experience.

Most aspiring MBAs are progressively realising this and it is quite evident in the fact that the percentage of candidates with work experience pursuing MBA degrees is steadily increasing over the years.

The two years at IIM teach you discipline and persistence alongside a wider general management perspective. The institutes not only offer a great environment but help build long-lasting networking relationships as the students see each other at their best and worst situations. It helps them develop a tremendous amount of confidence with a reasonably strong international perspective and enables them to do justice to the best and most respected placements. The case-study-based teaching methods deserve a special mention as against theoretical knowledge. It encourages students to develop application-oriented thinking, especially when no given case study has a standard solution.

Perhaps, the only missing pieces are risk-taking abilities, softer managerial skills and a fired up imagination that is most important to a real business scenario. It is important for IIM students to reinvent their perspectives on what a B-school can teach you; as also for the institutes to manage expectations and reinvent the system to suit the changing needs of a business environment in India and abroad.

Today, IIM graduates are taking on non-conventional roles with some preferring an entrepreneurial role against managerial positions in MNCs. This, to me, heralds the second coming of business leaders from IIMs in the 21st century.

The author is managing director, The Walt Disney Company India