Think beyond business

Santrupt Misra        Print Edition: Oct 28, 2012

Dear Class of 2014,
Heartiest congratulations on finding a place in the competitive world of MBAs . I am sure you put in a lot of yourselves to get here. Sometimes, entry into a reputed institution itself takes so much out of us that some mistakenly think that was the end in itself! I hope you do not make that mistake. You are here for a purpose. Let me for a moment presume that all of you want to be accomplished business and management professionals. As with everything else, this premise should be questioned, but let us take it as a given. If that is so, what do you need to prepare for, and how do you go about the preparation are two invaluable questions you must ask yourselves.

Santrupt Misra, Director, Group HR & CEO, Carbon Black Businesss, Aditya Birla Group
Santrupt Misra, Director, Group HR & CEO, Carbon Black Businesss, Aditya Birla Group
The first thing is to understand as many things as are relevant to us. The institution you are in has a heritage; please understand that. The course curriculum has logic; please understand that. The business organisations interacting with you have certain compulsions, try to understand those. We often know too much and understand too little.

The world of business is getting complex. So better understanding will always help you navigate through it better; anticipate the future and prepare yourselves. I hope you learn to go into the depths of people and problems. Learn to go beyond the data, learn to look beyond the way people look and speak; go into the complexities behind events, initiatives and problems. The world's mediocrity is built on superficiality; I hope you will differentiate yourself by being the one who looked within, around and beyond to learn more.

Knowing does not automatically lead to doing and delivering that knowing. The knowing-doing gap is intermediated by personal leadership built on a distinctive understanding of yourself, where you learn to use your strengths and positive emotions effectively and achieve mastery over your negative emotions and behaviour.

Education is not about lectures, projects, assignments and summer internships. Education is about reflection

One facet of personal leadership is to be able to stand apart from the herd and choose a path for oneself that is not always the most popular or most frequented. The journey alone need not be a lonely journey. Actually, you are accompanied by your sense of purpose, your mission and your passion on such a journey.

Business leadership is not about strategies, models, data and plans. Business leadership is equally about people and their needs as stakeholders in society. No one can be a great leader without having a connect with, and winning the appreciation of, all stakeholders. Find out more about them and find ways of connecting with them.

So how do you do it? Start with yourself: think clearly about who you are, and what you want. If you are not clear, talk to people. Business schools offer unique opportunities to interact with people from many backgrounds. Use that opportunity to think about your future.

Second, use engagement with faculty, visiting faculty, seniors, professional bodies and business forums to broaden your understanding and get a holistic perspective. People can offer you unique insights and experiences. Your own peer group is a very accomplished group. These are successful people who have come together. It would be a pity if you did not leverage the diversity of their perspectives and world view.

Education is not about lectures, projects, assignments and summer internships. Education is about reflection. Summer projects, classrooms and the rest of the transmission mechanisms deliver us data and stimulus for reflection.

Your own thinking creates new meaning out of each of these experiences. Find time to reflect despite your busy social and professional schedule at business school. In the global business world our frames of references have to be larger. As global citizens you need to look at business issues from a global context. It is easy to become narrow specialists in a functional domain or industry sector, or just one more name in a large successful organisation. You need to push the canvas of your framework to see larger interlinkages that play out on a more global level.

Finding local solutions for problems whose roots lie in global forces may just be temporary solutions, without lasting answers. It would be professionally risky not to see the global connect. The digital medium can keep you connected with key actors and players all over the world, helping you acquire a broader understanding.

The world of business is getting complex. So better understanding will always help you navigate through it better; anticipate the future and prepare yourselves

Each presentation you have to make during the course, each project, each essay, each assignment is an opportunity for selfexpression and realising self-worth. These are not chores to be somehow completed. These are opportunities to raise the bar higher, push the standards up and realise the self better. So give your best to these not to get the grades, not to achieve the acclaim or to impress the faculty, but to get the quiet satisfaction of having done something outstanding and creative, far reaching and futuristic. Each of these is an opportunity to be successful every day. It is better to be successful every day than to wait to be successful at the end of an unknown period.

Some had to wait too long and I am sure you do not want to be one of them. When you reach the end of your course, it will be time to make a career decision. Far too many intelligent young people make the mistake of chasing the compensation numbers on offer slips than the substantive promises other alternatives hold. As Henry Longfellow wrote: "Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!"

Lastly, as you go through every day in this journey, remember the sacrifices others have made for you and for your success, and be grateful for the opportunity you have been given that not many have. Make the most of it and good luck.

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