A Case For A Relook

The need of the hour is designing a curriculum for students operating in industry 4.0.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to start the social networking site. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to start the social networking site.

And this is my story too. A student in a dorm room, connecting one community at a time, and keeping at it until one day we can connect the whole world, said Facebook Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard.

Dell founder and CEO, Michael Dell, managed to convince his parents and dropped out of the University of Texas, Austin, to pursue his business ideas. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates also dropped out to start their iconic companies. All these stories have some common factors - a powerful vision, strong empathy to bring a change in some aspects of human life and the spirit of innovation that leads to solutions with huge impact.

The B-school agenda must mull over this - what is more important in life, getting into a school or graduating from it? Are we bringing value to B-school students? A very senior official from GMAC told me several companies often explored whether they should recruit based on GMAT scores alone. The winning B-schools of tomorrow must sensitise their students to the challenges in life and society, and inspire them to come up with innovative solutions to bring about an exponential transformation over the traditional way of thinking and doing. Maybe a drone-driven supply chain or a driverless autonomous vehicle run on solar energy. Today's jobs are no longer linear!

While comparing the top 10 global companies in terms of market capitalisation over the last one decade, one would see the entry of new digital companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook) into this elite league. They have grown exponentially on a platform momentum that redefines the dynamics of competition, from competition between two companies to competition between their respective ecosystems.

B-schools are facing the danger of being left out in such Alibaba moments. The World Economic Forum, in its recent report on The Future of Jobs, states, "the fourth industrial revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as AI and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labor markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape."

NASSCOM has also listed a set of new technology skills and job roles on a similar line. It means each service and job will need a new skill set every four-five years and new technology and business rules will force a student to change career five-six times in 30 years. Job losses will happen. Automation will happen. The need of the hour is designing a curriculum for students operating in industry 4.0.

The focus must shift from an attractive pay package for a conventional operations management role to a role where one can contribute to a business ecosystem, charting out innovative solutions to business problems. Going forward, an MBA student will look at a business education that prepares him to understand a problem, analyse associated data and build an algorithm-driven model to find an innovative solution, resulting in a high-impact outcome.

Recently, I had multiple interactions with top B-school deans and directors in the US and Europe and gained interesting insights on curriculum reboot and how they foresee the shape of business education going forward. An interesting insight that struck me is that aspirants worldwide are increasingly giving more value to globally accepted accreditations like AACSB or EQUIS compared to the job opportunities on graduation. Is this an outcome of the changing nature of careers? Is professional success increasingly getting integrated with the ability to keep pace with global trends? Both business schools and aspirants need to understand this reality and prepare themselves for new challenges. Even the leading schools of our times will cease to be relevant if they do not gear up to address this new phenomenon.

The writer is Director, IFIM Business School