23 Jun 2021 17:18 IST

Strategies to future-proofing your career at a B-school

Educational institutions play a huge role in shaping business leaders who can take risks and have foresight

The Covid-19 pandemic is a prime example of a VUCA environment — Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. The skills learned and acquired pre-Covid have become redundant, and now need to be replaced by new competencies, both at an individual and at an organisational level. The role of educational institutions in general, and business schools in particular, has become all the more critical to prepare future business leaders and entrepreneurs.

The digitalisation of learning and education is the new normal. Even after Covid, online education and WFH are likely to stay on for longer. People are aware of the present and understand their past, however, they do not know about their future, “the most uncertain unit of time.” In general, there are three rules related to time.

  1. Past success/failure does not guarantee your future success/failure. So one should remain humbly optimistic.
  2. Present offers options related to what one can do or how much effort one can make. So one should take risks and learn new things rather than focusing on outcomes.
  3. The future is uncertain, hence it cannot be fully analysed, however, it can be visualised. So one can learn the art of imagination, visualisation, and foresightedness.

This article is aimed at helping budding managers to become future-ready and suggests how B-schools can help.

Strategic leadership

One of the most important things that business schools can offer include developing leadership competencies and strategic thinking capabilities. A strategic leader demonstrates three virtues — an ability to convert one’s pain and miseries into a meaningful purpose; an ability to convert one’s weakness into strengths; and learning to regulate one’s negative emotions (jealousy and hatred).

B-schools should conduct assignments/projects where students get the opportunity to work on their ‘self’ to develop the much-needed qualities of strategic leadership. For example, according to the Mahabharata, Arjuna learned the art of dancing, during exile, from Gandharva and Chitrasena, who were proficient in music and dance. While Duryodhana lived all his life in the palace preparing himself for the war of Mahabharata.

Mindset

One’s mindset (attitudes, beliefs, and values) is an important resource. What is the messaging for yourself? Besides self introspection, B-school professors should convey to the students that Covid is a great opportunity to work on one’s physical and psychological fitness and help in developing self-belief.

Think long-term

Two to three years of the Covid period is not an end of the world rather one should think about how business organisations will function in the future and what competencies they should need in a student studying in a business school. After Covid, the market will bring tremendous opportunities for those individuals and companies who are optimistic in their outlook.

Delivery over design

B-schools should focus on how lessons are taught rather than what we teach (content). During online classes students’ engagement is a great challenge, hence professors should focus on covering a limited course content but they should try to reach every single student to learn whether they are engaged or not. Professors should facilitate in developing an approach, “Yes, I can do” and “I will be successful in any task”, I am confident about my competencies.”

Keeping calm

Spiritual education is becoming more pivotal in today’s complex and uncertain business environment. Spirituality is not about religion, it is about developing an inner strength to tackle the uncertainties of the future. Covid is a time for “self-reflectiveness, foresightedness and imaginations.” Spiritual orientation can help to break one’s comfort zone, control fears, anger, greed and jealousy, and work towards achieving long-term goals with patience and tolerance, despite failures.

Future belongs to those who are physically fit and mentally alert. Energy is a combination of physical fitness, psychological thoughts, and spiritual inclinations. But energy is the basic unit of life to face any calamity or a difficult situation.

Personality traits

B-schools should asses personality of the students and measure it using parameters such as openness and adaptability, tolerance for ambiguity, locus of control, self-monitoring, well-being, and health. Before their formal education begins at a business school, the personality scores should be shared with all professors and they should help students to develop more desirable personal traits.

For example, personality traits like courage and risk-taking can make students growth-oriented while forgiveness and gratitude can make them forward-looking and humble.

Holistic development

The essence of business education lies in developing an entrepreneurial orientation in students and nurturing socially responsible leaders. Business schools should play a critical role in creating employment opportunities to strengthen the Indian economy.

Top companies should establish incubations and innovation centers on campus. The success of B-schools should be measured by how many jobs they had created and how many entrepreneurs they have nurtured rather than the average salary. The focus should be on students’ holistic development using experiential learning tools such as case studies, community service, and live projects, and imbibing future-ready qualities in them.

(The writer is Professor, Organisational Behavior, MDI Gurgaon.)