18 Feb 2020 17:10 IST

Business education should break free of old model, says IIM-K Director

Speaking at an IFIM B-School conclave, Debashis Chatterjee said students should be emotionally literate

Management education needs to be liberated from the teaching methods of the past, said Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM Kozhikode, speaking at the inaugural of an international conclave on learning ecosystems, organised by IFIM Business School, Bengaluru, to commemorate 25 years of its founding. Business school graduates will be solving fewer technical problems and more adaptive ones, and they will have to contend with a wide range of workplace options and uncertainties in the VUCA world, he said. “Nothing in an MBA class teaches them to be emotionally literate,” he added.

Prof Chatterjee said it’s no surprise that the biggest draw for recruiters are the PPE (politics, philosophy, economics) graduates of Oxford and Harvard as they are more adaptive and flexible at looking at problems. “The focus of management education today is too narrow and the messaging too linear,” said Prof Chatterjee. He said the priority is to break free from the ‘engineering’ model of management, complete with algorithm spread sheets and killer apps and move “towards unscripted real-world challenges that concern us as human beings.”

Emphasising that management education should move on a path towards liberalism, he said, “We need to unlock the MBA curriculum from the determinism of the scientific method to the freedom of liberal enquiry. Liberal education in management is not a self-indulgent luxury nor an ivory tower experiment as recruiters are competing to hire skills of creativity, listening empathy and vision. Liberal education is the response to future, not past challenges.”

“Education of the heart will be critical in a world of profound interconnectedness. Buddhivritti and hridayavritti have go in tandem. Students need to develop relational competencies and be aware of the interconnection of self, others and larger systems,” emphasised Prof Chatterjee. He said that the idea of management as liberal thought is nothing new, quoting Peter Drucker, who wrote in 1988: “Management deals with people, their values, their growth and development — in short, management deals with humanity, human productivity and human response. Human beings are the source of management. AI, analytics are just resources.”

Creative and empathetic

Earlier in his talk, Prof Chatterjee said that 21st century learning is not about transferring data from one head to many heads, as is done now, but from many hubs to more hubs. “Learning is now a function of flextime, not a class period. Technology has enabled learning to spread from hardware to software and now to everywhere,” he said.

“Our processes are still 20th century; learners of that century cannot be prepared for the 21st century if our learning ecosystems remain confined to a static classroom. We need creative, collaborative, empathetic experimenters,” he said.

Elaborating, he said: “We cannot teach students to be creative if we give them standardised tests and curriculum as the basis of their learnability; we cannot help students to collaborate by putting them in competing categories by marks and remarks, and by awarding individual gold medals; we cannot make them empathetic by focusing primarily on their cognitive rather than their social and emotional capabilities; we cannot promote the spirit of experimentation by punishing failures and giving away gold medals for success.”