10 Jun 2017 19:05 IST

Getting back to the basics

Success always requires a strong foundation; that can be built only on basics

Some recent interactions with management students led to alarm bells ringing in my mind. Among the memorable ones were:

~ During a discussion about marketing, the terms ‘ATL’ and ‘BTL’ was used. Most of the students did not even know the what the terms ATL (above-the-line) or BTL (below-the-line) stood for, let alone their meaning.

~ In another discussion pertaining to the budget, I asked the students for their opinion on the revised income tax rates and whether it would have any impact on the consumption economy. The majority in that group had no idea about the budget proposals and consequently, did not know the changes in the personal income tax rates.

~ During another interaction, a question about space utilisation came up and I asked the group how many centimeters were there in one foot. Not one had the vaguest idea, not even an approximate answer! I am sure that the reader would now open a search engine to find the answer because most people will not know this.

Strong foundation

There are several similar instances which come to mind and they are a cause of serious concern. On one hand, the typical management student studies multiple subjects and that too in a trimester format — these are learnt in a hectic manner. Apart from this, the fundamental lack of self-learning leads to a situation where basics are falling by the way side.

Unless you are from an engineering background, students often fine it extremely difficult to do simple arithmetic sums without the help of calculators. What’s worse is sometimes even the ones with an engineering background fail in this aspect.

Time and energy is channelled towards learning topics and subjects while the basics are being neglected. This is not a healthy trend. For example, take the process of constructing a building. Such an approach is similar to trying to build the first floor without laying a strong foundation or building a proper ground floor. Although the second floor design might be excellent, the lack of adequate support will render it unstable.

The reality is that such basics are what will be of the most use in the initial years of your career. During this phase, the focus would be on execution, for which and the basics are essential. If there isn’t a focus on the basics , how can any management student be efficient in the initial phase of their career?

Without detracting the importance of the loftier subjects, like strategy, mergers, digital marketing, and the like, I would urge you to get back to the basics and relearn them, if required. A simple way to do that would be to take the textbooks of any high school student studying in the commerce stream and reading through the books. Another way would be to interact with people from the industry, especially those who are in frontline execution roles.

Success always requires a strong foundation and that can only be built on the basics.

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