10 July 2017 14:54:09 IST

B-School: a crucible for sculpting the five ‘minds’

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Purpose may point you in the right direction but passion will propel you

MBAs know everything but understand nothing - Lee Iacocca

In these times of quick-paced careers and intense competition, it is said that stars are born in business schools. While seeking specialised education, it is important to check the reputation of the business school and the quality of the education imparted. Having said that, the responsibility of an MBA aspirant does not end there. The MBA programme is the ground where one prepares to acquire knowledge, build skills and cultivate traits that would put the B-school student in touch with the people who look out for stars.

In the past, the MBA was a generalist degree — designed just to provide students with a broad grounding in all the key aspects of business. Once inside an organisation, the recruit would go through an induction and orientation period, where they learn the ropes of the business and the nuances of the role assigned. Some organisations even went a step further and assigned a mentor to the new recruit. The mentor would handhold the new employee till such time they were capable of independently discharging responsibilities that entail the specific role.

New approach

In the current fast-paced age, though the purpose of a business school remains the same — which is to train fresh recruits or professionals with reasonable corporate experience — the approach to education is now to put them through an intensive educational programme that will equip the students with specific skills required in the corporate world. The intensive programme, akin to a boot camp, is a comprehensive course comprising theoretical subjects such as finance and marketing, and practical training in the form of internships. After having gone through such a well-planned and structured programme, the MBAs are expected to be able to deliver from day one at the workplace.

Consequently, business schools are also continuously looking for ways to improve pedagogy to enhance students with new sets of skills that will be useful for their career and professional growth. On the other hand, students need to be prepared and work hard to become work-ready on completion of the MBA degree.

Five ‘minds’

We have already seen that older management education models are unsuitable for the current environment, thus calling for the development of new and enduring skills and abilities in students. They need to be prepared to cope with the unpredictable changes they are likely to face in their career.

Howard Gardner, who authored the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, identified five ‘minds’ that are relevant and important for students, particularly management students. Gardner’s framework outlines five minds: disciplined, synthesising, creating, respectful and ethical. The rationale is that students in the future will be operating in a globalised world, both as professionals and citizens, and therefore need to build a range of skills and traits to fit into a multinational and diverse workplace.

Discipline focuses on improving through practice and further developing thought process to become an expert. Technological developments allow easy access to an immense amount of information, so it is vital that one gathers information from diverse and multiple sources and collates it into a coherent and comprehensive whole. A synthesising mind will be perfectly able to do this.

Different minds

A creating mind creates new knowledge, a new way of questioning that leads to meaningful insights and innovation. This is the underpinning aspect of all ‘other minds'. The competency to handle dilemmas and face risks with sound decision making skills — a critical work competency — arises from a creating mind.

The other two minds pertain to relational abilities which are very critical aspects in today's globalised world and the ensuing diversity. Understanding other people’s needs, emotions, motivations, and belief systems is necessary to develop a respectful mindset which, in the B-school context, is crucial to working in a group to avoid conflicts that affect motivation and completion of assignments.

The emphasis on ethical behaviour is critical for the development of future leaders as successful business rests on a sound and robust ethical foundation.

Gardner's framework could be disputed due to certain challenges that may be present in building all five minds. Nevertheless, the framework forms a basis to prepare you to make a positive difference in an increasingly changing and interconnected world.

While cognitive skills are critical for key management aspects such as analytical thinking and decision making, relational skills are equally important in today’s diverse and dynamic work environment.

New environments

Till under graduation, students enjoy a secluded environment. Very few would have left their home to study and entry into a B-school could warrant stay outside of a home environment.

A B-school has a disparate student group comprising graduates with no work experience as well as those who have work experience and have taken a sabbatical to study. This is bound to pose challenges, in terms of staying together or even studying together. Students need to acquire the ability to understand the emotional make-up of other people and gain proficiency in managing relationships, building networks, finding common ground and building rapport.

Since most businesses are organised around teamwork and collaboration, communication abilities need to be honed. An internship, which bridges the gap between theory and hands-on practice, is the most critical part of an MBA degree. By the time the student is ready for an internship, they should have built the necessary skillset that would help them succeed at work.

Choosing to complete a management degree is a wise decision and the right direction to take. However, the focus, discipline, and commitment to excel are the key differentiators between the average and the excellent.

Purpose may point you in the right direction but it’s passion that propels you. Enjoy the learning journey and make the best out of the time and opportunity. In the process try and prove the legendary Lee Iacocca wrong!