What Does ‘Post-digital Era’ Hold for MBAs?


The ‘post digital era’, according to a 2013 Deloitte report, is characterized by ubiquitous technology with IT infiltrating businesses \beyond mere functional aspects, to the level of their very existence making innovation key to survival. What does such a scenario hold for MBAs.

Innovation is the key to survival, according to experts. Under such circumstances, business schools also have to change with the times, giving more importance to innovation.

Thus, it is no wonder that Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business appointed Betsy Ziegler as its first Chief Innovation Officer last year. She quotes an IBM education survey to say that more than half of the participant academic and industry leaders felt that today’s higher education fails to meet the needs of students and 60% were of the opinion that it fails to meet the needs of industry.

Meanwhile, a recent analysis of around 500 business schools in the US revealed that MBA tuition fees were rising at a faster rate (plus 4.5% per year on average) than post-MBA salary (plus 1.6%). A GMAC survey noted that 53% of the 2-year MBA programs in the US saw a drop in the number of applications received compared to the previous year.

In such a situation, innovation plays a key role in ensuring that business schools cater to a market defined by “instant, pervasive access to goods and services, tailored to individual needs, often facilitated by asset sharing and distributed supply chains,” Ziegler says. This, is an on-demand economy which alters traditional learning as well as corporate environments and markets, increasing the speed at which business schools must innovate.

The most successful schools are those that are proactive, experiment, and take risks to fulfil their purpose of equipping the next generation of leaders with the skills they will need. Thus, business schools must stay abreast of trends in business, in order to innovate around the changing needs of the market, she says.

Ziegler is of the opinion that business schools must practice what they preach and teach. In effect, it means, “exploring greater use of technologies and data analytics that allow for mass personalization of academic programs; studying a growing number of alternative pathways to help people build skills and obtain jobs and examining opportunities to collaborate among institutions.”

She says at Kellogg, the curriculum has been modified to be more cross-functional, based on the idea that business problems are rarely, if ever, one-dimensional. The aim is to bridge traditional subject areas (marketing, finance, etc.) with the skills Kellogg has identified as essential for an MBA’s future success: Innovation, collaboration, customer service and public-private interface.

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The idea behind these four lenses is that they provide a way for students, faculty and the school’s partners to look at business problems in a more multifaceted way, while integrating thinking from across academic departments to address emerging business problems in new ways.

For example, as part of the Kellogg Markets and Customers Initiative, Kellogg has partnered with other schools at Northwestern to form a collaborative, cross-disciplinary investigation into the subject of trust, a line of inquiry that has gained a great amount of currency across both business and society in recent years.

While industry is promoting innovation with creative approaches to growth and product development, such as by externalizing R&D functions, supporting startups and starting venture funds, business schools are also looking for collaboration with corporate partners.(Image Source:Flicker.com)


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