Friday, 08 Nov, 1.00 am Cricket

Future of management learning

The world around us is evolving at such a rapid pace that even soothsayers are finding it difficult to predict the future. But, the one thing that we know for certain is - change is inevitable. Well-known physicist Stephen Hawking famously remarked, "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change." What we don't know is what would change and how fast it would occur.

So, let's try to make some sensible guesses. Let's start by picturing the new landscape of jobs. It's common knowledge that we are facing an alarming paradox of high unemployment and talent shortages at the same time. Universities have lagged by not adapting to today's needs and are continuing to impart obsolete skills. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, goes so far as to openly urge students to drop out of universities and opt for the 'school of life'!

Along with human colleagues, we now have machine colleagues. And, guess what? Our machine colleagues are performing much better than us and well on their way to taking over our jobs. They are far more dependable, willing to work 24x7 and at far lower wages. To do the tasks that machines cannot or to even simply use machines more effectively and productively, humans need to upgrade. In other words, moving from the skill of doing to the skill of managing digitisation and this, in my view, is the number one call of the Future of Learning.

Digitization is something business schools need to embed in every subject that is taught. No, it's not simply a matter of adapting to a digital world, but embracing it. Look for technology as your first and best option for precision, impact and lower costs. IoT, AI, Robotics have proven to help humans become more productive and effective. I find the ability of children to pick up and use technology astounding; adults need to make a greater effort.

Personalised learning is the buzzword in education today and gets thrown around a lot. But, the truth is that nobody is really sure of how to personalise. No, personalised learning is not allowing students to pick and choose what they want to study. The answer lies in the style of teaching. A software called MakerMatch can identify learning style preferences - video, audio or text; logic or memory. These can be used by the professor to create a variety of learning materials for students to choose from. Personalised digital tutors have become quite popular too. Imagine having someone solve your queries anytime, anywhere. Isn't that cool?

Integrative Learning will surely give way to the silo approach we have today. There is little value in learning Marketing, Finance or Economics separately. The focus needs to be on combining concepts from different academic disciplines and providing the diversity of knowledge that students need to address global challenges. In an age where single traditional disciplines are seen as 'of the past', inter-disciplinary subjects like Value Creation, New Business Models, Business Ethics, and Problem Solving can equip students with the skills to thrive in our changing world.

Connecting the human brain with computers is a futuristic thought that I want to end with. You may think that this will not happen in your lifetime, but it most certainly will. Start-ups like Neuralink and Braintree are developing next-generation brain implants called Brain-Computer Interfaces or BCIs that will, in just a matter of a few years, give humans unimaginable power. It is honestly, too scary a thought for me to expound on.

One thing is for sure. Management education is not going to die. Like all great things, it will reinvent itself to be in-tune with the talent requirements of the 21st century. Like creating the next generation of value-added business managers who can contribute from day one.

(Author Nitish Jain is President, S P Jain School of Global Management. Views expressed here are personal)

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