Leonard A. Schlesinger, President, Babson College talks to Ashish Kumar of 4Ps B&M about the changing face of business education

How has the post Lehman era impacted teaching methodologies in business schools globally?

For us, it is a recognition that we have hit a dead end with respect to some analytical tools and approaches that we’ve been extensively using. The problems are substantially more complex now. There is a high amount of uncertainty in the business world and we probably need to acknowledge the fact that things are not going to be normal anytime sooner. So, in this kind of an environment, there are natural limitations to the power of sitting down and thinking about something that you possibly know. What we are now doing, is building the capacity for people to be able to take smart actions in the face of tough times, to understand what they want, to figure out the first step and to scrutinise their actions in order to improve. So what you are seeing is that institutions like Babson which are recognised among the world’s best in building entrepreneurial capabilities are now beginning to lead the way in introducing substantially more action oriented methodologies which build upon decades of experience and bring out real projects, real businesses and real start-ups.

Nowadays, corporations have started introducing their own customised business training modules for students. Do you think that this trend can be a real game changer?
This might probably be something new in India, but back home in the US, this has been going on for decades now. I see this as a way of deep collaboration between the industry and teaching institutes. This is a win-win situation for all stakeholders, and results in education that is contemporary and need based rather than theoretic.

What has been the impact of technology on the way lessons are delivered at B-schools?
The most significant impact that technology has made is that it has reoriented B-school education from faculty centric teaching to student centric learning in a variety of ways. In a traditional classroom based environment, the ability to use videos from archives enriches the total experience in ways that you could have never imagined. On the other hand, the fully online oriented programs that focus on cognition and basic skills are proving to be of very high quality and often superior when you compare them with the traditional ways of conducting the same programs. Add to all this the ability of building adaptive learning modules using technology which will accept you irrespective of your progress in the learning process. It is simply radical.

What sort of challenges does a typical management graduate face compared to his decade-old counterpart?
The nature of challenges is not all that different. A decade back, most MBA graduates preferred a career in finance. The lustre for the same has now been diminishing on a global scale for quite some time. The biggest challenge for students now is to understand and realise the fact that they themselves are the architect of their careers.

There have been reports from all over the world about a number of business schools shutting down [in recent times]. Is management education becoming irrelevant?

There is absolutely no problem in finding students for high quality business schools anywhere in the world. These reports refer to average institutes. Business education has got enough takers and that’s how it’s going to be in the future as well.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2012

An Initiative of IIPMMalay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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