It gave us immense joy to welcome our consortium partners, our advisory board members, and SOIL alumni to our new campus in Manesar on the 17th and 24th of May, to understand their insights on the future of business and their perspective on how our newly designed curriculum speaks to the changing needs of the industryWe were blessed to interact with and learn from distinguished leaders such as R. Anand, HR Head of HCL, Ashok Ramachandran, Group HR Head of Aditya Birla Group, Sabi Kidwai, Director Learning Solutions of Schneider Electric, Yogi Sriram, HR Head of Larsen and Toubro, Archana Bhaskar, CHRO of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Suresh Tripathi, Vice President HR, Tata Steel, Arun Maira, former member of the Planning Commission of India, and Dr. Indira Parikh, former Founder President of FLAME among others.
We began by asking the industry leaders the following questions:
- How are you reading the future of business?
- What are you paying attention to in today’s fast changing environment?
- How are you preparing your workforce for the future?
- What do you expect from a good business school in developing talent for the future?
The insights that arose from these discussions were thought provoking and further reinforced the foundation on which our curriculum has been designed. The advisory board members, SOIL alumni and SOIL faculty also shared their insights as a response to what they were listening to. The essence of these discussions is as follows:
- Organizations are encouraging a pioneering spirit within the workplace and are working at doing something radically different to stay ahead of the field. Organizations are sensing the need of working towards creating products and services today for the needs of tomorrow.
- Technology is disrupting significantly and rapidly! The road towards digital transformation is a business critical one. Organisations embarking on this journey need to consider how each aspect of their business can be optimized to fulfil new digital objectives and new growth potential. “How do we successfully transform our businesses from traditional to modern?” This is a critical question that organizations are grappling with. Unpredictability is at its peak! Leaders are having to make paradigm shifts, take more risks and continuously try new ways of doing things. It is with this in mind that many organizations are cultivating ‘fail-fast cultures’ that encourage innovation and creativity, and continuous learning. Organizations are looking for futuristic leaders with resilience, agility, the curiosity and capacity to learn new skills, the ability to take risks and the ability to integrate the left and the right brain to solve complex problems and thereby, play an instrumental role in this transformation.
- Customers are becoming increasingly more demanding. It is thus becoming very important for leaders to thoroughly understand their customers so as to adequately meet their expectations. Organizations are incorporating Design Thinking or ‘human centric innovation’ in everything that they do to understand the pain points of stakeholders and satisfy those unmet needs and concerns. For example, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has set up a Design Studio with a focus on human centric innovation. In addition to developing drugs for Cancer, they now also provide a support system to help the patient emotionally and financially, in order to reduce the burden for the patients and their families as much as possible. This calls for leaders with design thinking skills, whole systems thinking and the mindset and ability to look at things differently.
- With rural and sub-urban markets on the rise, the awareness and appreciation of the varying needs and challenges of people from different sociological contexts, and a thorough understanding of ground realities is of prime importance. Specifically in India, people born and brought up in different areas have different beliefs and paradigms which has an impact on their preferences and buying behavior.
- With employees working well beyond 60 and college freshers entering the workforce, it is becoming crucial to understand how to manage a multi-generational workforce and enable them to work effectively together. Roles are becoming more complex and people occupying these roles are younger and less experienced. “So how do we prepare them faster?” Workforce design is key. Hierarchical systems are being abolished to encourage people to go beyond their functional boundaries, and enhance their eagerness to grow not just vertically, but multi-dimensionally.
Each table was then asked to respond to the following questions:
- How is the new curriculum speaking to the changing needs of industry?
- What are some things that you would like us to watch out for?
It was encouraging to learn that our consortium members, advisory board members, and alumni agree that our curriculum is an innovative, forward looking, refreshing, and much-needed change in business education in India!
Our curriculum was appreciated for how comprehensive it is and how well it addresses the future needs of the industry stated above. The participants spoke highly about how our curriculum is designed to create “specialized generalists.” These are people who have an open mind, a multi-disciplinary approach and are capable of rapidly acquiring specialist skills and knowledge in a minimum amount of time. The participants were also very optimistic about the critical skills that the students would learn - observation and listening skills, the humility and willingness to learn, the ability to translate empathy into ideas and the skills of inquiry, experimentation and design - from the rural immersions, the design thinking boot camps and the social innovation program, which are integral parts of the curriculum.
We were was also lucky to get valuable feedback about certain things that we should watch out for. It was suggested that we provide a project mentor to each student that is a subject matter expert in Design Thinking. This mentor would be able to give the students the right direction and thereby, enrich their overall learning experience. Additionally, the industry leaders spoke about certain challenges that they face with fresh b-school graduates, one of them being that they exhibit an aversion to working in rural areas and actually getting their hands dirty. On the other hand, organizations are not only looking for strategic leaders but also leaders who are willing to work at the grass root level. It thus, becomes very important to set the expectations and give the students this exposure early on.
We are extremely grateful for the authentic feedback and the rich and thought-provoking insights that emerged from the discussions, and for everyone who took the time to make these two days a remarkable success!