Navigate World Of Uncertainties – With Life Projects

To swiftly embrace the changes and adapt to changing times, new skill sets are needed amongst students today.

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Saurabh was happy to be placed in his dream company-Airtel. His joy knew no bounds when he came running to us to break the news of having cracked the job. He joined Airtel and called us up a month later with much more zest in his voice, an unmatched fervor in his tenor, and he went at length expressing his gratitude to us for having sent him on a Live Project to Reliance to study the Jio disruption. A student expressing gratitude is a little unusual these days, but Saurabh indeed did-the simple reason being we were able to align the Live Project with his area of professional interest. We did not do wonders as a mentor- I only helped him enter the crazy world of VUCA with the help of the live project.

 A trendy management acronym VUCA - “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity” conflates the new challenges present today, and the B-school has to adapt itself to prepare the graduates to confront these challenges and think and strategise to sustain themselves and have competitive edge. In the event of ever increasing stakeholders’ expectations and rapid pace of change, B-schools today realized that they need to equip their students to navigate a world fraught with uncertainties and have to take them beyond classroom.

To swiftly embrace the changes and adapt to changing times, new skill sets are needed amongst students today. Current crop of B-school graduates at times are rejected by corporates stating they are unemployable. An ASSOCHAM 2016 study on employability states that only 7% of management graduates are ‘meaningfully’ employable in corporates.  Rest of them earn a meagre 8000 – 10,000 per month and that too on non-managerial jobs. Obviously enough, the education that they had enrolled for could not translate into a ‘meaningful and relevant’ job for them. But the moot question is, why? Is there a dearth of good MBA programs? Is a good MBA program failing at transferring the right mix of attitude and skill sets in the incumbent? There are reasons galore but what remains undisputed is a bare fact that there is unpreparedness in management students in dealing with an unpredictable world.

A handful of  management institutions today have realized that having mere ‘content’ does not suffice in the real world. Being able to appreciate the ‘context’ is equally important. ‘Context’ cannot be sacrificed at the altar of content, especially when recruiters are exerting the need for ‘job ready’ recruits. It’s here that Live Projects become a B-school necessity and reality. A traditional B-school pedagogy emphasizes on case studies, which has some parallel to a real life business problem, the students empathize with the protagonist and propose the solution. Simulations too can come to the rescue of B-schools but teaching students with simulated reality has its own set of constraints. They need to feel the ‘real reality’.

Having taught students for years now, we can vouch for including live company projects in the courses we teach. These live projects are different from summer internship programs. Live projects to enhance Design Skills includes organizing events and trainings like Pearson School Fairs, Book my Show – IPL promotion, Induction Training Design at Radisson. Management skills enhancing projects include client communication work like Dealer Development for OPPL lighting, Delivery Management for Coke vendors, and Critical skills projects focusing on learning lessons and drawing future inferences from the same.

An experiment strikes my mind, wherein the course can traverse across two trimesters. One trimester dedicated to address the need for ‘content’ and the following trimester to address the need for ‘context’. All the concepts go in the first term and all the live projects follow in the consequent term. Under these projects, real work is assigned by the company to the students and they are linked to a specific course. Neharika and Prerna were working on live project of Nestle Maggi, where they had to create and influence more vendors to buy Maggi from company and sell to customers. They believe, this project actually helped them to align their learnings from Sales Management course and it also developed collaborative, participative, problem solving skills, time management, professionalism, and soft skills among them and they realized the value of these skills.

 There shall surely be some initial challenges and inertia for both the students and faculty. The response from industry may also be lukewarm and unwelcoming. But, once tried with integrity and zest, we are sure that the experiment shall bear fruits and go a long way in yielding a breed of attitudinally, conceptually and contextually sound managers’.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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