Learning Specific Skill-Set And Upskilling Efficiency

Dr. Jitin Chaddha, Founder - ISBF, and IIAD Speaks to BW Education

File photo of Dr Jitin Chadha, Founder ISBF

Q. What is your opinion on the role of and scope for Executive Education Programs? Do you think they are here to stay?

Executive Education Programs are filling a new and very important niche in the education sector. They are designed for learning a specific skill-set and upskilling efficiently, to add greater value to one’s work, change business verticals mid-career or for intellectual development and growth. As such, they are availed widely by executives from mid-to-large corporations, and to a lesser degree by entrepreneurs looking to unlock avenues of growth. From a company’s point of view too, they tantamount to investment in human resource training and development and are a good strategy to make employees feel valued and thus help in retaining them.

With the job market evolving rapidly on account of technological change, the need to frequently up-skill and re-skill is greater than ever and likely to grow further. Given the financial responsibilities, time constraints and relatively specific learning needs of people who are already part of an economy’s workforce, executive education programs present a great solution, offering large potential productivity upside without much productivity loss. The scope for these programs thus seems very strong in the coming years. In fact, I too have enrolled for an Executive Education Program – it is offered by Stanford University and has been designed specifically for entrepreneurs. I am really looking forward to it.

Q. What was the reason for you to select Stanford’s Seed Transformation Program (STP)?

Having founded and grown an economics, management and finance college over the last 13 years, and a design school for nearly 4 years now, I was looking for an opportunity to assess our vision and strategy, make improvements with the help of guided introspection and expert insight, and hopefully unlock new growth for both institutions. A friend happened to mention Stanford’s STP to me, and I happened to look it up. Being an intensive program that aims to enable business leaders in emerging economies to create value and shared prosperity, it seemed to fit my need very well. The opportunity to engage with renowned faculty and industry experts from one of the top institutions of the world, as well as that of interacting with fellow entrepreneurs from a range of industries, is also very exciting. All these got me interested in applying for the program.

Q. In your view, how does an Executive Education Program benefit entrepreneurs specifically?

The key to growth is to constantly evolve. Due to lack of time, and because it can be quite lonely at the top in any venture or organization, evolution in the true sense can, however, be quite evasive. An executive education program such as this one solves both these problems beautifully.

Being designed for active entrepreneurs who are looking to scale their organizations, it must, and does, take into account executives’ pressing time constraints. The schedule lasts a year but is intelligently designed, asking entrepreneurs to participate in only four intensive Immersion Weeks, which are complemented by innovative tools such as Leadership Labs and In-Company Workshops, with the common thread of a Transformation Plan running throughout the program.

I believe that such a program can afford entrepreneurs the priceless opportunity to brainstorm, share ideas, exchange notes with and learn new things from “batch-mates”. It also helps one upskill for today’s rapidly changing business environment, strengthen organisational leadership, and transform the value chain one’s organization.

Q. You specifically, how do you think the STP will benefit you as an edupreneur?

I believe the STP program offers a dual benefit for an edupreneur like me. First, it promises to involve deep, hands-on learning about ways to scale the educational institutions I lead, with discussion and brainstorming on a wide array of relevant topics which apply to firms across industries, including education.

And second, being delivered by one of the world’s leading educational institutions, STP also promises to provide me with invaluable insight into areas strategy, leadership, governance, organization design, etc. to help me in scaling up an educational enterprise. Here, I will be able to bring some things to the table from my own experience with my economics, finance and management school – Indian School of Business & Finance (ISBF), as well as with my design school – Indian Institute of Art & Design (IIAD), but I hope to take away much more than I bring! After all, who better than Stanford University, to learn from about higher education?

Q. What was your experience while applying for the Stanford STP? Could you describe the process for future edupreneurs/entrepreneurs?

My experience of applying for the program was quite smooth. Since Seed’s mission is to enable business leaders in developing and emerging countries to lead their regions to greater prosperity, certain socio-economic criteria need to be fulfilled in order for one to be eligible to apply.

An applicant must be a CEO/founder of a for-profit company or social enterprise in East/West/Southern Africa or India, and with annual revenue between 0.15 to 15 million dollars. There are no specific educational requirements for the program, though one should be proficient in English to make the most of it.

All applications can be made online, and require extensive personal and professional information, as well as a personal statement, which is all reviewed by the Admission Committee, in a competitive, rolling admission process. Shortlisted candidates must also go through a vetting process, which involves an interview of the applicant with a Stanford Seed representative followed by an visit to the company and meeting with the senior management.

Q. What are the specific topics related to the business transformation that you hope to learn through the STP?

Each Immersion Week focuses on a transformation touchpoint and discusses topics to flesh out that touchpoint. For instance, in the Build Your Strategy segment, participants will learn about strategy, organization design, leadership and team building, and business models. The Know Your Company segment will focus on topics such as accounting, operations, and value chain innovation, while the segment on Know Your Product & Customers will include topics on product innovation, design thinking, marketing and business ethics. All this is rounded off with discussions on corporate governance, finance, investing, managerial performance evaluation and human resources, in the Immersion Week on Develop Your Growth Plan. Being led by some of the world’s leading business school academicians, I expect these sessions to be very fruitful in helping me build and gain confidence in, a specific skill-set for business transformation.

Q. What are the benefits of the In-Company Workshops that one undertakes in the Stanford STP?

The four In-Company Workshops are a unique aspect of the program. They will be conducted with the leadership teams of the entrepreneur’s organization and will be led by Seed facilitators. Each workshop will follow an Immersion Week and offer the opportunity to translate its learnings into the organizations’ individual contexts. The preparation and post-work around each workshop will enable every entrepreneur/ organization’s team to progressively build the organization’s plan for transforming itself.

This is a great example of how the program’s design and delivery come together to facilitate its learning outcomes, a pedagogical technique known as “constructive alignment”. I am really looking forward to these workshops, and I know the senior management at ISBF and IIAD are too, for the workshops truly embody the spirit of hands-on learning, and represent an opportunity to take time out and systematically plan for the organization’s future.

Q. What inputs do you look to garner from the Leadership Labs?

STP Leadership Labs are facilitated peer-learning groups, and I have high expectations from them. Every 6-8 weeks over the course of the year, the participating business leaders will meet for half a day to discuss the challenges of their respective fields, brainstorm and ideate solutions collectively. The emphasis is on out-of-your-seat, collaborative learning guided by Seed facilitators, who are, of course, industry and entrepreneurship experts themselves.

Embodying the learning-by-doing philosophy, the labs will, towards the end of the 1-year program, be facilitated by the participating business leaders. This will give each one of us the opportunity to practice and test the leadership we learn about.

Q. What strengths does one look to accrue from developing the Transformation Plan for one’s business during the tenure of the STP?

The Transformation Plan is the spine of the STP – it is central to both the name and the aim of the program, and is a thread which weaves together the different workshops, labs, and lectures held throughout the year. It is where all learning outcomes must manifest, in order to achieve the course objective of helping entrepreneurs scale their organizations over the next 3-5 years. Each entrepreneur, along with her/his team works on the plan for the first 9 months, then presents it to gather Seed feedback and finally the last 3-month phase focuses on implementing the plan.

This is invaluable for us because, in the day-to-day working of any organization, one seldom gets a chance or a pretext to sit back and reflect, often due to concerns about the fruitfulness and time opportunity cost of doing so. So at both ISBF and IIAD, we’ve had several discussions in the past few months which have directly or indirectly been about strategy and future planning, but we haven’t formulated one plan based on those discussions, nor have we vetted many of the assumptions that fly around during such discussions. That is why we are seeing the STP’s Transformation Plan as an invaluable opportunity to take stock and plan concertedly for the future, with the guidance and feedback of Seed’s experts and facilitators.

We are even looking forward to internalizing the nuances of making such as plan and learn about different aspects of scaling – market research, funding, product development, marketing and collaboration with other organizations. Eventually, with Stanford Graduate School of Business academicians and expert facilitators helping us develop and implement the Transformation Plan, we hope to make a telling contribution to our organizations as well as to the society and economy they are an integral part of.

Q. How will you organize your schedule to devote time to the Stanford STP while managing your role as an edupreneur?

It is going to be challenging, but since I have planned for it months in advance, I think it should be doable. The senior management at both ISBF and IIAD are experienced in moving things along without my day-to-day involvement, and so that should allow me to devote time, physically but more important mentally, to make the most of this program. Besides, this program is practically an extension of my role as an edupreneur, and should, in fact, help streamline the planning process which has been getting pushed on the back burner for a while now.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'Nov. 20, 2018' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Nov-Dec 2018'

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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