Prof Dr. Uday Salunkhe is the Group Director of Prin. L N Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research (now WeSchool). His 20 years of academic experience coupled with his industry experience of over 11 years and Doctorate in “Turnaround Strategies for Sick Companies” has helped him lead WeSchool to be amongst the premier B-schools in India.
Over the last one and a half years, with the pandemic bringing the country to a grinding halt, two significant values have come to the fore: resilience and adaptability. It was amidst this unpredictable chaos when technology and innovation handheld the economy and made it resilient. In the new world, innovation became the key at the micro and macro levels. Keeping this evolved need for innovation in mind, various universities have formed dedicated innovation centres, to foster innovative ways of thinking and to spur students to launch entrepreneurial ventures. Also, they are given real life problems and are asked to develop prototypes to solve those problems.
To elucidate an example of this, WeSchool has The Global Citizen Leader program at The Global Citizen Leader program that is a project-based course on leadership and innovation requires all students to apply future tech in their solutions to company sponsored innovation challenges. This is done via AI and Chat based self-assessment tool, thereby helping in the assessment of each student individually on a set of competencies.
In the post-pandemic era, it was clear that delivering education to students was not enough. Students, teachers, school management and administration all came together to rise to the mounting challenges posed by the novel coronavirus to classroom teaching and learning. Especially, business and management related education underwent exemplary changes, because of which business schools felt the brunt. For a long time, it was a belief that Business schools only produce suit-and-tie stock market-ready graduates. However, after the innovation revolution in the past two years, business schools were also expected to produce graduates who can flourish in an innovation economy. This unusual environment has moulded and inspired several strategies that could help business schools to better define their paths to an innovation-based approach to every problem. Here are a few ways in which B-schools foster innovative thinking amongst students:
Encouraging social involvement:
B-schools affect the broader business world and the management communities and not just the graduates. These institutes can contribute to the crucial agenda of inclusion of society as a whole. Whether it is women, individuals from economically challenged backgrounds, individuals from spatially remote geographies, traditionally discriminated communities, business schools have to make a difference for all these individuals and groups. Therefore, it is vital that developing businesses address specific problems to encourage and actively accelerate their societal impact.
All business-related innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives must aim to ensure that every individual or group should have the access to all the resources and support and build new businesses.
A holistic curriculum:
Earlier, management students were not prepared to manage the challenges of the evolving business world. However, with rapidly changing times, B-schools have shifted the focus to experiential learning, research and innovation have been an essential part of empowering students and employers.
Business schools will have to develop a curriculum with multiple activities like conducting research, design thinking, teaching relevant theories on innovation management, negotiation skills, and exposing the learners to practice. Bundling these activities adds value to business education. Including such tools within their core course offerings will form the essential toolkit for all managers, especially founders/entrepreneurs.
Refining and fostering Ideas:
Further to the changing norms and the growing demand for all-rounders, several business schools have also started prioritising cognitive growth along with theoretical understanding. B-school, these days, tend to have access to ideas, innovations, and research that originates from different disciplines such as medicine, natural sciences, engineering, architecture, design and communication, management studies, humanities, etc. This shuffling of ecosystems allows holistic thinking, integrated approach and cross-pollination of ideas through cross-disciplinary research. Widening the perspective and good ideation processes via hackathons, boot camps, and workshops is vital. Having said that, it is also crucial for an early-stage entrepreneur/management graduate to be guided by experienced and specialist mentors is an invaluable resource.
We in India can take inspiration from B-schools overseas that believe in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across different domains. These institutes have introduced path-breaking initiatives to create specific investment vehicles via alumni and other interested funders while offering an alternate revenue stream for the B-school. For instance, organising unconventional enterprises for alumni who want to switch from corporate roles to entrepreneurship can be led to sustained growth. Since these experienced alumni hold corporate knowledge and skill, they are likely to build businesses around the domain as per their keen understanding. It is businesses/start-ups like these, where the founding teams have domain expertise both theoretically and practically, which attract investors.