Q. Please shed some light on the status of management education in India.
A. Not just in India but globally, people are asking “What has management education done?” The meltdown in the United States and Europe and the corporate governance structure etc., is making people question the purpose of management education.
Q. Would the introduction of courses such as Business Ethics help?
A. Let’s talk about the whole pedagogical issue. In my opinion the objective of all the management institutions is not to teach finance, operations, marketing etc., but to groom business leaders. What you find is that the focus is on creating people for the marketing job, the finance job, the operations job etc., so somewhere the main objective is lost.
The whole business paradigm is always that - begin with the end in mind. Leadership you can never be taught by the Harvard methodology of case (analysis). The case methodology is designed to heighten your analytical and problem solving power, but nothing beyond.
Q. What is leadership according to you?
A. Leadership is not just the power of mind but the power of values, emotionality and connectedness and these things are not taught in any management school. First a person must have coherence and integration within himself. When we talk about coherence at the self level, we talk about coherence amongst purpose, philosophy, values, attitude, and action.
Q. Do you think our education is disintegrated?
A. When we talk about the admission test, most of it deals with mathematics and if a person is an engineer, he is preferred. This means that if you are good in mathematics, then you are a good leader! Even if you see the articles penned by many management professors, they have so much mathematics involved, that you wonder if it is about mathematics or marketing, finance or operations.
Q. So you think there is a change required in our management professors?
A. There is a very powerful statement by Swami Vivekananda, “Thought without action doesn’t have any value and action without thought is a futile exercise.” What kind of action competency have the management professors got?
It is the case of the blind leading the blind. Those who have not managed anything in their life, they are teaching management. The Chinese used to say, a king must be a poet, a philosopher, of an artistic temperament and must be a highly-evolved person, the training used to be very holistic. What is holistic in management education? Teaching is very concept-centric, it is not issue-centric. It is idea-centric but not strategy-centric. We need to look at it like engineering and medicine which can’t be taught without a lab. We need an action lab here also.
Q. What kind of an action lab do you propose?
A. First of all, 50% of the professors must have some kind of action background. If we cannot get such practitioners to join as professors. At least 50% of every course should be taught by the practitioners so that we have a symbiosis of ideas and action. When MBA students join the corporate world, they have had practical training only for a month or two, which means that they are not trained in the practical world.
Secondly, when the professors are writing, can they write a bit more about the case studies and not cases? Can they also go and spend some time in the corporate world and learn about the corporate world? Engineering is the extension of physics, so practice is the extension of theory. But in management, theory is the extension of practice. All theories discussed in management, are the outcome of the practices, they must understand what these practices are.
Also, whatever (that is wrong) has happened in the western world, it has been due to incentives. Because the moment you incentivise the CEO’s salary, you really bring in the worker’s mindset. That is why in the mind of the CEO, whether it is Lehman Brothers or others, there is a vested interest in fudging data. Last but not the least, B-Schools should tell the students that we are not in the business of placing you. So many students join the school not for knowledge, acquiring skill and developing a competency, but just for placements. So their choice of school is based on the compensation package and not for the quality of education or to make a difference.