Adapt to new world of busi­ness or risk cri­sis

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THE Mas­ter of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion ( MBA) de­gree is at risk of be­com­ing ob­so­lete un­less it adapts to ad­dress the new chal­lenges busi­nesses face, re­searchers warn.

In­ter­na­tional busi­ness school IMD MBA pro­gram di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor Martha Maznevski says the MBA needs to be re­struc­tured to match the needs of the new, com­plex en­vi­ron­ment in which busi­nesses op­er­ate.

‘‘We must em­brace the same level of com­plex­ity within our schools as we see in the en­vi­ron­ment and we must learn to open our­selves up as real cases and ex­am­ples,’’ she says.

‘‘Much has been said about the role of greed in cre­at­ing our re­cent fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

‘‘ But most man­agers were sim­ply un­pre­pared to an­tic­i­pate the im­pact of their de­ci­sions in a more com­plex world.’’

In to­day’s world, learn­ing use­ful skills that ‘‘stick’’ and lead to ef­fec­tive per­for­mance and lead­er­ship is best done on the job, she says.

‘‘To cre­ate tacit knowl­edge, you need ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ she says.

‘‘For ex­ec­u­tive de­vel­op­ment, com­pa­nies are mov­ing ac­tively back to the old no­tions of ap­pren­tice­ship and men­tor­ship.’’

Jodie Mur­phy, who stud­ied her MBA through SA’s Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment branch, says the course helped her in her new po­si­tion as HR man­ager at Next Gen­er­a­tion Clubs.

‘‘One of the rea­sons I se­lected the course was the ex­pe­ri­ence it gives,’’ she says.

‘‘The ma­jor­ity of the lec­tur­ers are from the in­dus­try.’’

She agrees with the no­tion that peo­ple learn a lot from work ex­pe­ri­ence, rather than just the the­ory work.

‘‘I’ve been able to ap­ply what I learnt into the work­place,’’ she says.

Prof Maznevski says the re­search should not be taken at face value, how­ever, be­cause not ev­ery man­ager with ex­pe­ri­ence is ef­fec­tive.

‘‘If it were just about ex­pe­ri­ence, then ev­ery man­ager with ex­pe­ri­ence would be able to lead in com­plex­ity. And we know that is not the case,’’ she says. Prof Maznevski says two prin­ci­ples need to be built in to MBA­courses for them to re­main rel­e­vant – learn­ing the the­ory and ob­serv­ing the out­comes; and learn­ing cy­cles that dif­fer in con­text ev­ery time they are re­peated.

‘‘Sitting in a class­room is use­ful only when it pre­pares learn­ers for ac­tion and ac­tion should be con­nected with re­flec­tion and fur­ther for­mal knowl­edge-build­ing,’’ she says.

‘‘A real MBA should in essence mean ‘guided on the job lead­er­ship train­ing’.’’

She says to­mor­row’s busi­ness lead­ers will need new skills in ad­di­tion to, and not in­stead of, tra­di­tional skills to lead re­spon­si­bly through the cen­tury.

Pic­ture: Matt Turner

For­mer MBA stu­dent Jodie Mur­phy at her new place of work, Next Gen­er­a­tion Clubs, War Me­mo­rial Drive, North Ade­laide.

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