Capabilities we must develop in 21st century business schools

The world in changing exponentially. We are all students now, and forever. Perhaps the most important meta-skill is to learn how and what to learn. Business schools need to develop the capabilities of the heart that will make the students ready for productive and fulfilling work in the 21st century. They need to prepare students for creating the likes of Uber and such companies that work in an era of abundance, which is very different from the earlier era of persistent material shortages.  The young as well as more mature business student need to be able to feel and articulate their deep sense of purpose, and to be able to flourish through a non-ending stream of transformations.

The required capabilities are Confidence, Creativity, Collaboration, and Courage.

  • Confidence means being able to holistically know oneself, the desires and expertise, well enough to stand for one’s words, decisions, and actions. Confidence has been the most important thing to work well, even in the last century, though technical knowledge has also become progressively important.
  • Creativity means thinking outside the box, beyond what has been done in the past. It also means helping others find novel solutions to the problems they face, and helping people grow. One needs to be open to continuous learning and admitting errors of mis-perceptions or ignorance,
  • Collaboration means teamwork, asking for help, not being focused much on course grades and comparative markers, and keeping one’s ego in check. One needs to take complete ownership of the work or the project, along with the team.
  • Courage is an attribute of the soul, and means the ability to function despite adversity and fear. It includes resilience, grit, determination, and the practice of discipline in the face or uncertainty and ambiguity. It means taking ownership of one’s life and purpose through thick and thin.

The way to develop these skills is through group exercises, projects, travels, celebrations, paid internships, and the like. These are not communicated through words, even though we are using words here to communicate these ideas. These exercises should be graded in an appreciative manner, with rich positive, timely feedback from a nurturing teacher / mentor.  

These capabilities may however be underdeveloped during the earlier years of schooling. The grade schools work on a process model, leaving little room for digressions and diversions to account for different ways of learning and different life goals. Just like schools have different course streams for science or commerce or arts students, and just as there are special education systems for the learning impaired, so also there should be different ways of teaching students of different kinds.  As Einstein said, teaching a monkey to swim, and a fish to climb trees would not be productive or fulfilling. The race to get admissions into desirable and prestigious colleges is intense and can have major impact on the quality of future life. Admission into the top colleges like Harvard can be very beneficial in many ways. However, the rat race to prepare for that single objective may rob all sense of joy in the formative years of the students.

Development of consciousness through regular practice of contemplation and reflection, such as Transcendental meditation, may help prepare the heart for developing these capabilities throughout life.

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