Developing A New MBA

One part of my work is exciting: Developing a new Global MBA programme. The college I am working for have been offering an MBA for a while, a general one validated by an UK university. It is a quite well structured programme, highly successful among international students. However, over last six months, I taught in the programme and was involved in managing it along with my colleagues, and this experience has given me some insights which I want to utilize now.

So, I am currently working on a change agenda, with the objective that we would want to develop a truly differentiated, global programme, in step with the post-recession world. I have set myself a period of six more months, by when we should implement a new programme design and ensure greater manageability of how the programme is delivered. While I go along this route, however, I wanted to keep a narrative of the journey, so that I can look back at this process and reflect upon. Hence, this post.

At this time, my plans are quite simple and broad. Instead of an one size fits all programme, we should create a number of specialization pathways keeping the international students in mind. Indeed, there is always the demand of the business, so the specialisms will revolve around the usual areas of HR, Marketing and Finance, but where we shall try to differentiate it is by contextualizing the syllabus to post-modern, post-recession global workplace. I am also keen to add an Entrepreneurship specialism, nothing novel though, because I would see Britain evolving into a Start-Up Nation in the coming years.

The point, however, is to develop the MBA programme in line with other humanistic disciplines, where the spirit of free inquiry will be given the highest priority, and not as a technical subject. I shall call this the artistic spirit as opposed to the Engineer's, where the key assumption is that a problem may have several, equally valid, solutions. The general complaint about MBA programmes is that these tend to offer set formulas to business problems, thus leaving an MBA graduate with quite a narrow world view.

It is indeed easier said than done, and considering that I have to try to build this 'open' approach to MBA studies in the college which prides itself for its excellent offerings in Professional Education (particularly Accountancy), it is a greater challenge. The professional education is all about offering the 'right answer', and this view of business education will run diametrically opposite to it.

The other, even greater, challenge is to contextualize the course to the emerging realities of modern business - new kinds of workplaces, the demise of sorts of scientific management, the new ideas of motivation, the new mediums of communication, the new marketing - all of it. Without this, in my mind, an MBA qualification is terribly out of step; but, doing this is no easy task, particularly without a dedicated team, which is committed to research and progression.

Building such a team, committed to innovation and research, has its own challenges and here we shall invariably hit one of the core limitations of for-profit education. Indeed, its big strength comes from managerialism, its ability to ensure all resources are managed efficiently and full value of it is expropriated, but this does not necessarily lead to innovation and new thinking. One can argue that there are enough private organizations in other sectors which combine managerialism and innovation, but education as a sector is highly regulated and always will be, and therefore, the incentive to innovate will always be quite limited.

I have thought about this challenge quite a bit, as my plans to create a world class offering may specifically falter at this hurdle. The only way to create creativity and innovation within this high pressure environment - as I have read Teresa Amabile and completely agreed with her - is to create a sense of mission. Now, a sense of mission is hard to create in a privately owned organization, where most performances are opaque and most arrangements are strictly private. No one actually tries to build a cathedral if it is under 'scientific management', because that case responsibility for thinking can be delegated upwards. The first thing to sort this out is to create an open environment and give the responsibility to create back to the front-line person, in this case, to the tutors and administrators who are dealing with the students.

So, it is not just about creating new programmes, but also to engineer a whole new culture and way of working that I shall be aiming for. This is part of my experimentation with learning environments, but also with organizational culture. My random experiments, so far, have always been quite fruitful: I am expecting this current effort to be no different.


neha gupta said…
All the very best !

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