Business School Professors Should Be Like Movie Directors [Harvard Business Review]
Written in collaboration with Olaf Groth, Global Professor of Management, Strategy, Innovation and Economics at Hult International Business School, for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network “Business School Professors Should Be Like Movie Directors“.
As business school professors, we always ask ourselves why we are needed. Because we train future leaders and shape how organizations create value for societies. But will students need us in the same capacity in the future? Not if we don’t change to meet shifting educational needs.
A January Economist article on the “Future of Jobs” quoted experts saying that 47% of all job categories, including high-skill professions in medicine and law, will be automated within two decades. Among the professions that were said to be safe from automation (for the moment) are those that require human interaction and emotive and social competencies, such as management; those that rely on craft mastery, such as recreational therapists and actors; and those that involve understanding complex systems of human and institutional interaction, such as economists. Luckily, b-school professors seem to be hybrids of economist, therapist, actor, and manager. We have knowledge to bestow on students, a stage to practice our craft, and design capabilities for pedagogy.
But with more and more technologically disruptive change affecting our classrooms – through social media, wearable computing, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), gamification, and so on – it’s time we shift away from the business school model of sage-on-a-stage. Classrooms are becoming a mesh of virtual and real, inspiring more collaboration, and expanding across hundreds of cultures as campuses globalize. Employers expect us to train our leaders to create value on this new frontier, as they should.
However, our current business model is ill-prepared for these trends. We need to think beyond presentations and videos, Socratic method and quizzes, case analyses and papers. Professors must think of themselves as experiential movie directors for a production of Global Business in the Networked Economy, orchestrating and coaching a multinational cast of actors through experiments – and stepping off of the stage for a broader purview. This new frontier demands something inconceivable from professors: Risk not knowing what the outcome would be, or the metrics associated to it, a priori. By reshuffling the fundamentals to meet and shape new conditions, b-school professors can better address the changing needs of students in a rapidly digitizing world.
Build immersive landscapes to design and test business solutions in near real-world settings. Incorporate the various actors, pressures, and uncertainties that create actual problems for leaders. The classroom should be more akin to one big reality game that simulates a market or industry. It could imitate the lifecycle of a real firm with different stages running for an entire one- or two-year MBA program.
Script and direct large-scale complex simulations. Help could come from the entertainment industry: screen writers, game developers, and producers. Integrate content and logic from different business functions into gripping narratives with dramatic arcs. Use incentives to stimulate moves and counter-moves. Teams would diagnose problems and synthesize solutions for them, and then act those out in the landscape, starting a dynamic exchange.
Optimize students’ own wisdom by coaching teams through their challenges and guiding them so they can make the right decisions. Have students gather insights from their own behaviors and responses as a simulation progresses.
Equipping students with the skills to master these challenges is how learning takes place. By encountering roadblocks and unforeseen messes, students are forced to exercise strategic agility. They learn to demonstrate innovation aptitude, how to handle value gains and losses in economic, environmental, and technological systems, and when to ask for signals and feedback from teammates, competitors, outside experts, and professors.
As a result, students would be more deeply engaged and satisfied, employers would be better served, more positive business outcomes would be accessible, and professors would remain highly valued (and our jobs secured).
The young leaders of tomorrow need to be ready for it. Can we change to help them?
This article was originally published by the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, “Business School Professors Should Be Like Movie Directors“.
Professor Olaf Groth is the Global Professor of Management, Strategy, Innovation and Economics at Hult. A renowned thought leader with fascinating insights in to the future of business, you can listen to his webinar on “How innovative business models can reshape an industry” on our website.