Corona redefining business and management education
It is a fact that any severe crisis exposes the unassumed fault-lines of a system
It is a fact that any severe crisis exposes the unassumed fault-lines of a system. How much secure and well-prepared the system is, gets decided by the probable impact of these fault-lines on the system.
The same is true of the current pandemic, which has arisen out of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to counter the impact, every agency and individual seems to be learning from each other, while the world leaders are scrambling for answers and solutions.
Nations have announced lockdowns as a way to contain the spread of this virus, causing heavy movement of people, within and across the international borders, even affecting production and operations of the companies, heavily and unevenly.
This crisis has exposed individual and collective weaknesses of the systems, and that the nations are also ill-equipped in handling the situation.
Our high GDPs and exponential growths have plummeted to bottom in no time, wiping out people and companies from the worldmap. In the coming days, when social scientists will come out with their research finding on how lockdowns have impacted people psychologically, and how relationships and priorities of individuals, families and communities have been redefined, then we will be able to judge the depth of this crisis.
The trauma and suffering of the marginalized, caused by the virus and the lockdowns, is yet to be measured. Nonetheless, this crisis has brought a classic debate to the fore; that 'Do we need to structure economic activity to manage a Society' or 'Do
we need a Society to structure itself around the demands of existing economic models and frameworks'?
Governance and business: Expectations
For a secured future, shifting manufacturing from China to any other part of the world including India, and blaming China for the COVID-19 curse would be too evasive a solution to what the world at large needs for its future sustenance. This crisis is not just related to businesses, but is also about political leaderships, socio-political systems and priorities of systems and governance in directing the aspirations of people.
Today, the 'Intent of Governance' is under debate. Hence, if we have to learn our lessons from this crisis, for drawing out mitigation plans for the next earthly catastrophe, it won't be possible for the business world to run on old models, frameworks and premises.
The public at large is having new expectations and is charting-out demands that shall have to be met by the leaders in the coming times.
The suffering and struggle of labour and marginalized sections is showing that compassion and addressing 'the Bottom of the Pyramid' shall have to be treated as central, to keep the idea of 'Society' intact.
In coming times, focus on strengthening of the systems and institutions will be paramount to meet the challenges imposed on business, society and leaders. Suicide of Thomas Schaefer, the Finance Minister of Germany's Hesse State, after being deeply worried over the economic fall-out due to corona crisis, brings back the idea of 'Collective Leadership' and 'Collective Responsibility' in times of crisis on the discussion tables.
The spread of the crisis and its impact on nations has also demonstrated the hollowness of the political ideologies. It demonstrates that there is an increased need to address people as 'Global Citizens' and there is a need to define issues as 'Global-Community Issues'.
Recently KPMG's report on 'The Potential Impact of COVID-19 on Indian Economy', shows the degree of changes that would become reality in coming days.
Management education: Expected changes
Management education, the starting point of business management, must endeavour to understand the impact of this Coronavirus situation. Our take is that certain premises of business and management education shall undergo transformation, in case companies and managers would want to avoid the helpless situations that they are currently into.
The management of the nations and organizations shall have to be much more than 'Image Management', because assertions from the masses will change. The idea of leadership at all the levels shall have to embrace the elements of Efficiency, Equity, Ethics, and Ecology called '4Es' by Management Guru Prof. Subhash Sharma. And the same shall have to be brought to the class-room teaching in management education.
The plight of labour from the informal sector, heavily hit or devastated by the crisis, migration and lockdown, shall metamorph into a compelling case for the leaders of the nations and businesses to design a more labour-centric system. Sure there will be push-backs, but for a steady growth this shall have to be addressed; and shall have to be brought to the class-rooms for discussion. Such sensitization towards the labour class, that runs the wheel of the society, is call of the day.
The ideas of fast-pace growth, complex supply chains, narrow business margins, Lean-management shall need a closer inspection, and may be a revision, from the stand-point of how narrow passage they leave for escape in times of crisis, and that too especially for marginalized labour class.
The marketing and advertising will see a sea-change in coming days. Though companies will feel the need to invest more money in that direction, but the constraint would be the tight budgets. Also companies shall have to gauge the mood of the deranged public after lockdown experience.
Another million dollar question or 'Yaksh Prashn' would be, if the world will shift more towards Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to supplement the efficiency paradigm for overcoming the limitations posed by the nature; or it will use this situation to connect itself more with the nature, and develop mechanisms that shall make people and would-be-Managers, to learn to invest more in nature, environment and each other.
With such changes being expected from the leaders at the governance and business levels, there would be an impact on the management education across the world. Though it is early to say how deep the impact would be and what would be its shape; it may get classified into two categories.
The one that would be in the area of pedagogy, where-in the management institutions would get encouraged to integrate online-teaching into their routine teaching. Maybe different kinds of formats for conferences and seminars would evolve. Even the role of management faculty may undergo a change due to the innovation in the teaching-learning methods. Imparting of some life-skills arising out of this cataclysmic experience may become part of the curriculum. This would mean more investment in creating state of the art class-rooms and other infrastructure.
Also this would mean more expenditure on internet connectivity,power consumptions and aspects of affordability of technology.The other, but more important area would be, where management institutions will initiate the changes in the content of the management education imparted by them; where the lessons from the current crisis would be used to mould the future leaders, so that these leaders would not only be sensitive to the needs of the business, but would be more awakened towards labour, people and society.
It would be an added responsibility on the management institutes, where they shall have to become ground for new paradigms in management thinking, because the current models have surely failed in meeting challenges posed to business and people under this crisis. And, in case, this crisis proves that the 'Virus' could be a force to reckon with, the companies will have to include 'Biological or Pathological' dimension in their risk analysis in coming times.
(The authors are Associate Professor and Assistant Professor at GITAM Hyderabad Business School, GITAM, Deemed to be University, Hyderabad campus)