Kellogg’s Corner is an exclusive column prepared for Mint by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. It kicks off with a conversation with Dipak C. Jain, the dean of the school.
What are the main challenges business students face today?
Some 10 to 15 years ago, the majority of executives did not have an MBA and business school graduates were perceived as value added. Today, however, corporate recruiters have raised expectations and MBAs face increased demands from employers. Corporations are under immense cost pressure, operations are lean and MBA graduates need to demonstrate in-depth business skills immediately. Finally, given the cost of management education, students must recognize that business school is an investment that will help them achieve success throughout their careers.
Most executives face enormous demands that didn’t exist in the past. What are these new demands and what do you do to enable your students who face a more complex business environment?
Business executives operate under immense time pressure, the speed of execution is critical and managers do not have the luxury to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. Crisis management skills are extremely important and executives must be able to make difficult decisions in shorter periods of time. They must also be well-versed in global affairs and understand the competitive pressures in a global environment. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, corporate recruiters have raised expectations. As MBAs face increased demands from employers, they must rise to the challenge very quickly.
A key priority at Kellogg is our focus on leadership. Corporate partners indicate there is a genuine need for good leaders at every level within their organization. The Kellogg School believes that it is up to business schools to address the need for more effective leaders. We have increased our efforts in this area by offering additional action-learning opportunities as well as pre-term curriculum, which specifically addresses such areas as crisis management and decision-making, to help students hone their leadership skills.
Why do you consider partnerships with international business schools, such as the one Kellogg has with the Indian School of Business, important?
The strong educational infrastructure that exists within Asia encourages the development of alliances between Eastern and Western business schools. The Kellogg School of Management has links with several business schools in Asia, including the Indian School of Business. Building and maintaining strong partnerships with business schools from around the world will help create a more “global mindset”, which will greatly benefit business schools in Asia. This mindset includes a global curriculum and an increased focus on research, particularly on issues pertaining to developing countries. A research emphasis will help to differentiate a top management programme (from an ordinary one) and contribute to the existing management knowledge.
After becoming the dean, I started an outreach programme. Along with my team, I have visited more than 30 countries in six continents to meet hundreds of recruiters, thousands of Kellogg School alumni and dozens of corporate partners. Based on what we have learnt from these visits, we were able to anticipate both the current and future needs of the marketplace. With the cooperation of our excellent students and our exceptional faculty, we have implemented changes pertinent to the changing business environment. This open dialogue with our partners is vital to the overall success of our school, and Kellogg continually builds on its relationships with these key partners to ensure that its programme remains valuable and relevant to the work they do.
Is management education by its very nature a reaction to the challenges faced by industry and companies?
The Kellogg School continually evaluates its curriculum by involving students, corporate leaders, alumni, faculty and recruiters in identifying current and future market needs. Through this process, the Kellogg School ensures that its programmes remain rigorous and relevant.
In the classroom, Kellogg professors bring together business research and real world exposure to provide an enriching and relevant experience that ultimately benefits the profit and not-for-profit business communities. Kellogg students also bring valuable insight into the classroom and together, the faculty and the students discuss and debate the research and how it applies to the world outside the school. Students today should be viewed as co-creators of knowledge.
Because Kellogg faculty members are renowned in their respective fields, their research, case studies and textbooks are used time and again by undergraduate and graduate business schools worldwide. We believe that the research we conduct must have real-world value. Our students and corporate clients are able to apply what they learn in the classroom to issues in the real world.
As an academic, what advice would you give to men and women already pursuing a career, but facing uncertain futures?
Let learning be your guide in the professional journey. Business professionals should continually participate in educational opportunities that allow them to update their knowledge base. It is also important to remember that there is no substitute for hard work. Create a culture of mutual respect and trust among your colleagues. At the end of the day, the ability to create a good team and motivate people establishes a leader.
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