Home / Education / News /  'Managers need to learn skills that cannot be replaced by machines'

NEW DELHI: Covid-19 will re-set management education. Online delivery of content is a new beast and schools need to refresh what they teach now since business models have undergone dramatic shifts. The corporate world, meanwhile, needs a new breed of managers — those who can withstand uncertainty, and those who are schooled in artificial intelligence-resistant skills, Vijay Govindarajan, Coxe distinguished professor of management at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Anup Srivastava, the Canada research chair at Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, told Mint in an interview. Edited excerpts:

In the context of covid-19, what programmes should management schools introduce, going forward? Also, what sort of programmes are becoming irrelevant?

Let’s start with the programs that will be relevant. Those that prepare students to navigate the unchartered waters. No one can predict the future. But corporate world would need managers who can withstand uncertainty, while guiding their companies to thrive and progress through the trying phases. Those skills are neither easily available not easy to develop. Currently, schools focus a lot on algorithmic learning— those that have predetermined answers to predetermined questions. Schools will have to reduce emphasis on algorithmic learning while increasing the emphasis on higher-order skills such as creativity, empathy, leadership, conflict management, strategic thinking, understanding technological progress and disruption, crisis management, problem solving, dynamic decision making.

We have seen more organisations, particularly in India, talk about adopting automation. What skills do our managers need when it comes to dealing with a higher mix of bots and robots?

Managers need to learn two things. First, artificial intelligence (AI)-resistant skills — those that cannot be replaced by machines and automation. For example, anyone can recite the formula for return on investment, but not many students can calculate it for a company like Amazon or Microsoft — neither the numerator or denominator are well defined. And second, how to harness the growing power of AI to meet the emerging needs. Take three examples — travel websites, GPS device, and Zoom conferences. All created value for the society, while replacing human jobs and physical human-to-human interactions.

Do you foresee any new models on financing of management education?

There are a few models emerging where payment of fees is linked to students’ post-education earning power. Another possibility is that students are sponsored by the employers — similar to short-term executive education. But these models are yet to gain popularity.

Will there be a movement towards schools that are more affordable?

We are not sure if good MBA education can be made affordable for masses. Yes, students can learn at low cost the whole MBA course offering through online media, such as Coursera, which was not possible say until 10 year ago. However, the top-end MBA teaching, such as open-ended discussions, joint problem solving, experience-based learning, leadership skills, and conflict management need physical classrooms and interactions with smart instructors that cannot be achieved so cheaply.

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