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REIMAGINING EXECUTIVE EDUCATION

Updated: Aug 11, 2020



In the beginning, business firms used to send their managers to top B – schools to learn business management, most of whom did not attend B-schools because management education was not available when they joined higher education. In the initial stage of the growth of management education in India, business management was not a preferred programme for youth. Therefore, most of those who decided to join the corporate sector did not have management education – most of them were Engineers. Subsequently, when Masters in Business Management (MBA) became the most sought-after degree for youth who wanted to join the corporate sector, the focus of executive education shifted.  Executive education focused on the continuing education of management graduates, management education of managers who did not have MBA degree and leadership programmes for managers who were being groomed for leadership positions. Even today, B-schools design executive education programmes to address those three needs of business firms. Many managers were keen to visit their dream campuses where they could not spend student life for a variety of reasons. Since then, the concept of executive education has changed. For managers with an MBA degree spending a few days on campus was nostalgic. An era of decisive learning has emerged.


The philosophy of executive education has changed over the last five years. Industry 4.0 and VUCA (acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) are no more buzz words. The term Industry 4.0 was coined to refer to the transformation caused by  digitization of manufacturing. Now, not only that the manufacturing is digitized, the whole business environment is digitized. Smart machines are getting smarter in accessing and analysing large data and they are getting connected with each other and communicating among themselves without human intervention. Only smart managers can optimally use technological innovations for the benefit of business. Existing job profiles are changing fast – old jobs are getting abolished and new jobs are being created. At any point in time, none can forecast which jobs will be lost and what will be the new job profiles. It is not that only the technological innovations are causing disruptions.  Disruptions caused by innovative business models developed by new entrants in the industry, emergence of competitive products and services, changing demography and social structure, changing social culture, frequent changes in the geopolitical environment and impact of climate change  are quite frequent. Therefore, business firms are always in a transformational phase. All those have shortened the cycle of ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’. This has changed the nature of executive education. 


Two significant changes occurred in the last decade, which we cannot call disruptions, have created new training needs. Technology and funds have become easily accessible to every business firm with growth prospects. Use of technology is imitable. Therefore, every firm endeavours to be on the frontier of technology. But that does not give a competitive advantage. Firms create competitive advantage by managing institutional knowledge and relationships with internal and external stakeholders efficiently and effectively. Therefore, business firms recruit young managers who have the potential to develop capabilities of managing those two intangible assets and continuously help them to sharpen those capabilities. Only those who demonstrate those capabilities in everyday work go up to leadership positions in the organisation and can avail opportunities for appointment in leadership positions in other organisations. 


All the above have changed the structure of and mode of delivering executive education.  ‘One-size-fits all’ approach is not acceptable to managers and business firms because business model, strategy, organisation culture and employee profiles and their aspirations differ among business firms.  Both the managers and sponsoring organisations prefer tailor- made programmes customised to meet the learning needs of the sponsoring organisation and that of individual employees. They look for impactful and practice-oriented courses. They require that skills and knowledge acquired should be such that they can be applied immediately, because obsolescence is fast. Courses should be shorter and timeboxed and must offer personalized learning with clear pathways. 


Online executive education is the preferred mode for both managers and employers. Employers benefit, as managers invest their own time to learn, as courses are usually delivered at weekends or in the evening. Online courses provide synchronous learning blended with asynchronous learning. It meets the requirements of managers, who want to engage with instructors while learning at their own pace and convenience. 


Earlier business firms used to sponsor high performers to enable them to enjoy paid holidays away from work for getting rejuvenated and develop new perspectives and knowledge at leisure. Now they do not enjoy that luxury. They have to build required capabilities faster at all the levels of the organisation. Learning is a continuous process to adapt to the transformative and functional needs of the organisation. Executive education is no more in the nature of Edu-entertainment. It is a serious adult learning.


Nonlinear Insights is making its debut in this changing environment. Our endeavour would be to bring together the best business educators to deliver forward-looking and innovative programs. 

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