There are several arguments for why an MBA degree is still relevant – and as many for why traditional MBA programs need to be urgently reimagined.
In a dynamic, tech-enabled labor market where learner needs are changing rapidly, a generalist business program no longer suffices. To stay ahead of the curve, young Indians aspiring to be future leaders need a new set of future-focused capabilities, combined with the foundational business knowledge a traditional MBA offers.
Right now, a growing number of Indians are recharting their careers in the gig economy – building their own brand, on their own terms in the workplace of the future. PayPal reports that India accounts for 50% of global freelancers, with the majority under 40 years of age. Many are skilled workers with in-demand competencies. An iOS app developer in Pune can take on projects with clients in San Francisco, collaborating in real time, working on-demand through a global freelancing platform. But as our conversations with independent workers show, they often lack the skills to take their business to the next level in the global market. Their core competencies may not extend to articulating a value proposition, navigating client servicing or networking. They have the ideas, but not the entrepreneurial vision to market these or achieve scale.
New-age entrepreneurs like these, who want to propel their brand in the digital era, are among the diverse learners in Macquarie University’s Global MBA Program, offered on Coursera. They are looking to upskill with a blend of future-focused capabilities, management skills and applied knowledge.
Why problem solving, critical thinking and creativity matter most
As technology and automation transform the nature of jobs, the skills we need to survive and thrive in a fast-changing labor market will have to keep pace and an MBA program needs to be mapped to these future skills. WEF’s Future of Jobs report called out ‘complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity’ among the top 3 skills workers will need in 2020. We found that diverse groups of learners were attracted to the Global MBA’s emphasis on future-focused capabilities – Strategizing, Leading, Analyzing, Influencing, Adapting and Problem Solving. Traditional management concepts are embedded across the program in an interdisciplinary way, breaking away from the siloed, linear approach that characterizes most MBA programs. Students are guided by faculty, but also collaborate with a range of industry partners throughout the program. To ensure an applied learning experience, Macquarie University co-developed the curriculum with the Global MBA Advisory board, which consists of CEOs, founders and directors from firms like Deloitte, Gartner, Bain & Co., SAS, Cochlear, and more. On the ground, learners in India have the opportunity to strengthen their network with the Macquarie MBA community through local meet-ups. Through this integrated journey, learners don’t just acquire future skills, but develop a business-ready outlook, become more agile and are encouraged to grow into other professional areas.
Stackable learning with inclusive learning pathways
Most working professionals can’t afford to put their lives on hold or relocate to exclusively pursue a campus MBA program. Our research shows some workers are not looking for an MBA degree, but want to close specific competency gaps. Others don’t necessarily meet the admission criteria in the traditional sense, but need to gain entrepreneurial skills to succeed professionally. Educators have to respond to this range of evolving learner needs through programs that are flexible, accessible and inclusive. Students in the Global MBA have the choice to complete a single course, an entire Specialisation or enroll in the full Global MBA degree – learning as much or as little as they want. This performance pathway allows learners who do not meet the admissions criteria but still have rich work experience to be accepted based on their performance in at least two Specialisations.
As business schools rethink the MBA for newer audiences, technology will play a key role in scaling and creating a seamless experience. Partnering with Coursera, we are innovating on how global learners can come together and collaborate more efficiently in virtual classrooms. Technology will also tremendously improve access. From Agra to Nagpur, students can learn anytime, from anywhere, at their convenience.
Any MBA program is only as good as the outcomes it drives for learners back in the real world. The next-generation MBA will need to equip workers with a future-focused, top-quality experience that is affordable, flexible and fits into their lives. By reimagining the MBA, business schools will be able to empower a new generation of learners to accelerate their careers, equipping them with the capabilities they need to adapt and succeed in an ever-changing labor market.