In retrospect, my stint at B-school taught me several things, most important of which was the ability to develop a systematic approach to analysis and problem-solving. The B-school milieu also helped me develop skills to manage time, stress and the tyranny of percentile competition.
While B-schools do a great job of imparting hard technical skills, the emphasis on areas such as people management and everyday execution doesn't seem to be adequate. However, the one key area where B-schools need to get their act together is around nurturing and developing a mindset oriented towards risk, entrepreneurship and creativity.
One indelible B-school memory that underscores the templatised mindset it creates in most students concerns campus placements. The whole ritual borders on mass hysteria. With students unwilling to walk on anything but the beaten path, choices get determined by a systematic caste system of grades and placement-day rankings that show scant regard for individual choices.
Why does this happen? One reason is that the competitive and unidirectional environment in B-schools offers little room for serious thought on making individual choices along various vectors such as the level of responsibility, goals and aspirations, social and family needs and so on.
Nor is there any emphasis on developing value systems around personal success, social role and integrity. Further, the enormity of focus in B-schools on the conventional rules of the game is entirely devoid of specific incentives for risk-taking and creativity.
Contrast that with the reality of the business environment, where big success is far more correlated to the ability to take entrepreneurial risks, even within the context of large organisations.
For instance, the recent successes of both entrepreneurs and managers in emerging businesses such as retail, telecom, BPO and media can be attributed to their ability to take early risks. Successful organisations want entrepreneurial leaders who are able to lead from the front and create value amidst uncertainty. In the context of risk-taking, learning to manage failure is also very important.
Indeed, B-schools produce very good analysts, number-crunchers and consultants. However, their transformation into entrepreneurial managers is tantamount to Darwinian evolution on the corporate planet, contingent on the right environment and, of course, the hunger to survive!
Sriniketh Chakravarthi graduated from IIM, Calcutta, in 1996