Sunday, May 26, 2013

"I am praying for Harvard Business School . . ."

". . . [S]tudents are here to learn what we think they should know," says Professor Clayton Christensen during an interview ( at Startup Grind 2013. Christensen sees the emergence of new disruptive business models that is a concern to the HBS (Harvard Business School) model. And he makes reference to online learning and on-the-job education.

[F]or 300 years higher education was not disruptable because there was no technological core. But now online learning [which Steve Case, the founder of AOL, calls the “second Internet revolution” or “using the Internet to improve the way we deliver things like education and healthcare”] brings to higher education this technological core. And people who were very complacent now are in deep trouble. The fact that everybody was trying to move upmarket and make their universities better and better and better drove these prices up to where they are today. So what do you do about it? I’ll just talk about the Harvard Business School and how hard it is. Because – and this is in most industries – online learning, or the technology itself, is not intrinsically sustaining or disruptive. But how it gets deployed makes the difference.”

About on-the-job education, he would make reference to Intel University and GE Crotonville. “This model of learning is: You come in, we’ll spend a week teaching you about strategy, and then you go off and develop the strategy. You come back for two weeks in product development, and we send you – you know. You use it and you learn it and you do it while you’re employed. It a very different business model, and that’s what’s killing us. And it’s truly what’s going to kill us . . . The job to be done is the employers want people who can – who have the skills to do the job. Universities don’t understand that job. The students are here to learn what we think they should know. And we invest and we subsidize their education in fields for which there are no jobs. I really do think that the more we can link the employers with the people who, online, provide the skills, it really will just cause the world to flip. The scary thing is that fifteen years from now, maybe half the universities will be in bankruptcy. Including the state schools.  But in the end, I’m excited to see that happen. So pray for the Harvard Business School if you wouldn’t mind.”

I am reminded of GE Crotonville, which is the GE management development center, from when they invited other global companies (and I represented my old MNC employer) to join academe, to dialogue with their managers as they were unveiling their then new global strategy – being a largely US-centric enterprise at that time. And many progressive MNCs have created their versions of GE Crotonville. And I constantly talk about my Eastern European friends because what they have achieved in ten years is precisely because of this learning model. For example, strategy or product development (mentioned by Christensen) is not a shallow business subject. Understanding the human being and his or her world is a big part of it because a strategy or a product idea would only succeed if it is relevant to people and their wellbeing. And while a lot of the learning is acquired in the work setting, it is enriched – especially the thinking process – when there is the proper classroom work. [Thus strategy or product development is beyond the pursuit of affordable, so-so products that may or may not find a wide, if not global, market – which we in PHL won’t appreciate if we’ve accepted our role in the global arena as that of a third-party provider, be it labor or semiconductor, for instance. My Eastern European friends, after recently traveling through Asia and the West, are now in the process of pulling together their latest product development game plan in four different but related businesses with the view to competing in these markets. They’ve clearly overcome their old demon: “We’re poor Eastern Europeans”!]

Why don’t they teach us how to think instead of memorizing a bunch of facts? Well, now, at long last, that is what they are doing. It’s called making students ready for innovation. Today’s high-tech world requires a nimble mind, the ability to solve problems, and the willingness to take risks . . . Today’s young people need creative skills and, even more importantly, motivation. They need to be curious and be able to find new opportunities or create them . . .” [Dr. Beth Day Romulo, Manila Bulletin, 18th Apr 2013]

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