The Slovenia Times

Making Management Education Relevant for the 21st Century



What are the main challenges that the book Making Management Education Relevant for the 21st Century deals with and on what basis have you identified them?

The book is the result of a two-year exploratory study in 11 countries (Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, and Ukraine) where we interviewed 212 CEOs and HRMs from 145 companies in order to identify the current and future business challenges, determine the management and leadership development needs related to the current and future business challenges, and, finally, to get insights into the missing links between the needs of the corporate world on the one hand and the offerings of management education institutions on the other.
The main challenges faced by the business sector identified in the interviews could be clustered into three main groups: 1) negative demographic trends; 2) the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and 3) changed customer behavior and needs. The first challenge is related to the fact that according to statistical demographics we will soon face a severe shortage of human recourses and will have to introduce new approaches to attracting and retaining the best talents. This is a big challenge not only for Slovenia for all of Europe. We will also have to start discussing this challenge with multiple stakeholders in order to make the legislation more flexible and limit brain drain on one side and encourage brain circulation on the other. Secondly, technological innovations have had a severe impact on the business sector in terms of challenging its business models, strategies, structures, internal processes, market shares, and organizational cultures. Apart from that, customers' needs and behaviors are constantly changing, which is also due to the innovations brought by the technological revolution. Some organizations have used this opportunity and started analyzing big data in order to track the changing behavior and remain relevant to customer needs. Others have started collaborating with start-ups, accelerators, and incubators in order to get innovative and creative ideas and solutions to these challenges. 

Interestingly, there are still not many companies - especially in Slovenia - that see employees as a competitive advantage, the result of which is brain drain. What is the book's perspective on that challenge?

More and more companies are recognizing that employees are the most important asset in facing challenges linked to the business environment characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. While talking to CEOs and HRMs, we found that companies desire employees who are agile, have leading skills and cognitive flexibility, think innovatively and creatively, and are capable of solving complex problems. Companies who will invest money and time in the development of these skills and competences and in the motivation of their best talents will successfully face the current and future challenges and, ultimately, survive. The companies of tomorrow will have a growth-oriented mindset and will become the ambassadors of continuous learning and promotors of the holistic approach to solving the challenges of the corporate world and society.

How has the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution been changing management education based on the needs of the corporate world?

Firstly, the corporate world has been transforming due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and there is a need for providing management educational offerings to help the business sector successfully cope with this challenge. Secondly, it is also a fact that management education is facing challenges similar to those of the corporate world. For example, the emergence of MOOC (massive open online course) providers like Coursera, Udacity, and edX represents competition to traditional business schools. Moreover, participants from the generations Y and Z are digital natives and they require new learning and teaching approaches (blended learning, flipped classrooms, online learning, etc.). New learning and teaching technologies require a reconsideration of the existing business models, strategies, structures, processes, organizational cultures, and leadership styles also in management education institutions.

What is the relevance of soft skills in a highly digitized modus operandi? What are these soft skills and what is their impact?

We wrongly believe that only hard skills will help us cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is incorrect. Of course, we will need IT experts, CDOs, and data scientists, but at the same time we will also need to develop new leadership skills in order to successfully integrate new technologies into all the spheres of a given company. Peter Drucker once said: "Organizational Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast". This means that companies will have to approach the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in a holistic way and identify what kinds of skills - hard and soft - are required to ensure organizational development. The soft skills mentioned in the third set of questions are highly relevant also for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


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