In A Complex Business Scenario, What’s The Role Of The MBA?

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In the current complex business scenario, it is important for MBAs to plan out their career by acquiring the needed skillsets from a choice of programs available at various business schools.

Peter Tufano, Peter Moores Dean and Professor of Finance, organisations at Saïd Business School in the University of Oxford has, in an interview published in the school blog, given his views on the role of business education in combating complexity.

He says the focus of the programs have been to make the participants more effective at the individual level, at the team level and at the organisational level. “Our new challenge must be to make our leaders effective at the systems level as well.

“Huge complicated problems demand people who can work across sectors to address the issues that fall outside of the neat buckets of organisations and governments,” he adds.

While businesses need to be financially viable in order to survive and to produce excellent goods and services for their customers and clients. these are only a starting point, not the sum total of businesses’ responsibilities. Every business is part of a wider community. ‘That community may be local, national, and global,’

Until recently though, business schools have been more attuned to the opportunities to enhance individual, team and organisational performance, than systems performance. Yet the increasing challenge for business is to work alongside leaders in other sectors to address these far more complex problems.

“That’s why we’ve tried to put some emphasis at the School on thinking about systems-level challenges and equipping our students with the skills they need to address them,” he says.

What has Saïd achieved in this direction? The School had, in 2013, introduced Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford (GOTO), a problem-solving community geared towards addressing some of the most complex issues that the world faces today.

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The first year took up demography and the problems associated with ageing societies, such as those endemic to the US, China, Japan and much of Western Europe. One alumnus from this GOTO cohort went on to create an organisation that combats social isolation and reduces levels of suicide among senior citizens in South Korea.

The second-year considered issues related to big data and data privacy. “in retrospect, I think we were ahead of our time in focusing on these issues. Subsequent iterations of GOTO dealt with water scarcity, the future of work, the future of healthcare, and for this coming year, the future of energy,” Prof Tufano says.

Another issue of importance is the duties businesses have to society and whether they have responsibilities beyond making a profit. Prof Tufano says these questions are not new and have predated the times of prominent Oxford political economist Adam Smith. Incidentally, Smith had in 1759 published ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’.

“Smith’s seminal work explores how our moral ideas and actions are a product of our nature as social creatures. It also concerns the duties that we owe to one another. When it comes to business,– which are collections of individuals – inherit the duties that we have to one another as individuals, Prof Tufano says.

While businesses need to be financially viable in order to survive and to produce excellent goods and services for their customers and clients. these are only a starting point, not the sum total of businesses’ responsibilities. Every business is part of a wider community. ‘That community may be local, national, and global,’ he says.

In a more connected world, businesses are increasingly finding themselves linked with suppliers, customers, employees and “bystanders” far from their communities. At the same time, global phenomena can affect relatively “local” businesses.

“Globalisation has transformed supply chains and the jobs that are available in the supply chains. Growing inequality and growing communication capabilities have meant that people’s expectations have changed. Ageing will affect virtually every industry and every government service,” Prof Tufano says.

Changes in technology, communications, demography, environmental challenges, and inequality cut across national borders, across sectors of society, and often even between generations.  ‘Given the complexity of systems-level problems, it’s unlikely that one single approach or point of view will miraculously produce an answer,’ he says. Instead, we must ‘work to bring a diversity of approaches to thinking in order to solve these problems.’

“At the core of these issues is the requirement for cooperation and collaboration between different types of individuals and organisations, the need for cooperation across sectors as well as countries,” he adds.

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