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Building Leaders And Risk Takers

The tools and techniques taught in B-schools are seen as promoting a culture of risk aversion rather than going down the road less travelled

Business schools are often criticised for producing managers rather than leaders or entrepreneurs. The tools and techniques taught in B-schools are seen as promoting a culture of risk aversion rather than going down the road less travelled.

B-schools have in the past responded to this criticism by introducing courses on leadership and entrepreneurship in their curriculum. But this didn’t solve the problem because these courses were unimaginative in content and pedagogy, and failed to impart the skills and behaviours required.

Achieving the right mix of conceptual learning and action is key to addressing this challenge. We are experimenting with some new approaches at IIM Indore in this direction.

From the next academic year, we will give second year PGP (MBA) students the option of going on an entrepreneurship track. Such students will earn 75 per cent of their second year credits by diving into their new venture under the guidance of a faculty member — they will be evaluated based on the progress of the new venture during the year. The remaining credits will be earned through entrepreneurship-related courses like Business Models and Managing Intellectual Property. Students opting for this stream will have to forego placement along with their batch mates. However, if their venture fails, they can come back for placement a year later.
The philosophy is simple: you can’t learn entrepreneurship by sitting in a classroom. You learn it by getting your hands dirty, by actually starting a new enterprise. We just ease the downside of failure a little by providing the fall-back option of placement a later year.

As we have scaled up, we have increasingly faced the problem of how to structure learning opportunities that happen better in small groups. At IIM Indore, our PGP core courses have a section size of 75, but that is obviously not conducive to engaged discussion.

Inspired by what we read about a pedagogy used at some US B-schools, we have structured our leadership course in a different way to address this issue. The students are divided into small groups of 12 each. But instead of being taught by a faculty member, each group of PGP-1 students is guided by a student from PGP-2. And, these student mentors are in turn trained by the faculty.

The student mentors run a series of workshops on leadership related themes. Exercises include book presentations and discussions, extempore speaking and debate sessions, and team-building exercises. The students are measured in terms of communication, confidence, hard work, sincerity, team work, initiative, persuasiveness and trustworthiness. The mentors are measured on involvement, competence in giving feedback and discussion-leading quality. Mentors who undertake this task are given two credits towards their academic requirements. The student mentors have found this to be a rich learning experience.

Much is made these days of MOOCs and online learning, and most innovations in pedagogy are centred on using these new technology-based learning paradigms. But online learning may not be the most appropriate pedagogy for entrepreneurship and leadership. Management education in India has to be more willing to experiment with other modes of teaching and learning if we are to succeed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Rishikesha T. Krishnan

The author is director of IIM Indore

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