MBA Business Innovation and Strategy


‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.’ (Einstein)

These are dynamic times. Present day businesses operate in a very dynamic environment necessitated by fast change. Globalization, changing competitive scenario, advent of service economy, inter-connected world and knowledge explosion are all affecting businesses both positively and negatively, causing businesses to rethink the way they have been operating. Needless to say, if the way business is conducted has changed, then the way business management is taught must change as well.

Why Not MBA

To understand the relevance of MBA in today’s world we need to understand a bit of the history of management. The year 2011 was the 100’th anniversary of “Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Winslow Taylor. This publication was said to be the beginning of modern management. In the words of Peter Drucker, Taylor was “the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study”.

Gary Hamel talks about the birth of management from Taylorand others in Three Forces Disrupting Management. He says “This transition from an agrarian and craft-based society to an industrial economy required an epical re-socialization of the work force. Unruly and independent-minded farmers, artisans and day laborers had to be transformed into rule-following, forelock-tugging employees. And 100 years on, this work continues, with organizations around the world still working hard to strap rancorous and free-thinking human beings into the strait-jacketed, institutionalized obedience, conformance, and discipline.”

The current scenario is entirely different from what it was about 100 years ago. Naturally the management theories of controlling people in a predetermined manner do not apply today. Management techniques of the past century, including Scientific Management, Total Quality Management and ISO 9000, have focused on eliminating process variance and adhering to clearly defined procedures. Although such variance-reducing techniques increase the capacity of an organization to exploit existing resources they are also known to hamper exploratory activities.

Things like hierarchical organizations charts, performance appraisals, KPI’s, targets are all reminiscent of Taylor’s principles, all aimed at getting a fixed performance from the people working in a organization in a consistent fashion. Someone, somewhere determines what is to be done, and others are expected to follow what is pre-fixated.

As Gary Hamel says that CEOs are often hamstrung by the notion that innovation is the purview of ‘creative people with a particular gift’. As a result, everyone else remains away from the responsibility of coming up with new ideas. This limits the quality as well as the quantity of ideas.

Henri Mintzberg a noted professor of strategy notes that standard business education compartmentalizes the whole business into discrete silos: marketing versus finance versus economics versus accounting. "MBA education divides business into a whole set of functions. But management is an integrating device, and MBA students don't learn how to manage or to integrate. Management, like medicine, engineering, is a practice," he continues, distinguishing ‘practice’ from both science which can be accomplished by analysis, and artwhich is fed by intuition. “In a practice, one achieves mastery in the doing and has to pull together disparate knowledge to apply to situations at hand.”

B-schools historically have been trying to teach how to control an organization and the processes within it. B-schools teach about application of resources to achieve business goals, and measurement tools, etc. They teach about leadership and setting objectives, etc. What they struggle with is ‘how’ an executive can envision a future state; envision ‘what the company should be’.

In the chapter ‘Design Matters for Management’from the book “Managing as Designing”, Richard J. Boland Jr. and Fred Collopy of Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University state as follows:

A decision attitude toward problem solving is used extensively in management education. It portrays the manager as facing a set of alternative courses of action from which a choice must be made. The decision attitude assumes it is easy to come up with alternatives to consider, but difficult to choose among them. The design attitude toward problem solving, in contrast, assumes that it is difficult to design a good alternative, but once you have developed a truly great one, the decision about which alternative to select becomes trivial.

The decision attitude and the analytic tools managers have to support were developed in a simpler time. They are the product of fifty years of concerted effort to strengthen the mathematical and scientific basis of management education. Today’s world is much different from that of the 1950s when the movement to expand analytic techniques in management began to flourish. We are suggesting that now is the time to incorporate a better balance of the two approaches to problem solving in management practice and education.

What is needed in management practice and education today is the development of a design attitude, which goes beyond default solutions in creating new possibilities for the future. We are NOT trying to teach MBA's how to be designers, but plan to introduce them to these approaches so they can be more open to discovering possibilities and making selections among various opportunities for growth.

Design approaches are oriented toward innovation, meaning creating new possibilities to generate new value. We believe that if managers adopted a design attitude, the world of business would be different and better. Managers would approach problems with a sensibility that swept in the broadest array of influences to shape inspiring and energizing designs for products, service and processes that are both profitable and humanly satisfying.

Harvard Business Review defines Design Thinking as a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos... Innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold and supported. Wikipedia states that design thinking involves a seven-step process of defining, researching, ideating, prototyping, choosing, implementing, and gathering feedback around any given challenge or opportunity.

Tim Brown, president and CEO of design consultancy IDEO defines design thinking as “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Albert Einstein has said“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Similarly we cannot use the same paradigm of management theory in today’s world. The world has changed, it is changing and we need a new approach. DYPDC’s PG Program in Business Innovation & Strategy is the answer to these changing needs and paradigms. It is a program that will lead you into tomorrow ready for tomorrow’s world through the power of design thinking.

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