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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 27 Sep 2012
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Applicable Knowledge for Managers
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Earlier this month in March 2012, Harvard Business School (HBS) announced the launch of its new classroom at Taj Lands End in Mumbai, owned by Indian Hotels of the Tata group. Modelled on the lines of HBS classrooms in Boston, that facilitate case-based learning, the facility will be available to others too. HBS' partnership with the Tata group company for the classroom follows its association with the Mahindra group, to set up its India Research Centre at Mahindra Towers in 2005.

Applicable Knowledge for Managers

The classroom is an important step for HBS, just as India is an important market in more ways than one, notes Professor Das Narayandas of HBS, in conversation with Business Line. The James J. Hill Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, Director of HBS Publishing and Chair, Advanced Management Program, explains that all eight Harvard programmes in India will now be hosted at the new facility. Edited excerpts:

How big is this initiative for HBS?
It is another step in a long journey that the School has undertaken in its engagement with this country. People tend to think that just because there is a lot of faculty of Indian origin, there is this interest in India. The truth is there are a host of people engaged in understanding India. India is a country on the move and an integral part of our global strategy.

How does the classroom enhance the learning experience?
This room is exactly panel-by-panel, brick-by-brick and chair-by-chair identical to the ones we have in Boston. They are designed to provide the optimal learning experience in a case-based approach.

Cases are about faculty members facilitating a discussion amongst peers, where the individuals in the classroom learn from one another. With the help of faculty, they then distil the learning from a context-specific to generic framework. Hence, to learn effectively, you need to engage with one another. The acoustics have to be right, the opportunity for the line of sight needs to be there, and then the engagement just transcends to the next level. We wanted to create a classroom where we could literally bring the Boston experience to India.

It's great to have the classroom experience here. But does easier accessibility kind of dim the Harvard-in-the-US halo?
There are several reasons why that would not happen. Many Indian firms have come to us and said, “Our problem is that the rate at which things are changing out here, we cannot afford our people to leave this country and go abroad for extended periods.”

Indian executives are global and all over the place. There are certain groups of executives for whom it is not the location, but the convenience factor that is important. It is for them that we bring the Harvard experience to India. At the same time, there will be many programmes where part of the components will be delivered in Boston. So you still get that experience while a part of the experience is delivered here. We have not just brought faculty to India, but the entire experience. We had alumnus of our Advanced Management Program in the classroom here — they spent two months in Boston and the last four-and-half days here. The only thing that was possibly missing here was the snow outside!

What do you have to say about the entrepreneurship boom in India?
Entrepreneurship in India is at a new level altogether and at an all-time high.20 Today, when I meet people in their late 20s or early 30s, the sparkle in their eye when they talk about what they want to do on their own, and be masters of their own destiny, is just amazing. And this is not just a rash desire to go out and succeed. On the contrary, it is very deliberate, very well thought through. The confidence that these individuals have, I think, is as much driven from the inner-self as it is driven from the environment that allows for entrepreneurship to flourish.

There are many countries in this world where entrepreneurship will never succeed. For example, if you go to several European countries, entrepreneurship does not work. And there is a very fundamental answer to that. There are many countries where if you are bankrupt once, you are never given a chance to run a company again. When you have that as a rule, the incentive to take a risk is zero. When I was young, failure was unacceptable. Whatever you did, you had to succeed. That drove most of us into courses of action which were incremental in nature, because that is how we increased the probability of success. But, by the very nature of doing that, we limited our potential and we took the easiest way out. We worked for someone who assumed the risk, for a firm; we became risk-averse.

It is not just about individuals being different today; the environment today enables them to be entrepreneurial. Growth brings opportunities. Even in corporate India, there is the opportunity to explosively progress in your career. With progress comes confidence, and with confidence comes the willingness to innovate — so you could be entrepreneurial in the larger sense.

How does management education have to change, in tune with the times?
Business education in a broader context cannot afford to be static. The models applied in the past are not necessarily going to apply in the future. We need education to be reflective of the conditions in the world today. What firms need from those who go through business education is the ability to apply learning’s to work. So, just being theoretical will not work. Business education is at the crossroads on that front. If we as faculty at HBS and other institutions do not create knowledge that is applicable by practicing managers and leaders, we will be out of sync with the needs of the market.

Courtesy: Business Line

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