In an environment where disruption is the name of the game and change is rife, organisations are not looking to send managers on cookie-cutter courses based solely on textbook teaching.
Queensland University of Technology Graduate School of Business executive director Bob O’Connor says businesses are looking for programs that are ‘just right now and just for me’.
Delivering tailored models
QUT Graduate School of Business is rising to the challenge, with the aim of delivering courses that ensure a transformative effect.
“If we just deliver it as content, even if the student thinks it was valuable, it’s not in any way transforming the way they work, so it won’t have any impact on organisational productivity,” O’Connor says.
Instead, he says, courses need to be delivered as tailored models, which may include some pre-reading, a face-to-face intensive workshop, which often includes leadership decision-making models, and a project-based assignment that can be applied in their workplace.
A month or six weeks later, the teams return to debrief about their experience of delivering the project in their workplace.
What the industry wants
University of South Australia’s program director – MBA, Bob Gilliver says the only way to ensure the MBA offers contemporary skills is to benchmark against what industry wants.
“To ensure that is always up to date, we have in place an advisory board of top South Australian CEOs, who meet every three months to give us advice on the curriculum,” he says.
His colleague, director of Strategic Partnerships and external engagement, Ross Morriss says understanding where the business trends are going is a critical part of what Uni SA does.
“To be a successful business school you need to be linked into industry,” he says. “But you also need to be ahead, so you need to complement the industry understanding with research and world-class academics, who have that industry experience and understanding.”
Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) director of custom programs – executive education, Michelle Kershaw says the university regularly brings in international experts who are at the forefront of their field.
“We try to bring in the industry expert of the moment,” she says. “We find out who is out there at the cutting edge and bring them in and get them to share that knowledge with our clients.”
MGSM also tailors courses to suit the needs of the target audience, and makes a point of offering practical education that can be directly applied to each student’s workplace.
“It’s not just about sitting in the classroom, it’s about taking the learning back to the business,” she says.
Swinburne Business School is going through a major expansion to increase its industry connections.
Although academics or adjunct professors already staff its industry programs with strong links to the business world, director of business engagement at Swinburne Dr Noordin Shehabuddeen says they have just recruited more experts into the business school.
“We’re bringing in a whole pool of talent in terms of teaching and research capability,” he says. “That’s one of the ways we keep in touch with some of those current trends and developments that are happening, by having those who are in industry.”
Shehabuddeen says there is an increasing demand from industry to deeply engage with employees through executive education. “It’s sort of moved from interest to passion,” he says.
“They want people not just to be knowledgeable, but to be passionate about it and actually have in-depth experience.”
He says Swinburne has had to adapt to deliver what industry wants. “The kind of delivery that we provide has to change along with that, that’s across the spectrum,” he says. “How do you bring elements of experience into the classroom and into the workplace?”