With digitisation and artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly changing the way organisations are run, it is not surprising that a decades-old style of management education comes under scrutiny. Is the traditional MBA still relevant? Is it still serving the needs of the business community in a changing world of work?
Yes, says Wits Business School’s MBA Director Dr Thabang Mokoaleli-Mokoteli, Director of the MBA. “But it’s a qualified yes, because much as the MBA is still in demand, business schools need to continually ensure that they remain both relevant and adaptable,” she says.
“Our application numbers are testament to the fact that the MBA is still sought-after for individuals who are high achievers. However, we need to regularly adapt the curriculum to suit modern business practices and make sure, as business educators, we are serving the business environment.” Collaboration and team work
She adds that, as a generalist degree, the MBA considers business in its entirety, teaching both the ‘hard’ business skills as well as the ‘softer’ skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking and effective communication. “These leadership traits are important in any successful business, especially in a context where organisations are having to tackle the challenges associated with digital transformation.”
The Financial Times’
2018 Skills Gap Survey echoes this. The survey asked top employers what they consider to be the most important skills they look for in MBA graduates. Top of the list are: the ability to work in a team (and with a wide variety of people); the ability to solve complex problems; the ability to build, sustain and expand networks of people; and the ability to prioritise.
“This confirms that there is still a critical need for leadership and strategy skills,” says Dr Mokoaleli-Mokoteli. “These skills, which the MBA offers, are essential in today’s ever changing business environment, especially when it comes to the need to continuously innovate and to make informed decisions.”
In line with the global trend, Wits Business School is exploring ways in which to expand its teaching offering to incorporate both blended and online programmes. The school will be launching a new massive open online course (MOOC) for postgraduate business students in July. Networking
The school’s main teaching approach, however, remains face-to-face classroom and syndicate group learning.
“We believe that one of the most important advantages of face-to-face learning, that online cannot achieve, is networking – our students form personal and professional networks that, in many cases, last a lifetime,” says Dr Mokoaleli-Mokoteli.
“Also, the diversity of our students results in high quality discussions and speaks again to that essential business skill, which is to be able to work and collaborate with people from a wide variety of backgrounds,” she adds.
Recognising that strong leadership remains a critical success factor for successful organisations of the future, WBS recently re-designed its MBA programme to put leadership at the centre of the curriculum. Leadership development
“We have a model which not only develops knowledge in key areas of business but also ensures that the students develop their leadership capability. We are one of the few business schools that has a dedicated project which involves research, self-reflection and an action plan to help MBAs develop great leadership skills,” says Dr Mokoaleli-Mokoteli. So, what will the MBA of the future look like?
“We will need to model our MBA in line with what students want and need, for example if more and more people want to start their own businesses, we will need to incorporate more entrepreneurship content – we need to move with the trends. Students are also demanding more flexibility and so we have introduced the modular study format, which enables students to get their MBA with minimal disruption to their careers.”
Wits Business School’s modular format MBA and PDBA start in June, 2019. Applications close on 30 April.