Getting into a prestigious business school in India and surviving it is like an extended obstacle race. There is hurdle after hurdle to clear before you can finally reach the finishing line. What if after all the struggle you were to realise that the school didn’t equip you with skills to solve ‘real-life’ problems? Author, entrepreneur and keynote speaker Erica Dhawan, who earned her MBA from MIT Sloan School Of Management, admits that she had to unlearn everything that her $200,000 worth of education taught her. “MBAs are being taught by adults who have lived in a different era of business. Most of the time, there is no real dialogue between teachers and students. Some leave students with memorisation techniques and others resort to a transfer of old data that doesn’t relate to or apply in the way to today’s future,” she says.
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The debate for and against formal business education is one that has been going on forever. There are multiple examples on both sides, with college dropouts having made it big in the business world and business school graduates who are at the helm of billion-dollar companies. Yes, business schools do provide you with a set of technical skills and easy access to a network of peers which will help you in managing businesses in the future. But there are a few essential things that, most graduates agree, are not taught at even prestigious B-schools around the world. Here are a few:
We have been told many times over that people are the biggest assets to any business. But the truth is that they are also the most difficult-to-handle resource in a company. Good business acumen calls for the ability to manage difficult situations and emerge out of them unscathed. Diplomacy is an art and an essential survival skill in today’s world. Gone are the times when employees used to take orders from their superiors without questioning their intentions. Today employees demand respect, empathy and equality in the workplace. It is in such a scenario that diplomacy turns into almost a life skill. Employers today need to train themselves to give constructive feedback in a diplomatic way so as to strike the right balance between employee happiness and positive business outcomes.
A few of you may argue that this is not a skill a B-school is expected to impart. But it is regarded as one of the biggest strengths an entrepreneur should possess. At business schools, we are taught about different types of internal and external communication channels, but we are seldom taught how to effectively put across our ideas to a colleague, customer or potential investor. Understand that communication is not all about talking; it is about knowing when to stop talking, too. Be clear and crisp while making your point and make an effort to listen.
While at school, we may have come across many theories, formulae and strategies that ensure success in business. But once we get thrown into the real rat race, it doesn’t take long to figure out that there are no shortcuts or sure shot ways to ensure that you will be successful. Whatever skills you may possess, how much ever money you may pump into your business, they are all going to be worthless if you are not going to be perseverant enough. As a businessman, perseverance and patience are what will help you tide over unexpected obstacles and achieve your goals.
We always hear management books telling us to ‘look at the bigger picture’. While aiming big and being able to envision your business at a larger scale may be good skills to possess, what is equally important is the ability to pay attention to small things. It could be something as small as replying to an email on time, keeping an eye out for your financial reviews or congratulating an employee who worked hard. Big things might be what others see when they look at your success, but understand that it is the small things that hold your business together and built a strong foundation for it to grow on.
Remember that your business school education is not the end of your learning process. The real and more hands-on learning begins when you get out and start working in the real world. Be aware of the limits of your pricey degree and be open to picking up more important skills on the job.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)