Scaling up the MBA for relevance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The global economy is undergoing massive disruption. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has brought with it a world of ‘cyber-physical systems’ characterised by the merging of physical, digital, and biological realms in profound ways, and Artificial intelligence (AI) serves as the primary catalyst of this transformation.

By Professor Osman Seedat, Dean of REGENT Business School

The digitally-enabled 4IR is already the fastest period of innovation in the history of humankind. It is underpinned by rapid advances in technologies including artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, nanotechnology and biotechnology, to name a few. The disruption of many traditional markets and industries is already underway.

We are witnessing changes that happen at an exponential rather than linear rate, and they affect all economies. No one knows yet where we are headed. Thus, business needs a deep understanding of technological trends. And any organisation that aims to succeed in this new era of continuously accelerating change will need to significantly adjust its approach to business.

The disruptive power of technology is very much evident with the ushering in fourth industrial revolution. It is important that the future generation of leaders should have adequate appreciation of technology. The future businesses are mostly technology enabled or built around emerging technologies.

In a world where automation is fast disrupting businesses, anyone in leadership position must have adequate knowledge of technology as they would have to grapple with difficult decisions about the trade-offs between increasing automation and re-skilling those workers whose current skills are no longer useful.

Business managers and leaders need to understand and comprehend the advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and automation and their transformational impact. The modern MBA programme should have courses which provide over view of the latest developments in robotics, automation and advances in information technology, and their effect on our current way of life and work.

A recent trend shows that business schools are gradually introducing in their MBA programmes courses providing over-arching view of artificial intelligence, robotics and critical skills through coursework, case studies, seminars and conferences. To be relevant in an ever-changing world education in high technology has to be a part of business school curriculum. The goal of such courses is to help students learn about what these technologies can deliver and the challenges and opportunities for a company that utilises them.

The future of business as we know it will be affected to a large degree by innovation, vast technological advancement and flexibility. The future snapshot of business landscapes is increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence, automation, digitalisation, and virtual spaces. The reconfiguration of work spaces, businesses and entrepreneurial activity, requires present and future leaders to maintain, apply and execute a balance of both traditional knowledge, best practice and human resource development, as well as swiftness, spontaneity, calculated risk taking and decision making, intellectual and digital mastery.

In this regard, an MBA qualification can be advantageous if it upskills one in a multiplicity of disciplines, subject areas, specialities, enterprise knowledge, best practice, enhances managerial expertise and most importantly, offers a technological edge, both on a continental and global scale.

In an era in which techno-savviness is crucial, MBAs can serve as a stimulus of intellectual and digital creativity, problem-solving techniques, and advanced analyses. An array of innovative managerial approaches and methodologies are associated with the MBA. The MBA offers it’s candidates an advantage in wider organisational enhancement, development, entrepreneurial spirit and IT mastery- a must in the information age.