Scaling up the MBA for relevance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

An MBA can also serve as a catalyst in transitioning traditional business practice, managerial approaches, research techniques and development into strategies better suited for the workplace of tomorrow. The essence of traditional knowledge and learning will not be discarded, rather transformed into models that will be beneficial to business landscapes in future.

The design of the MBA has to be influenced by its commitment to shaping candidates for the business landscapes of tomorrow. In addition, it has to take into consideration the importance of managing business, its people, and networks within a digital platform and interface. In this way a relevant MBA can offer creative and innovative supported digital learning. The MBA has to ensure that despite the disruptions and uncertainties that might be encountered as we approach the future of work and business, management, talent, and research can be developed resourcefully.

Even within a space of digital literacy, core strengths and capabilities such as collaborative intelligence and the development of strategic visions to combat social and environmental challenges, offered by the MBA, are critical.

In the 4IR an MBA should present its relevance and versatility in a world of digital literacy through its focus on theoretical and practical modules, leadership competencies and innovative assessment techniques which form the foundation for business management across any platform.

Equally, the business landscape of tomorrow, defined by digital literacy and automation requires candidates to be creative and critical thinkers. Both technological and leadership-savviness demand that incumbents are able to execute strategic decisions, implement visions and tactical insights which are all generated through the completion of an MBA.

Additionally, in a global marketplace, characterised by radical change, unpredictability, and cross-cultural differences, it is crucial that the leaders of tomorrow be sufficiently equipped with strengths such as diversity awareness, inclusion and management, adaptability, communication and risk management.

An MBA transformed for 4IR relevance offers opportunities to network with industry professionals, leaders and senior academics, which could enhance the transferability of skills, diversity awareness and communication, on both a local and international scale.

Likewise, business education in the 4IR has to evolve by revisiting its aim to educate the future leaders who have a new set of skills; sustainable global thinking, entrepreneurial and innovative talents, and decision-making based on pragmatism.

Business schools and the MBA will need to be ready to adapt traditional rules of business to a brave new world of the 4IR. How well they handle this transition might just determine whether the rise of technology will represent a boon or a burden for society in the 21st century and beyond.

Professor Osman Seedat is the Dean of REGENT Business School and writes in his personal capacity

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