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"Be Prepared"
Mantra for survival in VUCA Times

In the first two decades of 21st century, the Indian and Global landscape has witnessed phenomenal socio-economic-political upheavals virtually in every sphere of life. The IT revolution driven by multi-dimensional expansion of digital technology tools and applications has given rise to mega corps across the globe. Today's top high-tech driven global companies have achieved multibillion dollar market caps in a decade as against the traditional auto/petroleum/health care giants which required almost half a century to attain those levels. Disruptive technological changes have wiped off traditional mega corps like Kodak/Nokia/Ericsson/Blackberry since they could not keep pace with the interventions via disruptive innovation. Thus size is no longer a guarantee for survival of the mega corp., but its capacity to look far ahead beyond the horizon, spot dangers as well as opportunities and develop capabilities to ride the uncertainties to success.

Therefore Management gurus and visionary business leaders need to build a common platform and work towards a body of knowledge and applications which will facilitate training and development of far sighted organizations to ensure their survival and growth. Undoubtedly there are number of strategic and economic solutions which have been developed to meet the challenges of the VUCA (Volatility Uncertainty Complexity Ambiguity) market forces. But the business dynamics have so drastically changed that yesterday's solutions may not help to tackle current and future problems. If we analyse the market interventions and statutory responses brought in to quell the market tsunamis, we note that they always had significant impact on curbing the negativities at the ground level. The pumping in of billions of dollars by US fed agencies after 2008-09 sub-prime crisis in the US, as well as the parallel efforts of Indian Government to contain domestic market volatility are a testimony of such interventions which helped to ease the pressures. The fifty odd interventions by the RBI post remonetisation also indicate the willingness of the financial market regulators to learn from regulatory slippages and offer some relief to the society at large.

The moot question faced by professionals and trainers in this context of volatility/counter measures is, how does a professional develop the capability of predicting, de-mystifying and eventually conquering the market demons? Can study of business analytics/stimulations/algorithm/data science help in putting the students through scenario building exercises, case study and role play etc. to shape them to take the bull by the horns and tackle the issues? Do we need to supplement the pedagogy by focusing on building capabilities to improve the human response to emergencies/disasters including natural calamities? If the Bangalore and Chennai flood disasters in 2016 are any indication, the current and the next decade may see frequent recurrence of natural disasters taking a toll not only of business and industry but affecting the psyche of the employees by large.

It is common knowledge that, evolution and application of science and technology, are historically an attempt to conquer the overall unpredictability of elements which has helped humanity and society to achieve a greater degree of control of our lives. The art and science of management is obviously a part of this effort but,the complexities get multiplied manifold when market forces driven by greed and avarice act as multipliers. As we study the interplay of various risk factors we find that the economic pitch is severely affected by socio political interventions as well as the natural calamities. Thus, when you are caught in the vortex, the only solution is to wait, watch and hold the head high.

The mantra for survival in the VUCA times both for the professionals and the organisations was laid down long ago by the father of Scouts movement Baron Baden Powell - “Be prepared,” he said. Both at professional and corporate level, it is necessary to learn and internalise latest technologies to look far ahead into the global market place and implement policies and programmes keeping the past and present in focus. This obviously would involve familiarity and proficiency in digital technology tools, big data analytics and hands on approach to grass root level issues so as to tackle them before they become monsters of the market place. In such dynamic situations the B-schools are challenged to offer curriculum and pedagogy which would facilitate training of professionals to face unpredictable market complexities. This is achieved through the continuous updation of the syllabi in consultation with alumni, corporates and industry professionals so as to demystify the uncertainties of the socio economic theatre.

At MET, we are using innovative processes to kindle the spirit of business leadership and ownership amongst young professionals through exposure to a broad range of experiential learning processes and business simulations. Besides exposure to CSR initiatives and social entrepreneurship start-ups, our students are engaged in empowerment exercises, which help develop strategic and analytical thought processes, to use strengths of business models for building sustainable enterprises. Students are groomed through outbound training with obstacle courses so as to strengthen team work, situational leadership as well as sharpened responses to emergencies. Work experience and summer Internships in industry also help them to understand the complexities at the work place, so that they can hit the ground running. This helps them approach their task with courage and positive attitude as they cross the corporate threshold.

“Be Prepared,” said the Baron and this message holds good in VUCA Times as well!

Dr. Vijay Page
Director General,
MET Institute of Management

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