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Keeping Current

A B Kulkarni

Author: A B Kulkarni

Date: Sun, 2016-09-04 19:40

A good teacher is one who can connect with her audience. Some of the prerequisites for such a teacher are 1) subject knowledge and 2) a good understanding of the audience. Both these can change over time. If a teacher has to remain good over time, the challenge is to be current about the subject as well as have an insightful understanding of the changes taking place in the audience. Sometimes she might be teaching different age groups, sectors and people from varied backgrounds.  What are these challenges? There are many but, I will try to list those that I think are of prime importance in management education.

Each area gets wider by the day; e.g. each of the topics and sub-topics are now subjects of full time courses or sometimes programmes. How does one choose a specialisation? How deep do we go within a specialisation?  How does one keep track of the impact of other topics on one’s special field?

What about the impact of other areas on your area and specialisation? For example, the Return on Marketing Investment is an intersection of marketing, portfolio planning, resource allocation, cash flows, profit and shareholder value. Depth or Width?
 

Consumer behaviour requires a strong understanding of Behavioral Economics, Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology.  Depth or Width?  The answer probably lies in finding a balance which enables you to look at other fields only to the extent of their impact on your topic. Is this easy?

Big Data is coming at us in great volumes and velocity. How does each functional area handle this in terms of accessing and processing data and then decision making? This requires knowledge of data collection and processing methods and organisational adaptation to give responses in real time. Depth or Width?

Digital media has become a field in itself. Social Media Marketing, a field within it. How does one apply Social Media Marketing to non-profit organisations? Depth or Width?

The response to these challenges depends not solely on the individual but, is to a large extent dependent on the size and structure of the institution. A big institute with a large and varied student base can afford to have specialist faculty by topic and sector. This takes care of the Depth. The Width of knowledge of the individual faculty can come through continuing interaction among faculty, joint teaching and external inputs from industry and thought leaders. Is all this easy? No! But, there are examples of thought leaders among faculty. Such faculty members could become mentors for other faculty.

 

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<p>This conflict is like the yin&nbsp;and the yang . Both are needed but in what proportions ? Does this change over time ? One way to address this issue is to accept the fact that human brain has a certain capacity to hold &nbsp;data , facts , knowledge etc . After a stage something must come out for something else to go in . This is the theory of the " conservation of brain power " , so to say .</p> <p>For example , what we learnt in the first to fifth standards is now being taught in the&nbsp;first to second standards , with several, omissions . For&nbsp;&nbsp;example , we were asked to do the experiment of Joseph Priestley , of establishing that air contains 20% oxygen . Do students even look&nbsp;at this now ? They have assumed this as a fact that needs no verification . Instead they might want to find out more about the speed on their braodband connection in their smarfones in standard IV .</p> <p>That reminds me of a proverb that we used to hear much of &nbsp;in childhood : every male child in Kerala is born with a typewriter in hand and a female child with a stethoscope . Now , owing to gender equality , all chilren are born with cell phones in their hands , the brand and the features could be the&nbsp;only difference .&nbsp;</p> <p>After the advent of simulations and computer modelling using the EXCEL , the&nbsp;days of writing computer programs to solve operations&nbsp;problems using differential equations or algorithms have taken a rest ( however algorithms maybe seeing&nbsp;a rebirth due to their increasing usage in Big Data analytics ) . One must now move on to simulation and computer applications and forget about the use of complex distribution assumptions for demand .</p> <p>Every faculty has to take a call on this and this is the best part about management education . Every faculty has to stay current , if not , he or she will be shocked to learn that&nbsp;students have switched off .&nbsp;</p>

The topic being discussed is of outmost importance and relevance in the current scenario. With the fast changing environment it is vital for us to keep pace with such changes; else we may be left out. The evolution in the knowledge base these days can be partly attributed to the scale at which people are using social media. The theories and concepts are changing at such a scale that what seems to be of relevance today may not hold good 10 years from now. And as Sir mentioned in his blog, these changes not only led to increased knowledge in a particular field or subject, but also create interdependence among different subjects. We may not realise it, but the daily conversations that we indulge in, may be in person or through phone or internet, is nothing but what supports this linkage. We hear about some new upcoming technology and start to think about how the same can be useful in my area of work. Often lessons and practices from other industries and fields have found modified application in an industry which is stark in contrast. Courses such as Design Thinking, which are finding acceptance all over, also somewhere, highlight the importance of keeping your knowledge up to date. If one is well aware of the kind of opportunities that are building around, we can then leverage our understanding of the same to come up with new ideas and propositions. Given the pace of such evolution, our existing knowledge base may turn obsolete or irrelevant if the same is not enhanced in light with the changes happening in our immediate environment.

Kaizen is a Japanese term very commonly used in manufacturing industry and it means continuous improvement. I have been very much intrigued by this word. The more I think about it, the more I get real. Imagine the possibility of improvement in all the things that we do daily. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is then not an act but a habit. I believe a teacher is like a diamond. An uncut, unpolished diamond is still valuable but not demanded by many. Whereas, a polished and cut diamond is valued all around and it shines bright making other gems loose sheen. The article on keeping current is valid very much in today’s scenario. This can be extrapolated to even business and technology managers. The world around us is changing so rapidly that those who fail to change with it are left behind. It is critical that teachers stay up to date with the current trends in the industry. It is from them that student’s hope to seek knowledge. But, as mentioned in the article, learning about a particular subject or changing trend will give depth in the subject matter. The breadth can be obtained only by, mutual collaboration. In industry, there are seminars and cross-functional learning sessions to enhance knowledge about trends and disruptions. Teachers should also engage in mutual interaction and focus on continuous improvement. What we know today can be obsolete tomorrow and what is in a paper today will be implemented tomorrow. It is imperative to stay engaged in continuous improvement for self and group development. I happen to come across an article named "Reinventing SPJIMR" by Dr.Lata Dhir. In the article, she starts on by saying about a workshop conducted by the faculty for the faculty on book reading. She also discussed on the importance of reinventing one’s career by reinventing one’s identity. SPJIMR is already implementing measures to counter these disruptions in the field of education. As pioneers in change management, I am sure, in time to come, faculties of this college will be the shining brighter than the rest.

Hi Sir, You have touched upon a very important and a very conspicuous topic. The problem of knowing everything from its depth to breadth is now redefining many sectors & verticals in big industries & institutes. How vast sections of knowledge are merging into each other and several new knowledge areas are coming into being, is astonishing to say the least. To make new headways in your own area of expertise, one has to be very much updated about several other subjects and their direct & indirect impacts. As very aptly put forth by you, a teacher has to keep himself or herself on this continuous hunt for knowledge so as to stay relevant for students & other faculty around. This is easier said than done. Not only just the expectations of the students with their teachers have grown manifold, but also a teacher’s own curiosity about knowing his or her subject has grown with this information revolution. There are new links and correlated areas to explore within your own domain, that one could easily get bogged down in deciding between expanding depth or breadth of your knowledge. But knowing and being familiar with the exceptional pool of teachers at SPJIMR, one can rest easy because the faculty of teachers here will not let any stone left unturned to make sure best learning is derived from their subjects.

Very good and thoughtful blog reflecting important challenges of modern era. The blog appears small but chain of thoughts it created in my mind, after reading this, seems to be endless. Agreeing with you Sir, to keep ourselves relevant, we have to keep embracing current changes happening around us. However, this is not only limited to teachers but applicable to all of us in society. Environment around us is changing every moment and its continuously taking forms we can’t even think of!! Due to this ever changing world, expectation from all of us has increased by default. We are supposed to know everything to avoid guilt. Sir, you have rightly pointed out that each segment of an erstwhile curriculum has become a full-fledged curriculum in themselves!!! I feel, perhaps, this is the demand of growing specialization. But your concern is true. How a specialized field can survive independently? In this era, nothing is independent. Then how come so called specialization survive? Of course not. Elements of each field, affects the other. The degree may vary. While thinking on your points, example of a home-maker came in my mind. I don’t know how far it relates. A home maker is expected to be versatile. She might be specialized in a field say cooking. But she is supposed to have ‘adequate’ knowledge about budget (finance) management, banking, all religious rituals, parenting, hospitality, relations management (within family), time management, home remedies, health, socio-economic environment, dealing with vendors, teaching of kids, technology (mobile, face-book and whatsapp), planning for future, etc. etc. The list can contain many more areas. She is supposed to manage all these. She may be specialized in one but should have knowledge of all. Jack of all and master of one/two. All areas may not be inter-related. This is perhaps the width of knowledge requirement. And what if she is a working woman? Her specialization area increases. Sir, I think teaching profession and teachers have evolved a lot since the time when only one teacher used to teach all subjects. Now the teachers are specialized subject matter experts and they are treated as masters in their subject. They can teach the subject with much proficiency than any other who is non-specialized. This is beneficial for students. It will give students an opportunity to feel the depth which is not possible in opposite scenario. However, on other hand, these specialized teachers have challenge to remain aware about their field in particular and other impacting fields in general. Operations Management faculty cannot ignore new theories evolved in capital budgeting or demand forecasting. Supply Chain expert cannot ignore introduction of new laws in indirect taxation. Well, I agree with you that this is not easy. However, this is an era of inter-dependence. No one can survive alone. Each can help each one, each one can train each one and each can learn for each one. We cannot ignore the interference of google in this chain. Google has become the preferred source of information. All has accepted this way of life. It has variety of information taking care of width part but can it eliminate knowledge implanting centers (schools) who takes care of depth part, is the question to ponder upon. Change is constant. We need to keep accepting current. Its end of options.

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