It is now more than seven months since I began my stint at SPJIMR. It has been an interesting period, full of new challenges and constant opportunities to learn and grow. There is optimism, energy, a growing sense of teamwork and camaraderie, and the foundation for a new phase of growth. This is accompanied by the sobering realisation that our aspirations are large, and we still have in excess of 90% of the journey to travel.
We lost a respected and loved leader, Dr. Manesh Shrikant, in the past year. This was a difficult and emotional phase for the Institute and its well-wishers. We emerge determined to carry his legacy further, and as a simple gesture, have announced three initiatives to honour his memory – a Chair Professorship for Spirituality and Leadership, a memorial lecture in his memory to be held on his birth anniversary every year, and the naming of our new auditorium in his name.
At an aggregate level, the best way to take Dr. Shrikant’s legacy forward is to build on the foundations laid by him. I will use the rest of this missive to share progress on that front.
What have we done in this period? A lot of it has been about communication and understanding. We have co-created a vision together, and taken it to our stakeholders. In doing so, we have learned more about how the vision needs to be adapted, and in some cases, the execution timed to ensure that our aspirations do not race ahead of our capabilities.
We have taken initiatives that move the needle for faculty, staff and students. Faculty development was identified as a key priority at the retreat, and we have moved aggressively on this. Some of the best researchers in the world (from institutes like LSE, LBS, Cornell, Texas-Austin) have come down to train our faculty. Projects have been identified, and proposals are now being reviewed by some of the world’s top researchers.
We have done a lot to enhance faculty-student connect. Vishwas, a student counselling cell has been launched. A one-to-one mentoring plan is being worked out. We have tried hard to create greater approachability, and my door is open to student grievances and suggestions. We launched a Design Thinking course for both PGDM (the two year MBA programme) and PGPM (the one year MBA programme) which was co-delivered by eight faculty. With this, we become the first premier business school to launch design thinking as a core element of the curriculum across programmes. Not only was the course highly appreciated, but many project ideas will be taken forward for implementation. We are endeavouring to equip students with a design thinking mind-set and projects will be embedded in many of our existing courses. Some of our traditional jewels - our non-classroom initiatives - had got slightly jaded over time. We listened carefully to student feedback, and strengthened the core. Essentially, we reduced the burden of mechanistic activity, and enhanced the reflection, learning and developmental components. A major infrastructure project has been initiated, with the goal of enhancing the student living experience.
An important component of faculty development is the recruitment of new faculty. We have recruited six new faculty in the last six months (full time and adjunct), and intend to expand faculty strength further by the end of the calendar year. The fresh recruits are a combination of academic researchers and seasoned corporate executives looking for a meaningful second career. This mix has served us well in the past, and we intend to continue along this path.
We have also been less hesitant to share our story with the world’s top schools. I presented the depth and impact of our non-classroom activities, with measurable impact on attitudinal parameters being showcased, at the Global Business School Network (GBSN) conference in Manila.
The concept was well appreciated by leaders from institutions like MIT and Darden, and ours was one of the talked about presentations. Subsequently, I was recently invited by GMAC to conduct a workshop on Change Management for US-based deans and associate deans in Miami. This was extremely well received. Such honours are a testimony to the uniqueness of our position and proposition.
We have reached out to alumni, shared our vision and listened. We have received many suggestions and tangible offers of help, and in the next six months, the following programmes are being initiated: Formation of alumni councils, alumni webinars, a ‘SParc’ talks event involving alumni, students, faculty, staff and external keynote speakers, the creation of an alumni app, case studies in alumni organisations (already underway with alumni support), and co-branded advanced management programmes with top global institutes. These are still tentative first steps, and we will be in continuous touch with our alumni to refine and fine tune these activities. At a strategic level, we see two goals for alumni activity: a) To help our alumni become even more successful and b) To grow the brand equity of SPJIMR.
I am happy to share a recent achievement. Last year, we realised that many of our achievements were not known to key stakeholders. We came up with the idea of orchestrated information sharing through social media - i.e. all our faculty, students, staff and alumni would share a consistent set of factual messages on their social media pages. While the idea was well received overall, reactions from alumni were mixed. Some 70% or so were favourable, around 30% disliked the idea, felt it had not been done with their active engagement and was in a sense, ‘in your face’.
We had two choices: stay with it or pull the plug. We decided to pull the plug on the campaign. We then went back to a small group of senior alumni across batches and took their input on how we could do this differently. The feedback that seemed to emerge was that there was a strong core of values and authenticity about SPJIMR that had touched their lives, and held them in good stead at critical career moments. This insight led to a well-planned and coordinated ‘#IamSPJIMR’ campaign, which was released on Teachers’ Day. Over 300 students, staff, faculty, alumni posted voluntarily on social media, the campaign trended No.1 nationally and in Mumbai on Twitter, and a groundswell of appreciation for the brand was shared among well-wishers.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the world’s largest B-School accreditation body, had requested entries from across the world for recognition as ‘Innovations that Inspire’. Nearly 300 innovations were submitted from more than 200 institutions across 35 countries. I am happy to share that on February 1, the ‘#IamSPJIMR’ initiative was voted among the world’s top 30 B-School innovations for 2015. We are the only Indian B-School to feature on the list.
Awards and recognition are useful, but are, strictly speaking, not in our control. This award is, however, a testament to the power of our community, and a testament to the power of humility, listening and the new world mechanisms of crowdsourcing and co-creation. We will continue to walk this path, sharing, listening, experimenting and learning, and from time to time, accolades may follow, a happy by-product of consistently doing the things we believe in.
Finally, I turned 50 earlier this year. The goodwill that I received, both from old friends and new, suggests that I may have done a few things right over the years. I feel deeply privileged to have the opportunity to lead a dynamic B-School with a core of courage and authenticity, and I will do my best to bring sincerity, humility, deep affection and energy to the role. As a leader, I am learning every day.
Dr. Ranjan Banerjee
February 2, 2016
Why Research Matters? (Forbes Issue March 2016)
Brand Legacies (Businessworld Issue Dated 07-03-2016)
Why people spend the way they do (Businessworld Issue Dated 16-11-2015)
Teaching in the time of the Internet (Businessworld Issue Dated 14-12-2015)