Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time for a softer MBA

With the fracas around judging errors in Goafest 2010, advertising has become a profession that’s been grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

I’m going to skirt this topic for just one reason. Our clients don’t care about it.

Instead I want to bring up a topic that is relevant as we are at the start of the new academic year.

Ever since the economy opened up, and that’s almost 2 decades ago, marketing as profession has matured in India. Scores of youngsters, many of them MBAs, now handle responsibilities ranging from product management, advertising, promotions, to exhibitions, new media etc. They take decisions worth millions of rupees, many of which determine the fate of the brand. A sizeable percentage of these decisions are “aesthetic” decisions. My question is, how is business education preparing them to take such subjective calls?

The last time I checked, no MBA course covers graphic design adequately. Yet, these graduates sit on judgment on expensive advertising campaigns, effecting changes without knowing the aesthetic implications. Most of the time the quality of the verdict depends on individual right brain competencies that formal business education has not ventured to deal in. So if the marketing professional is a music enthusiast, chances are his inputs on a jingle is likely to be worthwhile. Else he might actually be ruining a good thing. Now imagine if the project at hand is a multi million rupee commercial.

So, for a start, I recommend that MBA education must include comprehensive courses in Graphic Design, Music, Cinema and Art. Thereby the marketing person can take informed calls on aesthetics. In fact, the creative folk will begin to see him as an insider.

Expanding the argument further, I’d say that our MBA education comes woefully short when it comes to developing right brain competencies. Studies across the world have shown that this is what distinguishes the top performers in many sectors. Einstein’s scientific thinking was aided in large measure by his mastery over the violin. Dr. Raja Ramanna, one of the founding fathers of India’s success in nuclear energy, was an accomplished pianist. I strongly urge the IIMs to loosen up a bit and bring a sense of play into business education. Teach subjects that inspire the individual to thrive in his strengths. I read that IIM Bangalore plans to introduce the Bhagvad Gita as part of the curriculum. This is an inspired move, in my opinion. Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind” says that in the new age, people who have majored in fine arts will rule the business profession. While he is not to be taken literally, what he implies is that mere factual knowledge is not going to build leaders. Those who can rise above all this, into realm of “artistry”, they are the ones who will change the world.

The sum of my argument is this. At the core of business profession is creativity. It’s time business education prepared students for this.

Posted by Monica