A paradigm shift in the mission of business schools: connect the societal problems to business models.
These days, I spend countless hours in business schools addressing students on how their life in the campus can be an intellectually, personally, and socially transformative experience that will prepare them for a life of service and leadership. It is all about inspiring our brilliant business minds to create a mindset to take bold steps to address our massive societal problems, and have a big picture view of resolving them.
The world is changing rapidly. It always amazes me how much emphasis business schools place on theories, concept, and models, but how rarely they focus on imparting the skills to deal with our society. It is a humbling process to remind ourselves about our social responsibility, a realization that for a business to create and sustain its wealth, it needs a healthy society. It is not enough just to have capable faculties publish their findings in a journal, quality and quantity of journal articles, solid academic curricula, high test scores or GPA, great job offers, and high starting salary. We need a paradigm shift in the way we define the mission of a business school, a mission to bring bright students with the passion and capacity to learn fundamental business concepts and transform them into the new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs for building great businesses and strengthening our society. That is how we measure our success—by improving our competitiveness to ameliorate world’s pressing problems.
A year ago, I introduced an initiative called the ‘Model for Change’ which refers to the shared value approach — a well-known concept both in the academic world and among business leaders to effect positive social changes— Corporate Shared Value (CSV) responsibility. We all know, only business can create wealth. But the legitimacy of businesses is questioned by communities around the world, for the right reason: the disparity between the rich and the poor is widening, resulting in a huge divergence between the success of a business and the success of a community.
From the outset, a successful business model must address the ‘pain’ a customer is facing, the implications of not solving that problem, and the size of the addressable market. These are not nice-to- solve problems but rather must-solve- problems. There is no shortage of ‘pain’ in a world with over 7 billion people. We have massive social problems— poverty, climate change, pollution, lack of clean water and healthcare, run-down schools, gender gap in leadership, discrimination, systems that torture, imprison, and kill innocent men, women, and children, so on and so forth —that open up massive opportunities, and we have yet to make any large-scale impact in addressing them.
The question is: how can we solve complex social problems through business ventures and create more jobs and build a stable local community. The solution is to build a model for change, a stronger focus of businesses dedicated to societal issues which can attract many diverse group of participants. First and foremost, understand the community and its needs. We never arrive in a community with any ideas, but rather have a long-term vision as to how we expect to see that change a year from now, three years from now or five years from now. The ecosystem in the community has to work, and then leverage the resources of the community for the model to work. In other words, we capture the imagination, energy, and passion of the people living in a community and identify a solution that can change the life of a significant segment of that society or community—connecting the societal problems to business models—this is the model for change.
My own initiative is based on my belief that business schools are the drivers of change in developing a collective vision for business education through the model for change program. Business schools can bring together the collective wisdom, support, and expertise of many constituents in our society: students, faculties, scholars, business leaders, community organizers, government, NGOs, philanthropists, and charitable foundations. It may seem an audacious goal. By helping aspiring entrepreneurs to ease the common entrepreneurial challenges such as crafting a sustainable business strategy, building teams, securing funds, etc., business schools can bring real-world business experiences into the classroom and make the academic experience even more rewarding.
I invite you to join me in this vision of shared value in modern business education that embraces gentleness, kindness, and love of humanity in our heart. Without that billions of men, women, and children will continue to live in despair.
– SHAJAN NINAN
(Founder & CEO)