Mugging up management lessons does not a manager make. Master the concepts out there in the real world.
If your idea of management education is learning by rote from books, the corner office will never be yours. To win your spurs as a manager, try applying difficult management concepts in the real world even before you earn the degree.
Management education, in its actual sense, remains incomplete till the students put into practice those concepts. Mathematics, History and Economics can be learned from books. But not Marketing, Business Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Consumer Behaviour and so on.
Management students have only one road to take: either learning by doing or experiential learning. A manager who has only textbook knowledge falters when asked to make crucial decisions.
Management is defined as organising, planning, controlling and directing an organisation’s resources to achieve its objectives. To be a successful manager, gain experience in all these functions.
Marketing students know the basic concept called 4Ps — product, price, placement and promotion — or the marketing mix. Marketers employ this set of controllable tools to achieve goals.
Every product has its own 4Ps, differentiating it from another. Many students just mug them up for examinations, without knowing their value. Knowledge that cannot be put into practice is no knowledge at all. Ideally, students should have a chance to do marketing in the real world. Since it is almost impossible, other methods, called experiential learning, have to be adopted.
At present, many options allow to create an artificial business environment. Business simulation is one. Here, in a computer-simulated situation, students have a chance to employ the tools and learn by themselves how their decisions can lead to success or failure in business. However, business follows no mathematical rules, and so, business simulation has only a limited scope. Nevertheless, students get a chance to put into practice what they have learned and can understand how their decisions affect outcome.
The most widely used experiential learning method is the case method, proposed by Harvard Business School as far back as the 1950s. A business case is a verbal representation of a real-life business situation that puts the student in the role of a participant. The basic difference between textbook learning and case method is that textbooks represent reality in a logical and coherent manner, whereas real business situations are fluid and involve a lot of uncertainties.
A case will involve a significant business issue or issues and have enough information on which to base conclusions and no stated conclusions. The teacher assumes the role of a facilitator and guides the students to arrive at a conclusion by using the theories that they have learned from books. Here, more than the result, the way in which one arrives at the decision is the critical element. The idea is not to teach the subject but to put what they have learned from books in real-life situations. Let us assume that a company wants to launch a product. It may be new or a variation of an existing product. The critical decision to make is how to price it. Several theories are there on pricing. However, the decision depends mainly on the nature of the product and the competitive environment. If the product is priced high, there is a possibility that demand will be low or it will invite intense competition. If priced low, the company may end up in the red. So, the pricing method to adopt is not straightforward. Business simulation or case method can expose the student to the intricacies of pricing.
Apart from the above techniques, many B-schools are trying to use the Internet by connecting the teacher with the students by forming groups, allowing free interaction. Software is available for conducting case method through the Net.
These learning methods are, by no means, exhaustive. Newer and newer methods are being looked into by various management education institutions. Experiential learning is not a substitute for real-life learning.
Abdul Karim Musaliar, Executive Director, TKM Institute of Management, Kollam.
Keywords: management education