Special Correspondent

'Too many MBAs get into their first jobs without experience of real-life situations'

Why experience? Leading teams call for more than mere book knowledge Theories of management gurus rarely work as anticipated in the Indian context There are peculiarities in every market

Bangalore: Top management schools, including the IIMs, are looking at more MBA students with work experience.

"This is the trend with most B-schools in the U.S. and is coming here now. Too many MBAs get into their first jobs without experience of real-life situations where theories may or not work. Leading teams calls for more than book knowledge,'' says management consultant K. Panduranga.

Out-of-the-box thinking

Applying theories calls for keen problem-solving skills and thinking "out of the box", as current management jargon goes. Theories, even from the most respected management gurus, rarely work as anticipated in the Indian context.

Rapport with staff

For example, a manager attending an "ayudha puja", minus footwear, may build more rapport with shop floor workers than through any number of productivity enhancement workshops.

Exposure vital

"Those who want to specialise in marketing especially need to spend months on the road with salesmen, visiting customers in far off places to get a feel of the market. They will not get that kind of experience sitting in an air-conditioned office or from books,'' says Mr. Panduranaga.

One consumer products company, for example, found that a product began selling less after the colour scheme of the packaging was changed because people in a particular region believed the colour was inauspicious. There are such peculiarities in every market, he points out.

Communication skills

Work experience is also expected to help a person improve his or her communication and inter-personal relationship skills.

Very different from the kind of friendships one forms on a campus. There will be persons of varied temperaments in a team and knitting them together into a workable group with common goals is not easy.

Ideal period

"One cannot expect in real life the kind of uniformity prevalent on a campus... there will be difficult people to be dealt with and rough edges to be smoothened out and friction between people to be defused," he explains. Also no manager in today's business world can expect the kind of adulation and respect that a college professor may get from students. If students are always questioning, employees are likely to be more so.

What is the ideal period to be spent working before going back to school? "Two to three years of working experience should be enough to make one realise what kind of knowledge is necessary to hone one's talents. Those who have spent more years at work may find the discipline of college more difficult to get used to," he feels.