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Home > India > Business > Special

'Real' lessons that B-schools don't teach

Rajeshwar B | March 11, 2008

The title of this column immediately brings to mind a couple of best-sellers of the last century. However, it made me briefly introspect on what I learnt in business school and the new lessons my career taught me. Here are some of them:

Case studies vs real business: One is familiar with the rigour of detailed case studies in every B-school, where students are expected to analyse business problems that companies face and solve them with possible, often multiple, choices of solutions.

While this has its value as an exercise to test the student's grasp of various management concepts, real life is usually more complicated - just as a map of a town never quite replaces the real sights and sounds of the place.

The real lessons of how to deal with management issues (most often these are human issues) are learnt "on the job", which any number of simulated case studies cannot teach.

People skills: Much has been written about this subject and the importance of it for a successful manager. But it is also well accepted that people skills are certainly not imparted in a classroom: they are either inborn or diligently cultivated on the field by the aspiring manager.

Very often, these lessons are learnt the hard way during interactions first with one's supervisors and peers and later with subordinates. I remember some brilliant classmates in B-school were relegated to less important roles that did not involve much people interaction, while others with lacklustre academic credentials became successful managers just because they attracted people around them.

Personal leadership: It is a set of simple attributes that anyone may cultivate in order to reap immediate dividends, regardless of the level and role in the organisation. A few simple guidelines to follow include:

  • Practice self-discipline: Being a role model is vital to motivate others and earn their respect - both key assets for any manager.
  • Build social capital: Develop new relationships, show others you enjoy what you do, and build up enough confidence in yourself to foster humility.

These learnings are not meant to take away the vital role B-schools play in laying a solid foundation for preparing the budding manager. The lessons of life would be a lot harder but for this theoretical grounding.

Rajeshwar  graduated from IIM, Bangalore

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