Outdated teaching methods are failing future business leaders
– Alastair Giffin is co-founder of Prendo Simulations, which provides leadership simulations to top business schools and universities.
In a world that is more complex and unpredictable than ever, outdated teaching methods mean business leaders are failing to overcome the challenges facing their organisations.
More worryingly, in spite of the considerable resources readily available to the organisations tasked with educating the world’s future business leaders, many of the financial crises and failures we read about in the news have been created or worsened by poor business leadership.
If we want to prevent these business failures from recurring time and time again, we need to tackle the problem at the source: business education.
Business education still based on outdated teaching methods
Despite living in an ever-changing world, where radical innovation is taking place across a wide range of industries, the way in which a large number of business schools are teaching their students hasn’t changed much since the first era of universities in the 14th century.
These outdated teaching methods, which typically consist of ‘listening, reading and discussing’, are totally ineffective in developing the complex skills needed in today’s business world.
Some business schools have made steps to incorporate technology-based learning tools into their programmes – such as e-learning, virtual reality case studies and even hologram lectures – but these technologies are often little more than ‘pseudo innovations’.
The problem with these technologies is that they don’t change the way in which business students are actually learning, but rather, just move the same content from book to screen.
Many in the business education sector make the mistake of using teaching methods that help transfer knowledge and understanding, but do little to aid their students in the development of core business and managerial skills.
Ultimately, the world’s future business leaders need to learn by doing.
Practical learning a step in the right direction
Through making decisions and taking actions, experiencing the consequences, figuring out what happened and why, and then repeating the process, students can effectively develop the complex skills they will undoubtedly need in their future careers.
Typically, the only arena for business leaders to ‘learn by doing’ has been in real organisations, working with real customers, on real projects.
Opportunities like these are unquestionably more effective than lecture theatres for developing skills, but can be immensely costly, and in complex situations it can also be very difficult for leaders to see the links between cause and effect.
Because of this, artificial practice grounds (i.e. simulations) are the ideal methodology for developing complex skills.
Having collaborated with some of the world’s leading business school faculty, from institutions like INSEAD, Wharton, and MIT, I have worked to create simulations that can provide students with the opportunity to practise complex skills in highly realistic virtual environments.
These simulations offer the best of both worlds: the speed and safety of the classroom, but also the realistic (and crucially emotional) experience of carrying out a project and seeing what happens.
If we’re to develop effective and successful business leaders, we need to see a wide-scale revamp of business education, with a much greater emphasis on ‘learning by doing with advanced simulations’ in order to truly offer these future leaders the opportunity to develop the skills needed for the complex and uncertain world we now live in.
Pic: Adeolu Eletu