Debashis Interview

Jobs of the future are not going to be created by extending jobs of the present.

"Interview of Dr. Debashis Chatterjee"

Profile of Debashis Chatterjee

Professor Debashis Chatterjee is the former DG of IMI, New Delhi, Director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode , a tenured Professor and Dean at IIM Lucknow. Prof. Chatterjee is credited with transforming IIM Kozhikode to an institute of national impact and global recognition. He taught leadership at Harvard University and at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), Calcutta, Lucknow, and Kozhikode for over two decades.

Professor Chatterjee has been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship twice for Pre-Doctoral and Post-Doctoral work at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He served as ACC Research Fellow at the Management Centre for Human Values at IIM Kolkata. His published works include seventeen books such as Leading Consciously (Foreword by Peter M. Senge), Invincible Arjuna, The Other 99% and Timeless Leadership (Wiley) that have been translated in several international languages. He has trained more than fifteen thousand managers globally in Fortune 100 Corporations and over fifteen thousand school principals and teachers.

He has served as leadership coach to political leaders and CEOs of major Indian organizations. He has served as Dean of an international business school in Singapore. Professor Chatterjee served as Independent Director on the Boards of several multinational and Indian Companies such as Goa Shipyard, Henkel India Ltd. and Aegis India Ltd and served as a member of the Appointments Board of the RBI. He has taught in various Post Graduate courses at famed institutions such as Said School of Business, Oxford University and Harvard Business School. He has worked as consultant to several industries including British Petroleum and Ford Motor Company. He has received accolades and significant recognition as a demonstration of his leadership qualities such as CSR Leading Director Award, Rotary Sake of Honour Award (2013) and Outstanding Director Award, All India Management Scholars (2013).

Team MBA Rendezvous recently met Dr Debashis Chatterjee, The conversation ranged from the role of management schools, employment scenario to industry expectations and other things. Following is an excerpt :

Team MBA Rendezvous - How does ‘Accreditation’ affect students ?

Dr Debashis Chatterjee - Accreditation is generally looked at as a benchmark, which puts an institute in a certain pecking order in relation to the competition. It provides students with a cognitive idea as to where the school stands on various parameters and informs the student’s choice. It’s like a GPS system that locates your school at a specific point in the larger field. However, it is not the be all and end all. Accreditation incorporates two elements- ranking and reputation. Ranking is fundamentally concrete and tells you where you stand vis-à-vis your competitors. Reputation, on the other hand, is far more intangible. It is the process and the driver which validates ranking. For instance, Harvard University might not always be ranked as the number one university, but this does not have any impact on the formidable reputation it enjoys across the world, which remains intact. Therefore, one should be wary of ranking as they may not always be a true reflection of an institute’s reputation.

Team MBA Rendezvous - Given that the employability scenario is getting murkier, what can be done to reactivate the scenario ?

Dr Debashis Chatterjee - Jobs of the future are not going to be created by extending jobs of the present. For instance, the job a teacher in the present is to deliver a certain content in the classroom in a certain period. The job of a teacher in future will be very different. Therefore, one needs to contemplate on the kind of skills and competencies required in the future and prepare oneself accordingly. The scenario is getting murky because most people don’t know which component of work they are getting paid for. One needs to identify the critical component in one’s work, which has future orientation. For instance, research has future orientation because it is something that will create new knowledge and jobs in the future.

Also, jobs will come to those who can add value and not just repeat the most obvious and clichéd things. I reckon high speed computing skills will take over most of the memory based jobs. There will a shift towards core human skills in the future.

Team MBA Rendezvous - Can an MBA suffice in this VUCA world ?

Dr Debashis Chatterjee - MBA does not make one a manager. MBA just gives the license to be accessible or be accepted in the market. It does not make one an expert. The VUCA world, a term from the American military, is essentially a world where patterns, paradigms and structures are changing much faster than our knowledge of it, we cannot predict them. The VUCA world existed earlier too. It’s just a matter of change and alternative thinking to tackle the changes around. For instance, in medical schools in England, students are being asked to think like viruses rather than a doctor and design the pathway for the evolution of a virus. Just as humans build up their immune system to defend itself, the viruses too are building up different modes of attack. The students are being asked to assume that the virus has a mind of its own and to anticipate accordingly.

The VUCA world, in essence, has nothing to do with the world out there, it is fundamentally about one’s own learning curve. The human capacity to learn faster than the changes happening around us has been compromised. We are not able to see patterns or anticipate beyond a certain horizon. The depth of attention has decreased. The challenge before us, therefore is, how to relearn the ropes again. One way of growing in the VUCA world is growing vertically, i.e. acquiring degrees, knowledge, experience and rising through the ranks. But the world, at the moment, is growing horizontally, which essentially means that you need to think like a CEO from the beginning.

The VUCA world will demand differentiation. One tool does not fit all situations. One needs to possess and devise different tools, not necessarily taught in classrooms, to deal with the challenges of the VUCA world and be much more aware of the changes happening around. MBA is gradually incorporating these changes.

MBA does not prepare you for the VUCA world, but equips you with the tools required to negotiate the business world. It gives students a framework, a repertoire of skills, using which they can be in a better position to tackle the volatility of the VUCA world. MBA shall continue to be relevant as long as it continues to provide a broad framework to students.

Team MBA Rendezvous - How do you see the role of Management schools in producing future leaders ?

Dr. C.P. Shrimali - I strongly feel that Management schools will always be in demand. Economies are undergoing change and becoming larger, societies and industries are also undergoing change. In this changed environment, people need to align themselves with the change and hence, the management schools will be always needed.

Team MBA Rendezvous - Your action oriented advice to students in areas of challenges which they are likely to face in the ever changing economic scenario ?

Dr Debashis Chatterjee - There seems to be a distinction between managers and leaders. While managers operate within a system, leaders look at the entire system and try and make systemic changes. Management schools, will not automatically produce leaders. A lot of other influences shape a leader besides knowledge and expertise. The management curriculum will create managers, but out of these managers, there will be a handful who will influence expertise. The role of management schools will be to discover such people in the classrooms and give them the strength to reach their potential.

Team MBA Rendezvous - Your action oriented commandments to students in areas of Life, Work and Goal.

Dr Debashis Chatterjee - Firstly, students should create value before claiming value. Most people, immediately after MBA, falsely believe that they command a certain value and that they are superior. This will only give them a false sense of arrogance and hurt them professionally.

Secondly, always base your decisions on verifiable facts and not opinions. Opinions are abundantly available on the internet, whereas facts are difficult to assert, therefore, you should always look for first-hand data. Thirdly, be authentic and close the gap between you and reality. Lastly, there are no shortcuts in life.

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