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Trends in the MBA - Article for Business Report: November 2016

We live in a fast paced, information rich and interconnected world and our MBA programme strives to prepare students for successful careers. Business requires good thinking, the ability to collaborate and an understanding of what it takes to get things done.

Op Ed by Conrad Viedge, MBA Director at Wits Business School

We live in a fast paced, information rich and interconnected world and our MBA programme strives to prepare students for successful careers.  Business requires good thinking, the ability to collaborate and an understanding of what it takes to get things done.

Our new MBA curriculum reflects this trend in that there are a number of occasions where students are challenged to engage with real life business problems and offer solutions.  To set the scene, the MBA Orientation involves students working in small groups to tackle a strategic problem for a local organisation.  This year the challenge was, “What is the ‘next big thing’ for Famous Brands?”  Presentations by the MBAs were judged by the EXCO of Famous Brands and the students appreciated the business challenge and the feedback from the EXCO on the value of their proposals. This was not an abstract case study, but a real live business problem assessed by the management team.   The new curriculum also includes a simulation on Business Integration which requires the students to apply what they have learnt in a “competitive market”.

Our purpose is to promote the long term success of our MBAs in everything that we do.  We also want this success to include the students wanting to achieve something beyond themselves, and thereby contribute back to society.  Our new course on the MBA entitled ‘Business Society and Collective Action’ forces students to confront the issue of the role of business in society, and more particularly their own role.

Another new trend in our MBA is the focus on the individual student.  Our ‘Leadership Quest’ is an ongoing, independent study component of the MBA which requires the student to use research to determine the kind of leader they want to become.  The second stage of this quest is to search the literature for solutions to how one brings about change in one’s own behaviour and habits to become the best leader one is capable of becoming.

The new MBA curriculum also allows for greater choice in the independent study component.  Rather than the monolithic research report, students are now allowed to choose among such research topics as a consulting project, a social entrepreneurship project, a new venture creation proposal or topic of their own choice. In line with the importance of entrepreneurship being the catalyst for job creation this is now a core subject as opposed to being an elective on the MBA.

The dominance of the digital world will find its way into our MBA through the new chair in Digital Business sponsored by Telkom.  This will allow for the development of a centre of excellence which will feed into the MBA programme.

A strong theme in our MBA is that we are routed in Africa.  We draw extensively on our Case Study Centre to provide locally relevant cases for teaching excellence in the classroom.

Is the MBA still the sought-after qualification it always has been?  The Financial Mail’s most recent survey indicates that the Wits MBA is still the no.1 choice for employers. In the case of WBS, enrolment figures speak for themselves with a dramatic increase in the last two years. In 2017 WBS will have two new cohorts entering the programme, with a total of six intakes (full-time and part-time).

Ultimately, the MBA is a ‘stress test’ for anyone wanting to reach their potential. It provides a rare opportunity to think deeply and critically - not only to absorb knowledge but to actively consider solutions in the face of complex realities.  Entrepreneurship, innovation, learning to work with people, and individual career development are just some of the powerful ingredients which ‘prep’ students to meet global business challenges, both now and in the future.

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