3 Skills Every MBA Will Need In The Future
Dr Nam Tran, MBA Academic Director at Melbourne Business School, explains three skills future MBA graduates will need, and how business schools are fostering them
Year upon year, gaining an MBA is shown to be a great investment for professionals looking to excel in their career, and having one under your belt is consistently valued by top employers.
Even in the uncertain jobs market of 2020, 89% of corporate recruiters remain keen to hire MBAs. That’s because the the MBA students of today will be the business leaders of tomorrow. The main purpose of an MBA has always been to train you to become an effective business leader, which will always be sought after.
However, the precise skills, frameworks, and abilities you need to be an effective business leader are constantly changing. This is something Dr Nam Tran, academic director of the newly revamped MBA at Melbourne Business School, is only too aware of.
Nam explains three key skills every professional will need in the future.
1. Digital literacy
In the 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), employers put a high value on MBAs that understood technological disruption.
In other words, MBAs need to be aware of the ways that tech may threaten, improve, or transform different industries. With digitalization now vital to survival across so many business sectors, technical skills can’t be ignored if you want to make it to executive level.
“You don’t need to be an expert in tech,” says Nam (pictured right). “But you need digital literacy. You need to have the foundational language to ask the right questions of the experts, and understand and evaluate the answers that they give you.”
Among the changes to the Melbourne MBA are new modules, such as fintech, which has boomed in recent years, as well as digital product management and data analytics. In modern business, it's vital to have a grasp on how to get the most out of your company’s data in order to manage and lead effectively.
As the world becomes increasingly defined by uncertainty, Nam stresses the importance of having a set of solid, adaptable frameworks to enable innovation and problem solving processes.
“No one knows with certainty what the jobs market will look like in five to ten years,” says Nam. “You need methods to identify and solve problems that work for you, even as the details change.”
Flexibility is key, but having these tools on hand allows leaders to navigate uncertainty with greater confidence and successes.
Melbourne’s newly updated MBA curriculum will include structured thinking frameworks to teach students how to identify and solve business problems.
Being able to correctly identify business problems in an ambiguous environment is a crucial real-world skill, often left out of MBA programs. In school, students are often given a business problem to work on, but in real life, the first step in solving any problem is being able to accurately define it.
“It doesn't matter what situation you find yourself in, these frameworks give you the clarity and confidence to navigate it effectively,” says Nam. “The more uncertain and complex the world is, the more important these frameworks become.”
He adds that structured thinking does not mean stomping out creativity, rather, it enables innovation in the most useful way.
“Even with creative thinking, there are frameworks to facilitate that,” says Nam. “You need to be able to evaluate new ideas, quickly identify the good ones and translate them into reality. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the ideation phase.”
Nam has previously observed that the modular format of typical MBA programs limits students' ability to connect their cross-subject knowledge and develop a holistic view of a business.
“Students would come to me with the problem I’ve assigned to them and ask if I want it analysed from an accounting perspective, or a strategy perspective. In the real world, there is only the business perspective,” says Nam. “You have to consider all the elements and decide what is best overall.”
“A business leader needs to know how all the key aspects of the company—accounting, marketing, strategy, human resources—fit together,” Nam adds.
The new Melbourne MBA begins with a Business Foundations module that instills in students a holistic view about business.
This integrated view continues to be reinforced in other subjects throughout the program. For example, in the Biodesign subject, teams of MBA students and Master of Engineering students collaborate with hospital clinicians to explore, invent, design and build medical devices that have the potential to meet important clinical needs.
These kinds of experiential learning projects, which are becoming increasingly popular in business school curriculums worldwide, are the key to ensuring MBA graduates possess the relevant skills to succeed in their career.
“Business leaders need to lead, manage and inspire people. That was the goal 30 years ago, and it’s still the goal today," says Nam.
With this in mind, the newly revamped MBA at Melbourne Business School is not so much about redefining the purpose of an MBA but refining the curriculum and delivery to better fit that purpose.
In doing so, the course is set to provide tomorrow’s business leaders with the skills they need to navigate an uncertain future.