Exploring the innate
Changing face of the B-school selection process
By R. Sreenivasan
Quite a few visionaries in the management education as well as corporate leaders have been debating for the last few years, especially after the collapse or slide of many a leading multinational organisation like Enron, Arthur Anderson etc and Satyam in our national context, certain significant questions that we raised in the last issue -
1. What are the B-Schools meant for?
2. Are they meant for churning out glorified clerks or Are they meant to shape only ‘go getters’ for corporate?
3. Should we not be producing future leaders who are socially conscious and have strong ethical values while being aware of business imperatives?
4. How important is it for the B-school to look at the value systems of an individual while recruiting?
5. How do we go about designing a selection process that goes to look beyond the obvious and ‘trained’?
6. How do we really find students of substance, who can contribute to the growth of economy and the nation?
These questions now are as much debated in a few B-Schools that see education more as a means of transformation of the society than just equipping a few with knowledge and skills needed in the corporate world. This process is throwing up far reaching changes in the whole orientation of MBA education in these B-Schools, and they are being hailed for their far-sightedness. A few of the conscious and thinking B-Schools have started answering these questions too, right earnestly.
In the October issue of Management Compass, you will get to read an article / case written by a research team from IIMA about a few of these new age B-Schools that have charted their own path and already proving their potential to contribute to the growth of Indian economy and society. This article talks about the approach, programs, pedagogy and the learning environment created by these B-schools to realise their ultimate goals.
In the current article we are going to just introduce the approach of these B-Schools but examine in detail how the students are being selected by these progressive B-Schools of the country.
What do these B-Schools see as their purpose of existence?
These B-Schools focus on stoking up leadership among the selected students, whether they call them Business leaders or entrepreneurial leaders. Entrepreneurial leader is as much relevant to a start-up venture as to a mature business. Business or Entrepreneurial leaders are transformational. They set ambitious goals for themselves and their organisations. They mobilise resources, opinions and action towards the achievement of their goals. They assume full responsibility, personal as well as moral, of the outcome. They have a keen eye for opportunities and a healthy appetite for risk. They are often first movers. They relentlessly push the boundaries of possibilities and do not hesitate to challenge conventional thinking. They shift paradigms, creating new insights, and changing the rules of the game.
In order to facilitate such an orientation and create a learning environment that fosters such an orientation, these business schools are incorporating complete hands-on approach to learning. They are collaborating with leading institutions, corporate and also with entrepreneurial leaders from around the world and also within the nation that are known for business excellence while being very conscious about propagating socially responsible values.
How do they go about selecting the candidates?
If the corporate is looking to absorb individuals with leadership potential, if the B-Schools are looking for the spark that can be facilitated to be a business leader or an entrepreneurial leader, then what should the process of selection be?
The B-schools look at the scores in the entrance exams like GMAT, CAT or XAT that throw light on the ability of the student to cope with stress, ability to think on feet and make choices that lead to quick decisions, not to talk of fundamentals that the student is tested upon. They also look at the academic performance through out, to see the consistency and seriousness of the candidate towards learning. Also the extra-curricular and co-curricular interests and excellence add to the personality of the individual, which is of interest to the institutions. In addition, many of them also seek letters of reference from either the faculty who have taught the candidate at some time in the past and/or from a superior in an organisation that the candidate has worked in. This enables the institution get a first hand appraisal of the candidate from various dimensions.
Though the scores in the entrance exams are important, some of the institutions do explore the candidate even when the entrance scores are not up to the desired levels, if the over all performance or feedback on the parameters is pretty good and consistent over a period of time. So, those students or candidates who have given as much importance to other areas of growth as is to academics have greater chance of being called to the face-to-face process due to their demonstration of all round personality.
Though the popular process is of conducting a group discussion and interview, these B-schools go beyond evaluating the leadership orientation and culture-fit of the individual, as their main aim is to look for candidates who are keen to push their own boundaries and create opportunities. So, the processes may involve group task or group exercise that will throw light on other abilities of the individual like risk taking, innovation, problem-solving, lateral thinking, group membership and leadership, openness to learning and feedback, collaboration and collective learning apart from listening, communication, idea generation, building on others ideas etc, that get explored in the group discussions. Many of the institutions do incorporate the group discussions along with a group task.
In many cases, the institutions ask the students to write a brief note on what they have learnt or realised during the group process. If the candidate demonstrates keen involvement and excels in at least of few of the dimensions, especially if he or she is a keen learner and eager to get feedback in order to be better, the candidate is called for the interview.
So, it makes sense for you to start participating in activities that are group based, explore your strengths and weaknesses. Try to figure out the areas that you really need to work on. Do not worry about making mistakes. The more mistakes you make now, the greater will be your learning. Ask yourself what more to do. Focus on developing all those traits – lateral thinking, problem solving, risk taking, innovating, collaborating, seeking feedback and incorporating the shifts etc.
In many cases everyone who goes through the group task and group discussion is called for the interview too. Only after one goes through the entire process, the decision of selection or rejection happens. The interview process explores the vision of the individual. What is the purpose s/he is living for? How much clarity does one have about where s/he wants to go? Is s/he aware of the business or industry that s/he would like to be involved in? How much does s/he know of what he has done in life so far? So, it is all about the pro-activeness one demonstrates in planning and working towards ones own cause. If I am not keen on my own future, how will I ever be able to help any institution or organisation excel?
So, if you are very keen to get into a good B-School, you should start asking yourself all these questions. Only when you are clear about what you are chasing, you will be keen on putting the hard work needed to achieve it. If the goal is not clear - what you really want, how do you ever know about what to do, how much of hard work you need to put - ask yourself the questions to get greater clarity of what you really like and what you want to chase –
a. Is there any industry that you want to be really part of, based on your interest and likings? Know more about the industry, read, read and read...
b. Is there any particular company that you want to be part of? Why? Explore more about the company, products, geographical reach, success stories…
c. Is there any personality you admire? Why? What values systems match, what has been his or her life path, how he or has achieved success etc…
Every B-school is always worried about getting able, proactive students, as much as students keen on getting into a good B-school. Thus, your getting selected to a good B-School, boils down entirely to how you see your future and how much of proactive leadership you demonstrate.
— The writer is the director at IWSB, Greater Noida