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“The future happens very slowly and then all at once,” says technology writer Kevin Kelly.

Humans have evolved from hunter-gatherer origins and are hard-wired to respond to instantaneous change: Our ‘fight or flight’ response evolved to make snap decisions based on immediate danger. This comes at the cost of not being able to identify and react to challenges that arise slowly, even those with great long-term impact on our lives – the “boiling frog” syndrome. Businesses are manned by people and suffer from similar problems usually. They too face a problem when dealing with ‘slow change’ in their industries.

There are three types ofchange that often cause the biggest impact: (1) Behavioral changes, (2)Technological changes, and (3) Industry or sector changes (Economic changes).The most profound transformations incorporate at least one of these changes, butmany often include more.

Education is impacted by the first 2 significantly and the 3rd one sometimes. However, it is difficult for educationists also to realize these changes themselves and this leads to a stagnation in the ways of teaching for most institutions. The more successful and the older an institution becomes, usually the further away the administration moves away from the core and the more rigid it becomes in defining the reasons for the success. And therein lie the seeds of demise! But this rigor mortis sets in really slowly and at least some batches are lost in this transition to irrelevance. The presence of a brand name and a large and distinguished alumni network become the calling cards of these institutions.

An example might be in order – Harvard’s elite business school, the HBS has always been the most coveted, the bluest of blue institutions for the uber-elite students of business, especially investment managers. It has an unviable track record and an alumni network that is no doubt, without a parallel. It is an extremely selective school and has a reputation for keeping people out! This has led to the rise of the GSBs (Stanford) and the Sloan’s (MIT) of the world who at least claim to be more inclusive (though have similar acceptance rate as HBS). Also came to evolve technology driven investment practices – where schools with strong technology pedigree (again Sloan and the GSB) were at an advantage. Harvard has not lost its edge; however, schools like GSB and Sloan have come to occupy a position similar (or in some cases, better) than HBS when it comes to business education.

Therefore, in the current environment with social media taking access to anybody and everybody at an all-time historical high, these brands and/or alumni networks are less relevant and instead, access to “network of experts” is more important. In a similar vein, what is more important is your own readiness to develop your own personal capability, irrespective of brands that you associate with.

So as a student, it is important to take charge of one’s own career and not rely solely on brand names to evaluate the best places for one to get educated from. One should also leverage all kinds of networks – special interest groups (both real and virtual), MOOCs (massive open online courses), twitter interactions, AMAs (ask me anything sessions), to understand various topics and create these relationships and build skills. Remember, learning is not bound by only what we are taught but encompasses everything we learn through our senses. We highly recommend creating your own “network of experts” and not rely on alumni networks alone.


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