In the recent years we have witnessed a huge debate in academia: what are the requirements that the future puts in front of us? The world is unpredictable: nowadays, we are preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist, using the technologies that have not been invented, in order to solve the problems yet not perceived. This utopist sentence reflects all the challenges we face in preparing our youth for the future.
In the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the paradigm of doing business has been significantly changed: there is no business without technology. The term “technology-driven business” is not limited to information-communication technologies and hi-tech companies. Nowadays, it has a global context and is spread out across all the industries. Technology dictates the tempo, and such fast-paced run makes non-innovative, non-disruptive and non-adaptable entities fail and even disappear. Industry, especially in the UAE, recognised this, as well as the government. Innovation and disruption became the core engine of development. Thanks to this, application of innovative solutions and future technologies became one of the trademarks of Dubai and the UAE.
Change and learning
The only constant aspects of the future of technology-driven businesses are changing and learning. Just like the world, the business of the future seems to be uncertain, complex and dynamic. Moreover, to understand the emergence of the business in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, people will need more insights into how to manage technology and how to utilise the characteristics of both high-tech and innovation contexts for the development – such as the above-mentioned complexity, dynamism, and uncertainty. Having in mind all the findings and conclusions, it is obvious that the comprehensive skill set of the future leaders will consist of basic business skills, leadership skills, critical thinking, innovation skills, lifelong learning, and understanding technology.
Beyond any doubt, getting “outside the box” is a prerequisite of any disruption, invention or innovation. This requires three core elements: knowledge, courage and skills. Knowledge is a must in the contemporary world: without expertise, there are slim chances to get an opportunity to innovate. Moreover, knowledge has become global and broadly available. This has made knowledge to become critical, but insufficient success factor. Courage and skills make the difference. Government and businesses in the UAE obviously do have the courage to go into unexplored fields. However, skills development is a never-ending story if permanent leadership in innovations and disruption needs to be ensured. Basic knowledge will be just a foundation to prepare for the future leadership: responsibility, self-assurance, independence and accountability need to be developed as a core group of the leadership skills.
Preparing future business leaders
No traditional discipline and traditional academia can fully prepare and create business leaders of the future. Currently, academia seems to be behind business regarding the skills development. Government recognised this, and transformation of universities became one of strategic projects in Dubai. Such a decision is strongly welcomed, with constant and vibrant changes both in global and business ecosystem, higher education should focus to develop soft skills required to drive innovation and disruption and provide an education that ignites a student's passion for lifelong learning, lateral thinking and teamwork.
Simply said, imparting real-world skills make us future-ready. Such significant modification of the skill set requires immediate action and transformation of the higher education towards innovative hubs that foster development of soft skills and encourage disruption and innovation during the studies. If the reality and the needs of future business are not recognised and incorporated into the learning process, the traditional “chalk and board” knowledge-oriented institutions may become obsolete. This gives a chance for agile governments, b-schools and universities to take over a leadership role in the creation and development of business leaders of the future. Dubai is leading the process again: skills are future, and this fact is well understood. Now it`s the turn for academia to understand the need and transform itself.
PS: Special thanks to Prof. Christopher Abraham and Dr. Anna Tarabasz for their support and inputs.
Marko Selaković is Director of Institutional Development and Student Recruitment at SP Jain School of Global Management