Dr. Rajesh K. Pillania
Professor of Strategy, MDI, Gurgaon
he management education we are imparting in business schools needs a reality check. There are many reports and findings, questioning the real value addition done by business schools, including employability of business school graduates. To be fair to business schools, there are attempts by business schools to update various aspects such as curriculum and pedagogy etc. There are also attempts to bring more practitioners to classrooms and create more practice-oriented labs etc. However, much more needs to be done by business schools, something more innovative and fundamental and getting out of copy-paste ideas from others which are resulting in more and more fundamental homogenity of business schools. We need to go back to the basics and start with the famous questions of the father of modern management, the late Peter Drucker.
In this article due to the word limit, let us focus on one major change business schools need on the goal of business education. Time has changed, new data is emerging and we need to include happiness in a big way in management education. Today, there is a lot of research and scientific evidence which shows there is increasing levels of stress and mental health issues leading to lower productivity and happiness increases productivity. In the last two decades, there is a lot of scientific research on happiness from multiple disciplines showing what, how and why of happiness in life and other parts of life.
To be fair to business schools, there are some attempts to include some research on happiness in the courses and also some courses on happiness under human resources. However, it is too less considering the strategic importance of happiness, and it in bits and pieces. Happiness is much bigger than just human resource function and bits and pieces attempts will not make much difference.
There is a need for a comprehensive happiness strategy for business schools including its inclusion in the strategy of the schools and the agenda of business school leaders. From there it needs to spread across the various parts and activities of the business schools. We need to be careful here as we have seen often in strategy that it just becomes lip service and stay just in talks or on paper. It needs to deliver, add value. Today there are tools and methods available for measuring happiness and these should be used regularly to check if the desired results are coming or not and if not, what improvements need to be made.
Business schools should do it , if for nothing, for their selfish interest at least. As business schools are becoming more and more homogeneous, happiness can be a good source of some fundamental differentiation. As shared earlier, there is scientific evidence that happiness provides a lot of advantages and business schools shall use these. Happiness advantage is to use happiness for leveraging one’s potential in this era of knowledge and experience economy where people are the key resources.
As often business school professors are criticised for more talks and less real action, someone might ask or say, it is easy to preach than do. I am happy to share I am doing my bit in both research and teaching, though more needs to be done and I am working on it. I have started a first of its kind elective course named happiness strategy in PGDM, which is also based on my best selling book Happiness Strategy (Pillania, 2019) and My Experiments with Happiness (Pillania, 2020) and it has got good acceptance among the student community. This course looks at happiness in a very comprehensive and strategic manner. If anyone is interested, I am happy to share the course details. As the recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown, we are all in it together, and also one of the best ways to increase our happiness is to share and help others.
It’s a well-accepted idea that happiness is the main goal of life as all other goals ultimately point towards happiness. So business schools need to reflect and think, how can they survive in long term, if their goal and the goal of life are not aligned! It’s high time, business school and business leaders, embrace the idea of happiness in a holistic and comprehensive manner with a focus on practice for their own advantage, a happiness advantage.
Pillania, R. K. (2019). Happiness Strategy: Happiness and Strategy for Everyone. Invincible Publishers: New Delhi.
Pillania, R. K. (2021). Happiness Diary: My Experiments with Happiness. Invincible Publishers: New Delhi.
The author is Professor of Strategy at Management Development Institute, Gurgaon. He is ranked jointly #1 in average research productivity in India and awarded top strategy professor in India. His expertise is in making strategy, innovation, and happiness as simple, humorous, and applicable.