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Professor Rod McNaughton: Global reckoning happening for Business Schools

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Business Schools the world over are pivoting in how and who they deliver education to in light of rapidly changing demographics and the needs of Business. This is the ultimate observation of Professor of Entrepreneurship Rod McNaughton who has returned to the University of Auckland after a two month trip during his sabbatical, which included visits to leading business schools in Canada, Scotland and Finland.

In a time where abundant information can be retained and synthesised by machines and recalled at the touch of a button, universities now play a different role in preparing people for work. “Knowledge is not the key source of competitive advantage anymore. Instead, a number of fundamental skills are needed”, McNaughton says.

An entrepreneurial mindset forms the foundation for success in business. “Not everyone becomes an entrepreneur, but everyone needs entrepreneurial skills, like learning through trial and error, risk-taking, prioritising and adaptation to continuous change.”

Fundamental skills are needed everywhere
The nature of work is changing. Long gone are the days of a job for life, but so too are the days of a career for life. Entire job categories are disappearing as automation becomes more prominent. In order to prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet, students should be armed with the core skills that will always be needed – problem solving, creativity, communication, general knowledge and the ability to take a solution-oriented approach to work. McNaughton says “These skills make us more humane. Machines cannot take over emotional intelligence or collaboration.”

Lifelong learning
Developed countries everywhere are experiencing declining birth rates and an aging population. The impact on universities and the working world is massive. Organisations can no longer count on new employees to produce fresh ideas, and instead need to reinvigorate and reskill existing talent.

According to McNaughton, the key issue in delivering business education is to stop separating education and the working world. “Education is no longer linear and something which you complete once and are then done with, but something that lasts a lifetime and provides a better and more flexible life. Universities are responding to changing demands by offering a variety of postgraduate degrees, micro credentials and short courses.”

Online and IRL spaces – The death of the lecture theatre
The current generation of digital natives have grown up in a world of infotainment, youtube tutorials and digital DIY. Students can find learning in the confines of a lecture theatre irksome and universities are changing the way they deliver information to students in response. At the University of Auckland in second semester of 2019 for the first time all lectures were recorded and made available to enrolled students online as university policy. Recording of lectures was intended as a backup for students who may miss the occasional lecture due to extenuating circumstances such as illness. However, the response was so overwhelming that the system crashed leading to panicked complaints.  The matter was quickly resolved but the level of interest indicated that many students were counting on online recordings as their primary source of education, despite not being designed for this.

If students are eschewing lecture attendance in favour of learning at home on laptops, how can we ensure that they learn the interpersonal skills needed to succeed in business? Rod McNaughton says the answer is less lecture halls and exams, and more spaces in which to meet different people and work together on solving problems.

Overseas universities are offering more dynamic learning experiences through the use of maker spaces and innovation hubs, which offer tangible learning experiences and opportunities to collaborate, practice team work and hone professional relationship-building skills. McNaughton visited many such places overseas including the Learning Zones at Ryerson University, Velocity at the University of Waterloo, and the J. Hyneman Center at LUT in Finland. “Universities need more spaces like these. Places which are always full of life and possibilities to learn”. Here in New Zealand, the University of Auckland opened its Unleash Space in 2018 and thousands have already made use of the innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

That these places are thriving in the world’s most successful business schools, including the University of Auckland, supports what McNaughton sees as the fundamental mission of business schools – empowering innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. “It is important because an entrepreneurial mindset is a way for universities to respond to social, economic and political changes, including migration, an aging population and rapid technological change.”

Rod McNaughton is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Academic Director of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and was recently appointed as adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. He is an internationally-recognised researcher known especially for his research related to international entrepreneurship.

James Hutchinson
James Hutchinson

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Business Schools the world over are pivoting in how and who they deliver education to in light of rapidly changing demographics and the needs of Business. This is the ultimate observation of Professor of Entrepreneurship Rod McNaughton who has returned to the University of Auckland after a two month trip during his sabbatical, which included visits to leading business schools in Canada, Scotland and Finland.

In a time where abundant information can be retained and synthesised by machines and recalled at the touch of a button, universities now play a different role in preparing people for work. “Knowledge is not the key source of competitive advantage anymore. Instead, a number of fundamental skills are needed”, McNaughton says.

An entrepreneurial mindset forms the foundation for success in business. “Not everyone becomes an entrepreneur, but everyone needs entrepreneurial skills, like learning through trial and error, risk-taking, prioritising and adaptation to continuous change.”

Fundamental skills are needed everywhere
The nature of work is changing. Long gone are the days of a job for life, but so too are the days of a career for life. Entire job categories are disappearing as automation becomes more prominent. In order to prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet, students should be armed with the core skills that will always be needed – problem solving, creativity, communication, general knowledge and the ability to take a solution-oriented approach to work. McNaughton says “These skills make us more humane. Machines cannot take over emotional intelligence or collaboration.”

Lifelong learning
Developed countries everywhere are experiencing declining birth rates and an aging population. The impact on universities and the working world is massive. Organisations can no longer count on new employees to produce fresh ideas, and instead need to reinvigorate and reskill existing talent.

According to McNaughton, the key issue in delivering business education is to stop separating education and the working world. “Education is no longer linear and something which you complete once and are then done with, but something that lasts a lifetime and provides a better and more flexible life. Universities are responding to changing demands by offering a variety of postgraduate degrees, micro credentials and short courses.”

Online and IRL spaces – The death of the lecture theatre
The current generation of digital natives have grown up in a world of infotainment, youtube tutorials and digital DIY. Students can find learning in the confines of a lecture theatre irksome and universities are changing the way they deliver information to students in response. At the University of Auckland in second semester of 2019 for the first time all lectures were recorded and made available to enrolled students online as university policy. Recording of lectures was intended as a backup for students who may miss the occasional lecture due to extenuating circumstances such as illness. However, the response was so overwhelming that the system crashed leading to panicked complaints.  The matter was quickly resolved but the level of interest indicated that many students were counting on online recordings as their primary source of education, despite not being designed for this.

If students are eschewing lecture attendance in favour of learning at home on laptops, how can we ensure that they learn the interpersonal skills needed to succeed in business? Rod McNaughton says the answer is less lecture halls and exams, and more spaces in which to meet different people and work together on solving problems.

Overseas universities are offering more dynamic learning experiences through the use of maker spaces and innovation hubs, which offer tangible learning experiences and opportunities to collaborate, practice team work and hone professional relationship-building skills. McNaughton visited many such places overseas including the Learning Zones at Ryerson University, Velocity at the University of Waterloo, and the J. Hyneman Center at LUT in Finland. “Universities need more spaces like these. Places which are always full of life and possibilities to learn”. Here in New Zealand, the University of Auckland opened its Unleash Space in 2018 and thousands have already made use of the innovation hub and maker space run by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

That these places are thriving in the world’s most successful business schools, including the University of Auckland, supports what McNaughton sees as the fundamental mission of business schools – empowering innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. “It is important because an entrepreneurial mindset is a way for universities to respond to social, economic and political changes, including migration, an aging population and rapid technological change.”

Rod McNaughton is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Academic Director of the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and was recently appointed as adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. He is an internationally-recognised researcher known especially for his research related to international entrepreneurship.


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