July 12th will have a whole new meaning for me this year. I am graduating with an MBA from London Business School, completing a programme, which was professionally, academically and socially rewarding. There are many things that the MBA programme taught me. From NPVs to ratio analysis, from workflow control to decision trees, from cluster analysis to brand audits – I truly feel that the programme lifted my field of vision and helped me to think beyond my professional industry affiliation.
Of course, it was not an easy ride. Some classes introduced completely new concepts and theory to me (I am seriously considering adding Finance to my list of languages I can speak!). Other classes challenged my existing knowledge based on my professional experience and helped me broaden my thinking. And beyond the classroom experience, I was able to meet some amazing individuals who I am sure will change the world one day.
The MBA was challenging, but an absolute blast. It also helped me to frame in my head some larger trends that are shaping the business landscape today:
- It’s all about cost cutting and efficiency – it is undeniable, the economic rollercoaster we’ve been on for the past four years has completely reordered priorities for senior managers. The most important question that leaders will need to answer in the next few years will be- “How do I cut costs while maintaining the competitive advantage of my business and motivation of my employees?” Focus on cost cutting is not something particularly enjoyable for leaders, and probably not a skill everyone has, but will be of paramount importance for the years to come.
- Data, data, data – in the distant past, successful business might have been all about location, location, location, but today the focus is on data. As customers demand bespoke products and services, companies will have to focus on having the right analytics in place. Companies need to be even more targeted in their marketing efforts as more and more segmentation will be needed to ensure that the rightly priced products are targeted at the appropriate customers. Additionally, analysing unstructured data (i.e. data created and shared on sites like Twitter and YouTube, or e-mail) will be crucial to ensuring that companies understand the needs and expectations of all customers. And most importantly, beyond having appropriate analytic tools in place, companies also have to ensure that their people have the right skills to analyse the information in a way that provides actionable information, drives success and is therefore a critical benefit to the business.
- The business sustainability movement is all about dialogue – businesses today need to realise that they cannot operate in isolation. For leadership, this means managing a range of complicated relationships in order to successfully address complex issues. Taking this stakeholder approach to sustainability will not be easy for many. But those who are patient and put the right resources and dedication in place to master it will benefit from continued growth and enjoy a unique competitive advantage in the new market reality.
The above are meaty things to focus on and I cannot help, but be reminded of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting time.” I think there is definitely an impending need for quick and deep changes within the corporate world, for which some organisations may not be prepared. However, while interesting, I strongly believe these are also the times of opportunity for those who are persistent and focused on the long-term.