Businesses in Columbus and around the world face problems like these on a daily basis. From preparing their companies for globalization to maximizing shareholder value in a declining and saturated economy, today’s business leaders encounter some of the most complicated issues in the history of commerce. But are they adequately prepared to address them?
Traditionally, many business schools have utilized what is known as a problem-solution model. In class exercises, students are given a series of mock problems and then asked to come up with solutions. While this seems like a logical training ground for professional-based learning, it simply does not reflect life in the real business world.
As most business leaders know, real problems do not usually fit neatly into specific categories. They are not always readily identifiable as human resource problems, PR problems or supply chain problems. In fact, many issues are misattributed or incorrectly correlated. This is why it is important that an MBA program teach students not just how to solve problems but how to identify them.
Business schools take different approaches to address this new reality. For example, a new MBA program focuses on properly identifying problems so they can be solved more effectively. The program is the product of hours spent with several Fortune 1000 companies, listening to their concerns. The result is a hefty volume of real-world scenarios that are presented in advanced simulations. These allow students to make realistic decisions, just as they would in the workplace.
Schools using a similar program may communicate mock business environments using a series of e-mails, personal conversations and meetings with the students. Just as is the case in the business world, different students or learning teams may come up with different problems and solutions. They must then create and defend their assessments. If a team misidentifies a problem and begins an ill-advised solution, it is not given the opportunity to do it over. Instead, it must move forward with the consequences of its decision and make a better choice for the following quarter or year. This accurately simulates the real-world business experience where there are no second takes.
Because of the no do-over reality of business, strong judgment and problem-solving capabilities are among the skills in most demand in the workplace. In fact, a recent University of Phoenix survey of employers in America’s fastest-growing industries revealed that while technical skills are valuable, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills are the most important in the workplace. Employers are looking for team players who also possess strong learning aptitude.
Students must be able to solve contemporary business problems as well as determine how they could have been avoided in the first place. This type of thinking is not just a luxury in today’s business environment it is a necessity.
ERIC ZIEHLKE is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus campus.
University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with over 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.