When Gaia Guardascione went to Liverpool, she’d only planned on visiting a friend. But the city hooked her, and she stayed for longer than anticipated.
Once she was there, her mission was to build a network, and find fulfilment in the business sector. It was then that she came across an open day at the University of Liverpool Management School and soon embarked on the MBA program there.
The Liverpool MBA, she says, exposes students to a multitude of sectors and professionals, and gives a holistic overview of what is happening to business in Liverpool, the North West of England, and the rest of the UK—it also positions itself as an MBA preparing students for the future of work in a world being re-shaped by digital technology.
Gaia, who studied an undergraduate degree in foreign languages in Italy before the MBA, says that the University of Liverpool Management School is based in a hub of innovation. She cites Unilever’s presence on Merseyside, as well as classroom projects focused on technology, robotics, and engineering.
The Liverpool MBA also exposes students to business case studies focused on pertinent tech companies. Gaia explains that MBA students in her cohort were shown how companies like Netflix and Apple devise and implement innovative ideas within their companies, and how they are reshaping how we conduct business in the 21st century.
What skills will MBAs need in the future?
For companies like Apple and Netflix to thrive today, MBA students are shown that they must take risks and need to have the ability to approach innovation with multiple perspectives: this will form the basis of the MBA skill set of the future.
“It’s helpful for me to see sometimes we are embedded in our own point of view and restrain ourselves to move forward,” Gaia says. The MBA, she adds, is preparing her to be more Netflix than Blockbuster.
“It’s broadened my vision and helped me realize that if I have intuition for something new and scary that’s not necessarily a bad thing if I can pursue it, and feel value that it might be the next breakthrough.”
Joanne Lyubovnikova, senior lecturer in organizational behavior at the University of Liverpool Management School and a qualified occupational psychologist, explains that alongside innovation, MBA students will need to be adept at managing diverse teams, whether in person or virtually as the world of work changes.
“People typically work across many different teams with lots of different demands now,” she says, “and that offers lots of learning and innovation opportunities but also a real strain in terms of being efficient and productive.
“It poses challenges for managers and leaders who have to develop trust from a distance.”
How does The Liverpool MBA prepare students for the future of work?
Joanne—who teaches Leadership, Management, and Organization, as well as Developing as a Manager and a Leader on the Liverpool MBA—explains that in the latter she focuses strongly on self-development, and students undergo a psychometric tour to assess the extent to which they see themselves as leaders in the workplace.
One of the assessments from last semester, she says, placed students into diverse groups and challenged them to take a traditional job role and redesign it for the 21st century.
As well as putting into perspective the changing nature of work, Joanne explains that it also pushes MBA students to think critically about how they work together in a team, and to ask difficult questions around what they’ve learned about themselves as a team member.
This equips them with the skills to move straight into a modern workplace—to which one of the most salient changes, Joanne explains, has been an organizational design shift towards a more boundaryless network of employees, who are more reliant on multidisciplinary, multicultural teams.
Technology too has exponentially changed the way we work. Joanne says that this goes beyond the creation of virtual teams and boundaryless work; it includes the pertinent themes of artificial intelligence, automation, and job displacement, and what that does to the meaning of a human worker in the digital age.
Joanne says that there is now pressure on leaders to ensure people are behaving ethically when faced with these dilemmas.
In Developing as a Manager and a Leader, MBA students at the University of Liverpool Management School will be taught to think how in this way, and how to fine tune their moral compass.
The hope is that this will create servant leaders, Joanne says, citing research that shows the most effective leaders are those who put their followers needs first, potentially at times above those of the organization itself.
Through harnessing a follower-nurturer mentality, she concludes, leaders can get the best out of their workforce, cultivating a culture of trust that will be the driver of productivity in the digital age.