Business leaders are facing a sea of complex challenges brought about by rapid advances in technology. New business models are disrupting industries hundreds of years old.
Today’s executives are forced to navigate the shift from a traditional economy to a sharing – or gig – economy dominated by the likes of Uber and Airbnb.
So, how do you manage projects when the world is changing every day?
“In the past, change was about new products, services, and processes,” explains Patricia Hind, professor of management development at Ashridge Executive Education.
“The concept of a new business model was way down the change line – most managers didn’t get involved with that,” Patricia continues. “But now, with the gig economy, new business models come very quickly. And they need to be responded to quickly.
“Today’s managers need a much more creative and innovative approach,” she says. “It’s not just about tweaking the past; it’s about re-inventing the future.”
The focus of teaching at Ashridge is just that. Across Ashridge’s executive programs, the aim is to educate managers about the global challenges they face, about how change works in complex systems, how to adapt, and their own role and the impact they can bring.
Programs at Ashridge – from the 100%-online Master’s in Management to the ground-breaking Executive MBA for the Creative Industries – mark a departure from the case study method – associated with more traditional MBA and Executive MBA programs – with students both bringing their work into the classroom and applying their learnings constantly in their day-to-day work.
“We have participants view their real-life work almost as a project all the way through our programs,” says Patricia.
“We’re not treating participants as buckets to fill with knowledge. They bring their own experiences to the table, and we work with those real experiences rather than simply a cold case study.
“We want people who are interested in experimenting,” she continues. “People who are interested in learning things we don’t yet know; who want to create new knowledge and learn from that, as well as just relying on the past.”
Ashridge programs touch on hot topics like sustainability and ethical leadership.
“I think you’ve got to have a sustainable mindset in business today,” says Patricia. “That’s not just about tree-hugging. It’s about creating profit and human issues as well. Concentrating on those three pillars – profit, people, and the planet – is the only way to create sustainable value going forward.”
Steve Marshall, Ashridge’s academic director, agrees. He’s excited by the impact that the rise of the gig economy is having on modern business, and the challenges it could yet bring.
“We have to think about the ethical aspects of the sharing economy as well,” he says. “In the automotive space for example, the sharing economy has the capacity to render car ownership obsolete. Then, when we look five years down the line and we have a load of Uber drivers driving us around, what happens when the self-driving car comes out?
“There are some big shifts on the horizon that will not only impact our financial wellbeing but also our sense of who we are in the world,” Steve continues.
“Organizations and managers that are environmentally and ethically aware will put themselves in a position to be more successful in the future.”