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From the Dean's Desk

A new era of business education

Professor Gregory Whitwell At the University of Sydney Business School, we are on a quest to make ourselves truly distinctive in a powerfully positive sense.

The scale, scope and complexity of forces such as digital technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, the peer-to-peer economy and historically unprecedented demographic shifts are such that we are entering a new era – sometimes dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. The global economy is more interconnected than ever before and, as a result, both positive and negative forces can be transmitted faster and have greater impacts. New business models, as well as new and more powerful forms of disruption, are altering and undermining business and redefining industry structures.

Those who enter business schools today will graduate in a world in which jobs will be subject to more change and uncertainty than ever before, and in which additional education may not guarantee protection against job automation. Accordingly, our responsibility as educators is to try to provide a transformative educational experience that prepares students for an uncertain future. To do this we must design our programs so that they unleash each participant’s sense of curiosity, develop their capacity to deal creatively and collaboratively with pernicious problems, cause them to reflect on the ways in which the nature of human-machine iteration might evolve, and build their resilience by providing them with opportunities to deal with real-word pressures and challenges.

We also want to be known as a business school that has a distinctive style and approach to how we educate our students, and that includes an emphasis on active engagement, learning by doing, collaborative creativity and peer learning.

Those who occupy the jobs of the future – and indeed the jobs of today – must be able to understand and practise ‘inclusive leadership’. Students should be comfortable working in culturally diverse teams and should realise and seize the advantages such diversity offers.

Another essential aspect is an educational agenda that develops a critical mindset by encouraging students to challenge the status quo and determine whether there are alternative and superior approaches to ‘business as usual’. But we also want them, as our Vice-Chancellor puts it, to learn to “disagree well”.

We think a business school should ask students to question the roles and responsibilities of business, and explore the ways that business can be a major part of the solution to public problems such as sustainability, climate change and poverty.

This requires students to ask themselves: “What am I trying to achieve?” “What kind of difference do I want to make?” “And what kind of organisation – with what kind of values and higher purpose – do I want to work for?”

We have entered a wonderfully exciting period in our history. Our challenge is to deliver all of the attributes described above, and help our students to understand and seize the opportunities that the future will present.

Professor Greg Whitwell, Dean
The University of Sydney Business School