The only constant in business is change. This has become more evident over the last few years alone. From a drastic transformation in global leadership causing trade wars to massive datasets revolutionising how firms interact with people, disruptions – big and small – have shaken up the business world.
The future doesn’t look much different. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution just around the corner – characterised by intertwining of physical and advanced digital technologies including analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) – we could be looking at a future where between nine to 47 percent of jobs could be automated.
According to a McKinsey analysis of 46 countries that hold almost 90 percent of global GDP, an estimated 60 to 375 million individuals around the world may need to transition to new occupational categories by 2030.
But these same rapid and vast changes are set to bring unprecedented gains in scientific knowledge, human health, economic growth and more.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution creates unlimited possibilities for the people who are interested in business. While it can be scary when companies apply technology to transform business models in their industries or across other industries, it generates innovation and improves competitiveness,” says Chun-Yuan Gu, President of Asia, Middle East and Africa Region for ABB.
Businesses that capitalise on these unrivalled opportunities will soon reap the rewards. The future of work will require personnel with more social, emotional, creative and logical reasoning abilities. Those who attain these sustainable skills will be better suited to face the challenges ahead and thrive in turbulent times.
In light of this, traditional business education in subjects like accounting, finance, management, can appear starkly inadequate and outdated if they don’t evolve to reflect the needs of the market.
“Many entrepreneurship courses are taught exactly the same way they have been for decades,” says Professor Jamie Collins at the University of Canterbury’s Business School.
“But the world has changed so much. There are a lot of smart people, but being smart is not good enough in a competitive world. You have to be able to solve problems.”
Professor Collins, Chair of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Canterbury (UC) in Christchurch, New Zealand, prefers using experiential learning in his classrooms.
This means students at the AACSB International-accredited business school get the chance to analyse problems and figure out how they can be solved. “Such a foundation equips them with the skills and confidence needed to go anywhere and do anything,” Professor Collins explains.
Many business schools increasingly include entrepreneurship courses at various levels. But what sets a good business school apart from a great one is how seriously it ensures such courses can ingrain skills in students and help them to reach their career goals.
One possible way to discern which institutions are serious about creating lasting entrepreneurs is by checking whether they host a centre dedicated to this cause alone like UC’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Several programmes take place at the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE). The Hatchery is ideal for people who have great ideas for business or social enterprise but don’t know where to start. The BSNS290: ‘Enterprise in Practice’ course is where students can undertake a semester-long project for credit, focusing on a start-up venture such as a business, social enterprise or student club.
Entré is a student-run non-profit that provides hands-on opportunities and industry exposure for students at UC. At Entré’s 2015 business competition called Start-Up Challenge, Bachelor of Commerce student Samantha Jones and her Start-up project emerged victorious.
“We won the Sustainability and Social Enterprise award. Then I headed over to India looking for factories to produce our products and began scoping potential sponsorship projects. When I got back to UC I headed into the Centre for Entrepreneurship’s Summer Start-up programme,” says Jones.
The Summer Start-up Programme lets students work on their ideas or ventures full-time for 10-weeks, complete with UCE-sponsored NZ$5,000 scholarships.
Today, Jones’s project Little Yellow Bird is an award-winning sustainable manufacturer and supplier of ethically-produced, organic cotton uniforms and apparel, and already in its fourth year of trade.
It’s a business philosophy that hits the nail on the head with its incisive use of social procurement. Engaging environmentally-friendly and fair labour policies, Jones demonstrates a business acumen that’s increasingly relevant in today’s world and sets her in good stead for the future.
It is truly exciting that business ideas like this are able to come to fruition. After all, business students in New Zealand are known for making positive use of the country’s distinctive education style and entrepreneurial ethos.
“Students in New Zealand have a level of access to business that simply wouldn’t be possible in other parts of the world,” Professor Collins says.
“They’re able to get involved in for-profit businesses, non-profit businesses, government agencies and student organisations. I think that’s partly because of New Zealanders’ can-do attitude and co-operative spirit, and partly because there are fewer barriers to access here,” he explains.
Another winner to emerge from the same programme is Laura Robinson, recipient of last year’s UCE Summer Start-up Programme ‘Best Social Impact’ award.
What started as an idea, Robinson’s company Purpose Projects is now a registered company sending close to 40 volunteers overseas to work on community-focused projects, like building a school in Uganda.
Robinson has no plans to let this company fall away anytime soon. Instead, Purpose Projects is already looking at what the next 5-10 years could bring, with the possibility of a second business model already in mind.
“When I first started the Summer Start-up Programme, I had a cool idea and a big dream. However, without the support of the Programme, I simply wouldn’t have been able to grow my idea,” she concludes. “I learnt basic business acumen and a real understanding of how to make a business viable. UCE gave me this understanding to develop a sustainable and successful business model.”