With the advent of the 21st century, the professional world is looking for analytical thinkers, solution providers, innovators and entrepreneurs. The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and periods of ambiguity that prevail in the age of greater predictability of sustenance further heighten the need for a healthier understanding of one’s purpose for existence. This led to the T-shaped professional development model, as shown in the illustration below. The horizontal bar of the “T” indicates a broad understanding of the context while the vertical bar of the “T” highlights the need for specialized knowledge and skills to solve the problem, situation or opportunity at hand.
The last 300 years of development have been dominated by the capitalist’s need for economies of scale and economies of scope. To achieve this, project management techniques were quite linear in their approach and required human resources to be deployed to deliver parts of the project, therefore the need for specialization was paramount. Because of this “use value,” educators have focused on specializations and concentrations. The command and control management structure worked well for such projects and thus became the norm for execution of scale and scope. Hierarchical management structures provided adequate learning space for new professionals as they rose through the ranks of control and management.
The start of Industry 4.0 changed everything. Automatic and intelligent machines became the main drivers of the assembly line and project management techniques started to evolve from classical waterfall methodology to agile. Management structures became flat and business opportunities were made available to the masses, which accelerated the development of the dominant entrepreneurial ecosystem. New Age Roles and New Age Enterprises have caused educators to rethink curriculum development that created problem solvers, not mere doers. The key ingredient to problem solving is the ability to think critically and stimulate one’s ideas and imagination.
To achieve this, it is important to liberalize the curriculum to allow aspirants to delve into humanities, arts, languages, sociology and more. These subjects should be introduced into the curriculum of all professional programs to enable learners to be more sensitive and empathetic and to develop a solid understanding of the wider context of society and the environment. The arts have been the primary engine of imagination and ideation; we must not forget that philosophy and art were the creators of science. Thus, the introduction of artistic subjects in professional courses can help to broaden the understanding of the professional and to align with the horizontal bar of the “T”.
As the world moves from traditional economies of scope and scale to “economies of innovation”, management must evolve from the art of managing science to the science of managing art. The capacity for imagination and ideation of innovators needs room and space to go beyond the conventional, they must be able to think laterally. This challenges the traditional way of managing human resources which had to execute and follow instructions. Thus, we must develop the science of managing these resources, which will be the driving force of an economy that should be fueled by innovation. To create such leaders and managers, educators will need to introduce liberal subjects even into specialized master’s programs. This will help the generation of learners who missed out on the advantage of learning liberal undergraduate subjects and help them overcome their current disadvantages.
These liberal courses will also help our aspiring professionals discover their passions and build more meaningful lives. It is the need of the hour to overcome the dominant need for chemically induced happiness resulting from the stressful lives one is forced to lead in the professional world. Finding your purpose is the antidote to the anxieties of the VUCA world. A holistically developed professional with a healthy body, mind, and soul will exuberate the positivity in the work environment necessary to promote confidence within the creative and innovative resources that become essential in any organization. This does not imply the end of specialization/super specialization as they are important to start any career. It only means that we will have to allow our learners to create their own learning paths and combine their professional courses with a good mix of liberal subjects.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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