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Bullish on 2021 – The Best is Yet To Come


Bullish on 2021 – The Best is Yet To Come

It’s been said that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and many have asserted that any crisis creates opportunities for scenarios previously considered not-urgent or hard-to-implement. If anything, the pandemic of 2020 has shown all of that to be applicable.

The obvious. Educational institutions around the world have seriously started investing in hybrid education delivery models, curriculum changes and interdisciplinary research. These investments are obvious because they were necessary:

- When in-person teaching is dangerous, institutions switch to fully digital delivery and slowly reintroduce in-person teaching as the situation improves;

- Curriculum changes were necessary because organizations needed answers on how to operate and successfully manage when people are in danger, global supply chains broke down, and “the way we work” had to be changed practically overnight. New courses introduced focus on crisis management, digital work-modes, data analytics and global supply chains;

- Interdisciplinary research was necessary because of the complexity of the challenge we faced. For instance, (biology + medicine + computer science + engineering + business) were necessary to enable rapid development of vaccines using AI/ML + Sensoring + Rapid Prototyping + Logistics to develop and deliver vaccines to 7.5 billion people

The unintended consequences. Change is hard and often not implemented until it’s too late. The pandemic has forced many organizations to evaluate “business as usual”, not because they were courageous enough to question the status quo, but because they were forced to do so. The unintended consequences for business schools is that they are now engaging in business transformation that should have started a long time ago:

- Delivering online programs: business-customers have wanted this for a long time;

- Allows students to “revisit” a class (recorded lectures). That is truly extra value for students;

- Expand exposure: offering online programs, symposia and research seminars provides a much wider reach (globally really) than in-person;

- Expand collaborative opportunities: we work with many more partners on interesting projects because the logistics associated with travel are eliminated;

- Explore new organizational work processes: not all work is best done online, but not all work needs to be done in person either. We have employed human resources much better by assigning some processes and meeting purely online, enabling more time for larger value-add in-person meetings.

The Graduate School of Business at Nazarbayev University. The pandemic year – 2020 – was of course full of challenges. But following the above model, GSB has delivered professional development online for over 600 participants, moved all of its degree programs to online mode (especially the digital break-out rooms seem to be popular) and provides access to recorded lectures. As the situation got slowly under control, we started offering a hybrid learning mode (part online, part in-person) to Executive MBA students.

We provided online access to 68 high-quality research seminars (many with researchers from top universities around the world, use link to register). At the same time, the research output of our faculty has grown in quantity and quality (GSB’s Field Weighted Citation Impact = 1.8, where 1.0=average among peers, so significantly above average). And a new Master in Human Resource Management will be offered in hybrid mode starting August.

A bullish year 2021 ahead. There are plenty of reasons to expect 2021 and 2022 to be great years for the economy and business schools. First, there’s pent-up demand for those (both individuals and companies) who postponed starting a new program during the pandemic. Second, new online delivery modes of some programs may very well have expanded the market. Third, companies are eager to learn and adjust to the new reality of the new work environment, new realities of global supply chains, and getting prepared for possible new disruptions. Fourth, there’s a new spirit of interdisciplinary approach to business challenges that will spur opportunities for new collaborative research. And finally, everyone will be so happy to get out and celebrate life to the fullest that business is likely to be booming.

Does history repeat itself? The “Spanish Flu” pandemic that raged from February 1918 to April 1920 was followed by the “roaring 1920s”, a period of technological innovation and economic prosperity. Let’s get ready for the “roaring 2020’s”!