- Problem formulation. Business people need to be able to imagine the structure of their environment so that they may have a chance of managing it. In a world of increasing complexity and ambiguity, the benefits of understanding what problem you are trying to solve are immeasurable. Gaining consensus on the problem definition can go a long way toward exposing conflicting assumptions held by stakeholders. Besides, solving the wrong problem is almost guaranteed to be a waste of resources.
- Dealing with complexity. This is a natural topic to consider with problem formulation. Many problems are complex problems, and complex problems are often messy problems. These problems are rarely "solved." Instead, they may be "resolved." Simply considering that some problems do not have solutions would be a revolutionary idea in many business schools. For complex problems, thinking in terms of "right" or "wrong" solutions is not very productive at all. Rather, one must think in terms of "good" and "better" solutions.
- Well-being enhancement. Happy, healthy workplaces are more productive and profitable. Happy, healthy communities are attractive places to live and work. Well-being has many facets, but one that is a driver for many of the others is "financial well-being." Imagine investigating well-being concepts within functional areas at the individual, team, organization and community levels -- along with the implications for business at each level.
- Data assessment. Data drives so much of our business decision making, yet how much time do we spend teaching students to examine the quality of the data being used for decision making? Data has so many important characteristics: age, source, volatility, accuracy and precision are a few that come immediately to mind. We should explicitly consider qualitative data, too, since we tend to focus on quantitative data in our typical classes on decision making (e.g., statistics). We might also integrate discussions of data ownership, in the sense that we may need to make a critical assessment about who should be able to access, change or use data in the first place.
- Creativity development. This topic could set the foundation for a number of business topics to follow. Innovation, entrepreneurship and negotiation are topics that spring immediately to mind. I suspect that courses on creativity already exist at many campuses.
Time to Change the Focus of Business Education