Management Education & 'Street Smart' Culture


Remya S
D C School of Management & Technology
Vagamon, Idukki, Kerala

Creating 'Street Smarts' has become the primary aim for many B-schools across the country. It is agreed that 'smartness' is an essential personality factor to manage things. Nowadays, especially in many second and third layer B-schools, it is being clearly communicated to the students that the current job market doesn't require any intellectuals but just 'street smarts'. Is it the prime thing a management education should impart?

Who are Street Smarts?

Who are street smarts? Simply putting street smarts are persons who can do well in streets. This means a person with 'good communication' & 'right attitude' to handle situations and to get the work done and can properly fit to the requirements in real life situations can be a street smart in a general sense. There is nothing wrong to be so. But the culture goes wrong when it restricts students to think high and limiting them in predetermined circles suited for the requirements of the job.

In order to create such street smarts the B-schools are going ahead with various activities like communication training, training through various business games, team building exercises etc.But what extend these programmes will able to create a generation of students having real authenticity backed by an ethical conscience?

Why Street Smarts are required?

In the era of outsoursing, the skill based labour has got more importance. Generally defining skill means the manual expertise to do a particular job. It doesn't give importance to your thought process or intellect. This means that a skill based job has got a standardized format of doing and it can easily be replicated also. The handling of customer queries in a call center can be sited as an exsample of skill based job, where for most of the calls there will be a standardized format of answering. The culture of street smart will produce only people having skills to handle standardized jobs and for doing such jobs doesn't actually require any degree in management. It is not grooming those persons who can manage the jobs which require the essential intellectual, emotional or the spiritual quotient. Is it what the B-schools really want to give their students?

The culture of street smarts gained momentum when, the companies want more sales persons who can really bring results in a world of tough competition. Though this has shown immediate results, how far these street smarts are able to reach the heights of management career is an unasked question.

The other side of the story is that the 'best jobs'availble are not coming to the street smarts, it is going to those persons who has got the right intellectual stuff to handle it.

Grey side of Street Smart Culture

One important side effect of popularizing street smart culture is that the students will remain as low or average ambitious and less passionate towards their career. Though street smarts can reign over the silver screen, in reality persons having proper decision making skill only can climb over the ladder of success in any organization. Getting this proper decision making power is not at all an easy process. It can be obtained only through, the proper analysis of situation from various perspectives. This essentially needs brain exercise. Here comes the importance of problem-solving and decision-making power generation in a management student through his education. So the training should be oriented towards provoking the thoughts of the students.

Generally in the street smart culture, the street smart is able to handle things or he has got the ability to take decisions. But the question lies here is that has he solved the problem with the best available alternative or what extend it has got the authenticity? The normal deficiency with a street smart way of handling things is that it fails to generate quality through high moral conscience. The element of professionalism and complying with high ethical standards is generally lacking when over emphasizing the culture of street smart among the management students. More or less it gives a general impression that getting things done which ever way possible. Only the end is important not the mean. But once you have not justified your mean you cannot justify your end.

To certain extend the street smart culture will do well, in a sense when it communicates dynamism and action oriented education. But the value generation will take place only when you are able to see things around you through an eye of quality management percespective. Just take the example, a management student who is studying in a remote hill station, where he has no other way to reach his college but to pay high rate for the one or two jeeps available, should able to understand that his money is going because he is under a monopoly of jeep drivers and since the demand is large compared to the supply of jeeps, the price fixing power lies within the jeep drivers. The only way to get rid of the situation is to increase the competition ie, to increase the no. of jeeps for public service. This will increase the competition and in turn to improve revenvue, the jeep drivers will be more customer focused. Thus the customer will be more empowered now and he can also participate in the price fixing process.

Rather than similar kind of management perceptions, if the student is just sitting and complaining against the jeep drivers or disappointed over his huge loss money in every subsequent travel, the management education is not at all providing 'anything special' or it is not at all generating any value for the students. He will have his own perceptions towards life through the various stages of conditioning he had undergone. If management education is not able to alter these set perceptions or modify it, the education is a mere waste. Most of the premier B-schools across the world provides nothing but an environment for self-grooming. If the management education tries to over emphasize the culture of street smartness without providing ample opportunity  for defining the life in own perspectives, the management education will no longer be fruitful. This especially hold true for second and third layer B-schools. Thus the culture of street smart is a mediocre concept and it restricts a student's freedom of thought and growth.

What is needed?

The future world needs thought leaders, who are real visionaries and has got the moral courage to take their mission ahead and not someone who can get things done at any cost, whatsoever unethical means it may be. In order to create such generation, intellectually and emotionally motivating quality learning atmosphere is needed. So the training in B-schools must be oriented in such a way that it forces the students to 'think and dream big'. If simply street smarts are required, then just try to be like the protagonist in any commercial English or Indian movie, do not invest in a 2 or 3 year management education.

Remya S
D C School of Management & Technology
Vagamon, Idukki, Kerala

Source: E-mail January 17, 2007


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