Q&A with Ahmed Shaikh, director of Regent Business School, Durban
Business schools must adapt to new challenges
FM: How can business schools prepare students for artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technologies?
Shaikh: Business schools are being challenged to create curriculums and teaching and learning methodologies agile enough to adapt to the AI world, to prepare 21st-century future leaders. AI will transform the workplace from task-based characteristics to human-centred ones. There is a need for much more interdisciplinary teaching, research and innovation.
In the technology-enabled workplace, skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication — the four Cs — are becoming increasingly important.
At Regent, we realised some time ago it can no longer be business as usual. We understood our core curriculum had to be adaptive to the new pedagogy, which requires learners to continually learn and relearn new competencies and skills.
We have established a digital laboratory, iLeadLab, to equip our students with 21st-century technological and soft skills for employability.
FM: What are your plans for iLeadLab?
Shaikh: It incorporates an employability centre and a collaborative lab for entrepreneurship. We hope to set up iLeadLabs in all major learning centres in Southern Africa. Besides the one in our Durban main centre, we have also commissioned one for Johannesburg. All academic and research staff, as well as learners, are obliged to attend introductory programmes related to 21st-century skills and entrepreneurship. Final-year students are also encouraged to attend work-readiness programmes, boot camps and business fairs which we organise.
FM: SA business schools have a role to play in raising standards at other schools across Africa. What are you doing?
Shaikh: Honoris United Universities, a private pan-African higher education network we are part of, is committed to preparing the next generation of African leaders and professionals to be able to impact regionally in a globalised world. Collaborative intelligence, cultural agility and mobile mindsets and skills are at the heart of Honoris’s vision of higher education.
The mission of the platform is to foster problem-solving skills and critical thinking among students. Regent is aligned with Honoris’s mission of "education for impact", which means using the knowledge and cultural diversity that exists within the network to create a workforce ready for work in Africa and beyond.
FM: What new trends are you seeing in executive education?
Shaikh: The new digital economy and its attendant disruptions demand that organisational design and human capital development be completely rethought. In fact, our whole economic system has to be re-engineered to create shared prosperity and inclusive growth.
Executive education has to be truly transformative. Business schools must shift the emphasis towards intellectual creativity and problem-solving, together with innovative assessment regimes that challenge mid-career professionals to be adaptable and able to take managed risks supportive of professional innovation.