Limitations of IIM Teaching Techniques

In my previous blog, I had described the positive aspects of IIM teaching techniques. This article shall cover the limitations. Eminent trainers including the ones from IIM use terms such as methodology, pedagogy etc. rather than  simple ones  called methods or techniques; otherwise how can you impress your clients?

Some of the positive aspects were: 

a. Minimum use of power point,

b.Deeper questioning and

c. providing new insights which were covered in the previous article.

The areas of improvement are:

  1. Information Overload: On an average, every day the participants had to read 5-6 case studies of around 25-30 pages each. Each case study apart from having a number of people, had voluminous data including tables, charts etc. On the eve of the program commencement,  5 people from our group who were in the age group of 40-50 were absolutely terrified and lost.  They were struggling to read the case studies and  trying to decipher meaning out of them. Being a trainer and a ‘True Indian’ I asked them to play Jugaad:  not to take anything too seriously. I proposed an innovative idea: instead of six people reading all the six case studies and depriving one’s  sleep; each one can read only one and the next day at 7.30 AM can provide the synopsis of HIS case study in ten minutes. All the group members were greatly relieved.
  2. Do People really work Great Under Stress?: Two days later, I asked one of the professors ( in training jargon they are called as ‘resource persons’ ) “ Why are you providing such unnecessary and voluminous information to us?  Do you expect us to read around 150 pages each day?” The professor replied, “ Rajan, we do not expect the participants to read the entire case study. It is humanly impossible. The Harvard methodology says that people perform at their best when they are under pressure. For example if you are lost in a forest; you will be alert all the time.” Everyday I used to run into my colleagues with weary eyes, complaining of having hardly  three hours of sleep. Do you feel the process of learning be effective with sleep – deprived participants?
  3. Adult Learning: To some extent the above logic of learning under stress may be valid for young students who are in their early 20s attending the 2 year PGP program. But is such an approach right for corporate executives who have left the academics almost 2 decades earlier? It is akin to asking a person run a marathon who is used to walking.
  4. Unbalanced Training : According to Honey and Mumford as well as Kolb’s theory there are four learning styles:

–          Activist: who is a game for everything and learns through activities.

–          Reflector: can connect his classroom experiences with real life situations

–          Theorists: looks for a conceptual framework ( e.g. Pareto’s law, Theory of constraints etc.)

–          Pragmatist: One who would like to apply the learning for his real life situation.

There was a VP – Marketing  of a Liquor  company from Punjab who was nominated by the company. The MD of the company had clearly instructed him to get new strategies. He was totally lost in the program. A man of around 60 years he was physically present but rarely participated. Throughout the program none of the professors neither asked him nor any of the participants about their background, the type of industry and how their problems could be solved. So the training approach even though good for theorists and reflectors was inadequate for activists and pragmatists.

But the classical response of the professors was:  “We are not supposed to give answers. You are supposed to find out your answers”. My question to them is you don’t give them answers, but can you at least ask them what are their problems and why have they come to such a premier institute in the first place?

5. Piecemeal Approach: There were six resource persons (some were external, hence the jargon) who covered  the four days of the Sales training Program. Each person came, he discussed the case study and he went. Neither at the beginning nor at the end were all the topics were connected to each other in a holistic manner. It was as if a series of 90 minutes session for PGP students was being conducted.

So even though the professors were knowledgeable and they discussed new trends there is a lot of scope for improvement.

And finally something on a lighter note: when training programs are conducted by ordinary trainers like me ; when  few participants give bad feedback about the program;  the management ( the participant sponsoring authority)  considers the trainer is no good and he is virtually debarred from future assignments.

On the contrary,  what happens at such premier institutes? Even if the program is too theoretical and with information overload, the participant decides to give not so good a feedback then…

The management decides that the participant was INCOMPETENT TO UNDERSTAND THE METHODOLoGY AND PEDAGOGY OF THE RESOURCE PERSONS! And the story goes on!

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