In a technology driven world businesses cannot afford a moment to blink. The past decade has seen the collapse of several high street brands such as Woolworths, Blockbuster and Phones 4U – to name a few.
Many retailers were fatalities of the 2008 recession but several others failed to keep up with the pace of data and technology innovations.
One recent casualty, British Home Stores (BHS), went into administration earlier this year. Months after it closed the retailer returned to trade solely online.
Where digitally-focused competitors such as Debenhams and House of Fraser managed to circumvent damning disruptions, BHS lacked innovation and experts said it had become something of an “irrelevance” to its core audience.
The vision and foresight required of general managers to anticipate potential conditions of future trading environments, and to prepare both management and the business to navigate this, is what Imperial College Business School’s General Management Programme aims to deliver for initiates.
The 11-day programme is targeted at aspiring or recently promoted general managers, and sets out to impart participants with the key knowledge required in a technologically complex and ever-evolving world.
The course covers some of the most important technology developments that are affecting business, such as big data.
“Take the banking sector, for example,” says Beate Baldwin, co-director of Executive Education at Imperial College Business School.
“Nobody would have thought ten years ago that platforms like Apple Pay, Android Pay and other digital platforms, would take over the business of banks but that is exactly what is happening now.”
One of the programme’s objectives is to help students develop a broad vision of where disruptors will come from is. Imperial’s cross-disciplinarian approach means the course incorporates learnings from robotics, neuroscience and studies on new materials.
In addition to this, the programme will open up attendees to experiential learning through Imperial College’s unique Impact Lab.
The sessions will feature Olympic silver medallist winner and former diplomat, Catherine Bishop, who will share the best practices of high performing teams and effective leadership.
Executive Education also utilises the Impact Lab on various courses, including A Complete Course in Risk Management.
Baldwin explains: “This programme looks at the risks of tomorrow such as cyber security, climate risks and terrorist attacks – things that no one has quantified.
“With our cross-disciplinarian approach we draw on research from different centres and faculties at Imperial working on these areas, to provide a 360-degree insight into risk management that includes modelling, coping with uncertainty and understanding new environments.”
For the experiential learning aspect on the Risk Management course, candidates will visit a carbon capture plant, where experiments will simulate risk scenarios within chemical engineering settings. Participants can later apply these principles here to the finance sector.
A major aspect of the General Management Programme is to help students gain a broader knowledge of key functional issues that affect the role of the general manager.
For example, the programme will explore marketing in the digital age, operations and supply chain management, financial issues for business units below the corporate level and managing innovation for profit, among other topics.
“Technology changes and digital influence on people has changed behaviours,” Baldwin elaborates. “Taking this into consideration, the marketing focus will enable managers to understand what businesses should do to gain loyalty; it will look at branding; and how to develop interactions with clients and customers to make a business sustainable.
“In terms of managing innovation for profit, and strategy execution and transformation, we examine principles and processes involved when a business is looking at launching a new product. The ultimate question is how will it create value for a company.”
With astute understanding of these key business issues, general managers can be more self-assured in their leadership, and in conversations with other c-suite executives such as chief technology and financial officers.
Crucially, the General Management Programme offers attendees the opportunity to network with peers from various industries and countries, thus promoting ‘intrapreneurship’, where large companies can learn from start-ups and vice-versa.
Baldwin concludes: “Banking, marketing, logistics – all are affected by technology disruption and development. It’s slow today but we’re speeding up and things will be markedly different in the future. To figure all this out it’s about agility, questioning processes, and testing.”
“The programme gives general managers a future vision of the world in five, ten or 15 years, and the opportunity, through experiments and our Impact Lab, to explore what they should be doing to set themselves up for that now.”