IBM and Hult Business School Design First Joint Digital Services Curriculum

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Image via 123rf stock photos.

It’s not news that business and technology are unavoidably linked, never to be parted again, but educational systems do not always reflect this new world, leaving many students unprepared.

Recently, IBM conducted another skills gap survey, which showed that there was a serious lack of instruction around digital services, social business, and data analytics.

Seeking to fill that gap, IBM collaborated with Hult International Business School to target students who have substantial prior experience but are seeking a more practical, relevant skills. This new initiative was spearheaded by Dr. James Spohrer, IBM’s Director of University Programs World Wide.

This initiative may at first seem interesting only to those whose livelihood revolve around digital services, but programs like this are indicative of a larger growing movement towards the adaptation and individualization of education.

It is one more global step towards personal interest and practical experience creating a new generation of tech and business jobs that move away from the old methods of standardization and conformity. It also addresses the need for more well-rounded candidates, such as professionals who have knowledge in a variety of areas like computer science, management, engineering, and social science. This kind of breadth and diversity will play a crucial role in the future of many industries, which according to Spohrer will be about “making jobs not taking jobs.”

In other words, positions will become flexible to fit the need and the person, rather that the other way around.

According to Spohrer, the program mentors students by “developing on their own personal brand to understand how to support personal ecosystems globally,” and has not only IBM, but many of their affiliates as a platform for learning and experience.

Our “personal brands” mean the electronic tools (like  an iPhone) and social media we choose, and a personal ecosystem is how we use them in combination with each other to make our life more entertaining, streamlined, and connecting to our personal and professional communities.

Given that every one of us has a personal ecosystem, you can see why developing a program that attaches the concept to business students would be relevant. These are the people who will connect fast changing technology with what we really need.

The program, which is an MBA Industry Praticum elective, focuses on service thinking using principles that can be applied to any tech platform. Service thinking is the design and marketing of services that improve a customer’s experience. What makes you choose one product over another? It’s how well the company has connected to your personal brand and integrated their product into your personal ecosystem.

In other words, the better something is designed to fit into your life, the more likely you are to use it. PERFECT!!

When asked if the program addresses open source development or issues, I was assured that it would be integrated into the program soon. I asked because, while IBM is admirably looking for ways to fill a gap in skills needed for the next generation of employees, they are a corporation with a history of proprietary products.

Open source  software and hardware fosters independent innovation by promoting works in the public domain and allowing anyone to learn, not just a select few, and expanding the possibilities of adaptation and use. An integration of both approaches would be more likely to foster the mission of this program.

While this program was distinctly created for graduate students, IBM also has a program called Students for a Smarter Planet for University students, and PTECH (Pathways in Technology) for high school students in New York. I hope IBM continues to expand their offerings of educational supplementation, or support those who do at a younger age level. Sparking interest early is essential.

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