Advancing Wise Innovation

Many grand challenges confront humanity today – improving living standards and lifting billions out of poverty without destroying our planet, reducing societal polarisation and intolerance, and enabling human flourishing, to name but a few. The United Nations has attempted to provide a comprehensive view of the challenges that face us over the next several decades by identifying 17 strategic development goals (SDGs) to guide the efforts of individuals, corporations, NGOs, and governments. But given the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) nature of our reality today, efforts that rely on existing solutions will not get us to where we want to go. The path forward requires bold innovation. But the novelty and often unforeseen consequences of innovation can potentially make bad situations worse or create new problems. Therefore, we need to advance a very specific kind of innovation – at SPJIMR, we call this “wise innovation”.

What is wise innovation? It is a conscious attempt at every level (individual, corporate, NGO, and government) to design solutions that have broad economic, societal, and environmental benefits. These benefits are conceptualised as contributing to the so-called triple bottom line (also called 3P). Designing such 3P solutions requires individual innovators and organisations to mindfully apply specific wisdom mindsets and practices in the innovation process.

What then should the role of a management institute be in advancing wise innovation?

At SPJIMR, we aim to advance wise innovation at scale by shaping the innovation practices of the following stakeholders – the thousands of participants in our full-time and modular programmes, the hundreds of corporate and NGO partners who rely on us for talent acquisition and ongoing development programmes, and a select number of high leverage entrepreneurial communities or ecosystems that we support through our centres of practice.

The participants in our programmes master contemporary innovation practices such as design thinking, the lean startup method, and agile management. But more importantly, they dig deeper into the foundational enablers of innovation such as critical thinking and systems thinking. Participants develop a wisdom mindset of intellectual humility, reflection, contextualisation, compassion, and responsible action; we enable these with our curriculum and through carefully curated immersive experiences that develop societal sensitivity. Participants continuously put their knowledge into practice, designing novel solutions in various contemporary contexts of product management, entrepreneurship, resilient supply chain design, customer journey management, and social sector interventions. Our participants then go on to advance wise innovation in their organisations, communities, and ecosystems.

Whether you are an individual innovator or an organisation innovating for 3P outcomes, consider working with SPJIMR on your wise innovation journey.

Q&A with the Dean

  • As the Dean of Bhavan's SPJIMR, what are the primary focus areas for you?

    SPJIMR’s mission is to influence practice and promote value-based growth. I look at value-based growth as an output – the desired outcome from influencing practice. It is personal or institutional growth that goes beyond just the economic dimension. Value-based growth is holistic, inclusive, just, sustainable, and is net positive. We begin from a position of strength. Our unique and proven SPJIMR way, a mix of the values that guide SPJIMR and our unique pedagogy, has already shaped more than 15,000 grounded, resilient, and socially sensitive leaders. But there are four additional areas that we need to focus on to respond to the challenges of our time: 1) We must deeply but ubiquitously embed digital and sustainability principles into our curriculum and pedagogy. 2) We need to give our students the tools and experiences that will help them design innovative entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s complex problems. 3) We must develop and deliver a broader range of cutting-edge industry-relevant programs (such as around FinTech or Product Management) and unique ‘SPJIMR-ethos-based’ programs (such as around Wisdom in Leadership or Personal Growth) to more segments of our society. 4) We need to create, synthesize, and disseminate rigorous and relevant knowledge in areas that address the grand challenges the world faces.

  • From a leader at top IT companies to the Dean at a top B-school, what are the learnings you bring from your career so far to the running of SPJIMR?

    I was CEO and COO at private startup companies creating disruptive digital products that enable companies to reimagine their operations and strategies. As CEO, I also led a legacy public company through digital transformation, and as a management consultant, I advised several large companies as they sought to reinvent key aspects of their business. In short, operating in a technology-driven, volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world is what I know and what I enjoy. The management education sector is now undergoing a massive change with new competitors appearing, and novel alternatives emerging on when to deliver education and how. I am hoping to leverage my career learnings to help SPJIMR navigate through such disruptive change. One of the lessons from my industry experience is that change is less daunting when you set a big vision or audacious goals, but take small, iterative, and adaptive steps toward those goals. It is okay to experiment and fail so long as we learn quickly from our mistakes and course-correct, but it is not acceptable to sit on the sidelines. Second, there is always a risk that what got an organization to this point may be necessary but not sufficient to take the next step. But adding new capabilities without losing existing capabilities and cultural elements that are still relevant to the changing world is a delicate balancing act. And this is an even bigger imperative at institutions that have a distinct legacy and culture as SPJIMR does. New capability building requires clarity and alignment. It needs relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that can be measured to provide feedback on whether the steps being taken are working or not. I hope to adapt such an objective, measurement-driven approach to academia. And finally, inspiring your team to embrace change rather than being threatened by it, is a true test of leadership.

  • What is the vision and plan for SPJIMR?

    Our goals and plans flow from our mission which is to ‘influence practice and promote value-based growth’. When we talk of influencing practice, it is not just the practice of our students and alumni, but that of organizations and society. And when we say influence, we mean both direct influence (such as teaching, consulting, designing interventions, etc.) and indirect influence (such as influencing organizations through our students, but also influencing organizations and society through thought leadership). It is in this context we ask: what does it take to influence practice going forward and how do we increase our effectiveness and scale of influence? Effectiveness refers to how well we influence their practice in a manner that results in value-based growth in today’s context. Scale is about who we influence and how many. To increase the effectiveness of our direct influence, we must deeply but ubiquitously embed digital and sustainability principles into our curriculum and experiential pedagogy, while also giving our students and alumni the fundamental tools, experiences, and mindsets that will help them design innovative entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s complex and changing problems. To scale our direct influence, we must develop and deliver a broad range of cutting-edge and stakeholder-relevant programs (such as around FinTech), along with unique ‘SPJIMR-ethos-based’ programs (such as Wisdom in Leadership) to more segments of our society than we currently serve. To improve both the effectiveness and scale of our indirect influence, we must focus our faculty research and the activities undertaken by our Centers on creating, synthesizing, and disseminating rigorous and relevant thought leadership in select areas related to value-based growth.

  • How do you look at the Indian management education landscape? What are the strengths and areas of improvements?

    I think traditionally Indian management schools have been very student-outcome-centric, though some like IIM Udaipur have more of a research-centric view like US business schools. However, I don’t think the world of student outcomes and the world of research need to be as distinct as they are. I think the bridge between the two is to focus on the practice of management – specifically, turning students into better practitioners and developing research or new knowledge that is relevant to practice. I think both these areas can be addressed much better than they currently are. Let’s look at each in turn. As we know, creating a better practitioner involves working on three dimensions – knowing, doing, and being. ‘Knowing’ is about more than learning deep learning or whatever the tech of the day happens to be. What matters are what at IIT we called ‘fundas’ – the underlying fundamental principles and mindsets that let the practitioner deal with novel situations. Without fundas, knowledge is temporal. Also important are opportunities to practice and reflect – this is the mindful ‘doing’ dimension of mastery. And finally, there is developing a sense of yourself in the context of a much bigger picture. This dimension is called ‘being’. I think many management schools, though student-centric, take a short-sighted view of knowing and pay insufficient attention to the doing and being dimensions. On the question of research, with a few notable exceptions, most management schools in India are novices. However, as management schools in India look to increase their research output, my fear is that we might follow the worst of US management education – focusing on often irrelevant research from a pure publication lens as opposed to an impact lens. I would like SPJIMR to walk down the less-trodden path of practice-relevant research.

  • What are the plans for research at the institute?

    On conventional international metrics pertaining to research – the number of citations, the quality of journals, and so on – almost all Indian b-schools have some way to go. But we are focusing on closing this gap, as are some other leading Indian B-schools. In our case, we are doing it through focus, process, and culture. Our focus is on research that bridges the gap between theory and practice. Also, over the last many years, we have been hiring great faculty who combine an aptitude for teaching (which is a must at SPJIMR) with a strong passion, training, and proclivity for research. All else being equal, we are looking to build research in SPJIMR mission-aligned areas like digital sustainability, technology and society, and so on. Our FPM/PhD program is gathering steam and I am excited about the research questions – many of which broadly explores the role of technology in society – that our scholars are pursuing. We have developed an Office for Research and Innovation (ORI) that has created processes and funds to support our researchers. We have a regular research seminar series and our goal is to add research competency to our institute without diluting our traditional strength of teaching excellence.

  • SPJIMR is a strong but niche B-school. Are there plans to scale SPJIMR?

    We are definitely one of the smallest and one of the most selective management schools in the country. While that is a good thing at one level, our goal is to increase scale in addition to effectiveness. If we really want to influence practice, we need to reach more practitioners! Our scaling strategy involves creating programs that address currently underserved needs of those we already reach today, and also designing new programs that address segments that are not served well by management schools. This latter approach, by the way, is in keeping with the character of SPJIMR – we created a program for women returning to the workplace after a break, and a program for CSR leaders and NGO leaders involved in sustainable development.

  • Given your expertise and research on technology and innovation, do you think current MBA curriculum and pedagogy is aligned to the changing social and business world?

    Partially. I see management and technical schools placing emphasis on buzzwords and specific skills. That may be necessary but is, by no means, sufficient. As I noted, the real challenge in using technology to positively impact our changing world is to focus on the fundamentals of continuous learning – the mindsets and the analysis/synthesis approaches required to analyze complex systems, formulate innovative responses and appreciate the seen and unseen economic, social, and environmental consequences of action. This is easier said than done. I will consider my term at SPJIMR a success if our pedagogy reflects this viewpoint, and if our subsequent generation of students deploy the required level of technical, social, and environmental consciousness as they make and implement business decisions.

  • There is a view that business managers of the future will need to be a bit of AI specialists and a bit of data specialists. Industry is also demanding those kinds of roles. So how will you gear up your students for the new industry demands?

    There are two ways in which these new technologies are currently being incorporated in the student experience. One is we have a set of courses in the curriculum that focuses on these core building blocks. We feel fairly confident that our students are leaving our four walls with a reasonable handle on what these technologies are, having worked with some of the tool sets, having learned for example how to do visualisation, using Tableau, and how to tell a story around the data. Because a lot of data analytics is as much about storytelling and interpretation as it is about data crunching. In addition, we focus on the application of these technologies to the practice of management. We have financial and marketing analytics classes and a very cool course called customer usage analytics when you use a product today, every click that you make is an indication of what interests you. Companies need to take in all this click-screen information coming in and from that tell what’s going on. Are people happy with the product? Are the features that you’ve introduced actually being exercised by users or not? So, these are the sort of applications of analytics within different functions. We focus on both. That is, we build a basic foundation on core technology no matter what the student’s functional specialisation might be. Within a functional specialisation we try and show how these various new digital technologies are going to impact practices within that function. So, if you’re a supply chain professional, how will blockchain, for example, potentially change the way you do vendor management? Now, if your specialisation happens to be information management, you would dig much deeper into those core technologies.

  • Are you looking to build stronger industry linkages so that you tailor your courses for what the industry requires and build stronger industry linkages?

    Traditionally, our industry linkages have been a source of strength at SPJIMR. Our linkages are strong because we are very practice focused and because of our location in Mumbai. A lot of eminent industry folks at some point in their lives want to share what they’ve learnt and I think we have a very flexible and a nice pathway for folks to come in as visiting faculty and adjunct faculty depending on the stage of their life they are in. We always have a constant flow of fine talent from the industry coming in to teach and then, of course, that raises the game for our full-time faculty as well. In fact, I would go as far as to say that our reputation as India’s finest teaching B-school stems from our ability to blend industry experts seamlessly into our teaching and thought leadership activities. Additionally, we use advisory councils at two levels. There’s an institute-level advisory council; we call it the thought leadership council. Then each of our functional areas and thought leadership centres of excellence has its advisory councils consisting of eminent industry leaders who provide the necessary inputs to keep us current and cutting-edge.

  • What are the lessons and practices that should continue in the post Covid world?

    The pandemic did more to further digital transformation than all prior management efforts combined! From a management education perspective, we learned that education must be timely, bite-sized, and delivered whenever, wherever, and however, the recipient wants it. I think this trend in what education means and how it is delivered/received is here to stay. At a societal level, I think we learned that we are all connected in a worldwide interconnected web – highlighting again that the real skill an MBA or other management education should impart is providing skills to students on how to navigate and shape this sort of a complex world.

  • In the context, given that the pandemic has seen so many changes, do you see that management education needs a re-think?

    Periodically every crisis forces a rethink. For example, the dot com crisis probably forced a rethink on what exactly business is; people were too carried away by brand marketing and eyeball capturing and forgot about what is the value being created and what is fundamental to a business model. So I think the dot com crisis with its so-called irrational exuberance probably forced a necessary back-to-the-basics mindset. But that wasn’t enough. The financial crisis of 2008 forced a rethink on ethics and governance and risk and forced a rethink on the role of regulations. But it was mostly limited to the financial services sector. The Covid-19 crisis is different. The Covid-19 crisis forced us to recognise that the world is a complex and interconnected space and it forced us to face the uncomfortable truth that we don’t fully understand or know how to respond to such complexity. People had to juggle trade-off decisions of whether to shut down an economy or function with restrictions and if so, for how long. And the vaccine availability and roll-out starkly highlighted the differences between the poor and the rich. This crisis has forced a rethink of management education. We have to ask if students are equipped to deal with this kind of crisis; can they frame a complex situation in terms of a potentially understandable problem? Do they have the modesty to realise that whatever solution they come up with will probably be wrong? Can they react quickly to the fact that their hypotheses are wrong, and course correct quickly? Can they come up with fact-based decisions rather than giving in to their emotions? Do they have the confidence and integrity to make unpopular decisions? Those are major parts of the conversations today: evidence-based thinking, assertions that can be wrong; and decision-making with uncertain and ambiguous information. These are the thinking models or mindsets that management education should provide to students. I think these are pretty fundamental changes to the foundations of management education.

  • What is your plan to take SPJIMR even higher up the rankings?

    Rankings matter, of course. They do influence selection by the students. We have to be an attractive destination to the students; these metrics matter to them and therefore to us. But the rankings are quite diverse from different organisations that rank B-schools. For example, the criteria for NIRF rankings are quite different from the criteria used by the Financial Times or Business Today. All that said, my aspiration is to consistently be regarded as the best private business school in India across all survey methodologies. Internationally, I would like SPJIMR to make a mark as well — I want SPJIMR to be known globally for our distinct approach to management education — a SPJIMR way if you will. Some schools are known for specific disciplines, even though they are not famous schools per se; there is Babson college near Boston and its UG programme is probably the best in the country for entrepreneurship. The Thunderbird school of management in Arizona was known for international business. So you don’t have to be a Harvard or a Stanford to be well known; you can be a smaller, more focused business school like SPJIMR and still have a unique identity. Take our mission of influencing practice and promoting value-based growth – the fact that business should do good, in addition to doing well. That growth must be equitable and sustainable. These are more than words at SPJIMR; we sensitise our students to social realities by having them go through an immersion programme with an NGO in a rural area. They also work for a whole year with students who are severely underprivileged. We also give our students opportunities to experience personal and spiritual growth. These are some of the experiences that students undergo at SPJIMR which makes it different from other B-schools. Internationally, I would like to have a reputation as one of the most socially conscious business schools in the world, and a school more dedicated to sustainable development than other schools. At the end of my five-year term, I would like to be part of the international conversation around B-schools.

40 years of SPJIMR

Take a walk through 40 Years of SPJIMR, showcasing the institute’s legacy and evolution in the last four decades.

Refresh your memories and re-live those precious moments through this short video.


SPJIMR celebrated its 40th Foundation Day on April 17, 2021. Students, staff, faculty and alumni came together virtually to celebrate SPJIMR Day. The event was live on Zoom and Facebook and had 484 participants on Zoom.

On this day in 1981, the foundation stone of the institute was laid by UK’s then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and today it stands as one of the top business schools in the country and is proud of its mission and vision. The virtual event hosted by Prof. Vineeta Dwivedi and Prof. Ratika Gore started off with an address by SPJIMR Associate Dean, Dr. Vasant Sivaraman who spoke about the legacy of the institute and its future. Dr. Sesha Iyer, Advisor to the Dean, then spoke about Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the origins of SPJIMR, and the early days.

Prof. Ratika Gore hosted a chat with SPJIMR PGDM Class of 1999 alum Madan Padaki, Serial Entrepreneur, Strategic Advisor – UNICEF India & President, TiE Bangalore. Mr. Padaki spoke about his many learnings and memories from his time at SPJIMR, how business schools can promote entrepreneurship and the importance of collaborative effort. Alumni and students from across programmes through short speeches and poetry spoke about the essence of SPJIMR, what defines the institute and how they see the institute from their own unique perspective.

Prof. Vineeta Dwivedi then had a chat with Ms. Jayashree Thampi from SPJIMR’s IT Team, who has been part of the institute for the past 25 years. She spoke about the many transformations that the institute has been through and the many firsts that the institute has achieved from a technology perspective. The event also had a video consisting of a collection of pictures and memories of the institute over the past 40 years and it showcased its legacy and evolution in the last four decades. The pictures were collected from the institute’s library and from the SPJIMR family as part of the #40YearsofSPJIMR social media campaign.

The event rounded off with a beautiful virtual tour of the SPJIMR campus. The video was put together by PGDM 2022 students, Debapriya Paul, Saurabh Dubey and Amritesh Srivastava from Tasveer – The Creative Club of SPJIMR.

To watch the full event proceedings, click here

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