New Economy Poses New Challenges For Companies, Business Educators

March 6, 2001

by Alan Hunt

Flexibility and rapid response are keys to success in the new Internet-driven economy-for both businesses and business educators, says Baylor University professor John D. Martin.

Speaking at a Hankamer School of Business-sponsored workshop, "Business Education in the New Economy," Martin noted that the increasing pace of change in market conditions places "a premium" on building flexible organizations in the business world. "One possible response to this new business environment is developing a fluid and flexible internal structure that can respond quickly to changed circumstances," he suggested.

"Alternatively, business may be increasingly accomplished through the formation of networks of firms that can be brought together quickly when opportunities arise and then disbanded when the opportunity no longer exists."

Martin, a professor of finance and holder of the Carr P. Collins Chair of Finance, predicted that the convergence of communication and information technologies, such as the telephone, wireless, cable, Internet, personal computers and television, has the potential to revolutionize educational delivery systems. "This may pose a threat to some institutions and programs, but will certainly provide tremendous opportunities for universities to reach both traditional and nontraditional learners with new and innovative programs."

Other program speakers also addressed the impact of technology on learning. Dr. Michael F. Korpi, professor and chair of Baylor's department of communication studies, stated, "We have a tendency to overestimate the impact of a communication technology on education (that is, how we deliver education), and we have a tendency to underestimate the impact of that same communication technology on students. It is a change in the students that ultimately forces a change in the delivery of education."

Korpi pointed out that some technologies are easy to predict, such as microprocessor speed, RAM, data storage and bandwidth. "There are clear trends: packets rather than circuits; what is in the air goes on a wire, and what is on a wire goes in the air; compressed; encrypted; always on."

He added, "In combination, these technologies and trends promise amazing things, but there are some limiting technologies or problem areas: batteries, displays and user input technologies."

Dr. Corey P. Carbonara said the new economy has created the need for business education to rethink, reshape and restructure both content and modes of distribution. Carbonara is a professor and associate vice president for technology management at Baylor and is director of the Institute for Technology Innovation Management. He also serves as chief technology officer at Texas State Technical System.

He pointed to the way many business schools are serving both students and industry simultaneously, adding, "Similar ventures can be created between academic institutions and industry that may result in the creation of new companies tailored to provide web-based and broadband delivered educational solutions. One other outcome of academic-business cooperation is the direct impact it has on cutting-edge applied research opportunities in a variety of business disciplines such as marketing, management, accounting and sales."

Michael Froehls, executive director of e-Strategy Implementation Group, e-Citi, Citigroup, Inc., New York City, suggested that while increasing globalization will ultimately increase the speed towards a "one-language" world (i.e., English), the lack of language skills will hamper American new economy companies in global expansion. "U.S. universities should promote language skills and exchange programs and encourage students to 'go global.'"

Dr. J. William Petty, professor of finance and the W.W. Caruth Chairholder of Entrepreneurship at Baylor, said two million people in the U.S. were seeking degrees on-line in the past year, mostly in business-related subjects. But he added that the new economy does not negate the need for leadership, vision and meeting customer needs.

Similarly, a warning about the potential for "information overload" came from accounting Professor Igor Vaysman of the University of Chicago. He said decreasing costs of compiling and analyzing data has led to major improvements in most firms' information systems. "There is now a wealth of information at the fingertips of most decision-makers. This can lead to better local decisions. It can also lead to information overload," he said. "What information is necessary to make effective local decisions? Also, what are the consequences of better information on managerial incentives?"

Other participants at the conference included Don Chew, editor of the Bank of America Journal of Applied Corporate Finance (New York); Gary Ferrell, president and CEO of the North Texas Public Broadcasting Company (Dallas); Stinson Gibner, vice president for quantitative research at Enron Corp. (Houston); David Palumbo, vice president for learning services at Sapient Corporation (Austin); Raj Srivastava, Jack R. Crosby Regents Chair in Business Administration at the McCombs College of Business at the University of Texas (Austin); and Bennett Stewart, founding partner of Stern Stewart Company (New York).

For more information about the workshop, contact Dr. Martin at (254) 710-4473 or J_Martin@baylor.edu.

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