Image: Lauren Stewart
Image: Lauren Stewart

PartnersMay 29, 2023

Business as Unusual: A new series with the University of Auckland Business School

Image: Lauren Stewart
Image: Lauren Stewart

In an exciting new regular series, we’re going to look deeper at the local research innovations bringing us closer to the big, weird and buzzy future of business.

Are widely accessible large language models going to cause a collective atrophy in the broader population’s writing ability, or serve as an augmenting power-up for the same? Is the work-from-home revolution a lasting and life-changing shift in how we do business, or will it become just another footnote in our pandemic-era social histories? And is treating inflation as a purely fiscal concern the basis of prudent policy, or a short-sighted underestimation of its potentially longer-lingering social costs?

We’re living through a period of rapid and destabilising change and trying to make sense of a set of very unusual circumstances essentially on the fly. And as the scenarios above imply, not too many of the questions posed by this era come with easy answers. In Business as Unusual, a brand new Spinoff editorial series created in partnership with the University of Auckland Business School, we’ll seek to provide guidance, offer clarifying frameworks and provoke new kōrero around this strange new reality, using the faculty’s world-leading research as the basis.

Susan Watson, the dean of the University of Auckland Business School (Image: Supplied)

Professor Susan Watson, the dean of the Business School says the partnership will help to showcase the work of the business school, not only in producing world-class graduates, but also in producing research that will change the world for the better.

“Students are attracted to studying business because they realise that business is a way to create value from ideas that should make the world a better place. And we want students to come in for those reasons, and we want to produce graduates who think like that.

“For the last few decades it’s been believed that the role of business is to maximise profit for the shareholders of a business, with no need to worry about any impact the activities of that business might have on the world… But there’s been a fundamental shift recently. Increasingly it’s accepted that the externalities or harm that business causes isn’t something that should be ignored by those businesses. That thinking sits behind the idea of ‘business for good,’ that the primary purpose of business should be creating value in a way that is good for the world.”

In a series of in-depth-but-intelligible explainer pieces, we’ll look at the real-world context of some of the most exciting, innovative and perspective-shifting work coming out of Auckland, putting it in terms that’ll not only make it clear, they’ll make it genuinely exciting. And most importantly, we’ll demonstrate how that work doesn’t happen in an academic vacuum – rather it’s work which has real, meaningful implications for business both in Aotearoa and across te ao whānui.

Watson thinks the last few years have had an enormous impact on businesses around the globe – and how consumers interact with them – so she’s ensuring the Business School is helping students to meet these rapidly shifting needs.

“You learn the fundamentals of content, but there’s a lot of other skills that people learn in business degrees. Like working in teams and being exposed to new technologies. Even paradigm-shifting technology like ChatGPT won’t be the ground-breaking technology in 10 years. We can’t produce students who will know about the technology of the future, but we can prepare students so that they’re future-ready and can cope with shifts and changes. That starts with an acceptance of the need always to navigate uncertainty.”

Throughout the partnership we’ll also be taking regular looks at major happenings within the Business School itself, in a series of features offering deep insight into an organisation moving and changing through turbulent times – and setting an enormously high academic standard in the process.

The first of our BAU explainers will drop next week, both here on The Spinoff and across our social channels, with the full series rolling out regularly over the course of this year. Keep an eye and an ear out for more, and get in touch with The University of Auckland Business School whenever you’re ready to become a part of an organisation that’s truly shaping the future of business.

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