Incorporating OD courses in higher education curricula: Pillar to Zimbabwe’s Education 5.0

Incorporating OD courses in higher education curricula
Education 5.0 for Society 5.0

There is no doubt that academic institutions need to deliver courses that foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and an entrepreneurial mindset among graduates. After proffering curriculum development advisory on Content Management System and Organization Development (OD) for an Afghanistan Justice Sector Program, I had to reflect back home – Can the OD pillars be adopted to sustain Zimbabwe’s Education 5.0? My answer to this question is a resounding Yes. Of course, I am part of Daniel Bryan’s Yes Movement.

The impressions, insights, and informal interpretations of most OD tacit knowledge and ‘deep smarts’ indicates that undergraduate programs need to incorporate Organization Development (OD) in their educational curricula. Contrary to this view, a cursory perusal of most academic institutions indicates that OD courses are predominantly delivered at post-graduate levels. The current period of epochal change should open educational leaders to re-think undergraduate curricula and incorporate OD education. This is in response to the worrisome outcry by the business community on talent illiquidity despite increasing numbers of graduates. Warrick (2016) beautiful said “it is time for those involved in the field of OD to take a stronger leadership role in clarifying and promoting OD and in particular in designing and teaching high impact introductory course.” An article published by the Organization Development Journal (ODJ) raised the question “Is OD a specialized skill that requires courses designed for those who need an in-depth understanding of OD, a field that has fundamentals that all leaders and champions of change should be familiar with, or both.” The general answer to this question, and even in the context of Education 5.0, is both – that is, the need for an organized and integrative approach. OD is a multi-disciplinary field informed by such behavioural sciences as organizational behaviour, economics, clinical and social psychology, industrial relations, psychiatry, systems theory, organizational theory, strategic management, clinical and social psychology, social anthropology, philosophy and so on.

At a time the Zimbabwe Education 5.0 is expected to drive innovation and cutting-edge industrial revolution, the need to incorporate courses that adopt a multi-faceted approach to learning and applied and experiential activities is paramount. OD courses have the capacity to strengthen, inspire and illuminate Zimbabwe’s focus on innovation and industrialization. The broadening of Zimbabwe state universities’ tripartite mission of teaching, research and community service aligns with the expanding OD field’s pedagogical and methodological innovations. The focus of Education 5.0 is on problem-solving for value creation. Higher education institutions are better positioned to grasp and decipher the epochal changes that continue to dramatically reshape the global business and social landscape. These institutions, by fostering OD thinking among graduates can provide organizations and the economy impacting industrial solutions.
It is an aphorism that academic institutions should adopt a job-creator (JCR) mode mindset. The OD field supports this ambition by closing the gap between theory, and experience and practice, and developing skills in managing change during times of dynamic change. In view of the field’s record of pedagogical innovation, OD instructors focus on how students can help themselves and their organizations function effectively under turmoil. The OD courses prepare students for the realities and rigors of contemporary businesses.

Notwithstanding the increasing queries regarding the relevance, purpose and effectiveness of current curricula, one key question that some critiques of the incorporation of OD courses in undergraduate programs raise is that ‘Do undergraduate students have the experience or perspective to understand and apply OD concepts?’ The opponents further assert that undergraduate students lack the insights, maturity, or life perspective to understand, appreciate, and apply the OD process. In contrast, I am convinced that this applies to all fields.

As Education 5.0 is expected to prepare Zimbabwe for the Society 5.0 concept, some of the experiential activities that OD courses bring to support Education 5.0 include self-assessments, role plays, assessing actual organizations, small group activities, developing change designs, field lectures, focused-internships, online projects, and guest lectures. The Action Research Process of assessment, feedback, action, planning, and implementation also support this call. The behavioural sciences, organizational and whole system thinking pillars of OD brings fundamental perspectives to Education 5.0.

Let’s engage on how the Centre for Organization Leadership and Development (COLD) can support your institution’s design and deliver OD programs. Looking forward to your comments and personal experiences in the comment section below…

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