Opus College of Business recently unveiled the Business in a Digital World (BDW) initiative, designed to prepare University of St. Thomas students for relevance in a future of constant and exponential technological growth.
“If we want to prepare business leaders for a world where technology keeps growing and growing, we need to teach them their uniquely human skills in order to be a complement in a human plus machine kind of world … It’s not that machines will replace us, it’s more like machines will relieve us of redundant things so we can focus on our higher-order skills,” Associate Professor Lisa Abendroth, director of the initiative, said.
The BDW Initiative results from the recognition that emerging technologies are not single events, but rather a new reality in which disruption is the rule. As a result, the BDW initiative is intended to take the lessons from Abendroth’s Emerging Tech in Business course and apply them to all aspects of a comprehensive business curriculum.
Abendroth teaches her students in her course first and foremost to be curious and continually examine the intersections of their chosen field and the emerging technologies of the day. “I’m not teaching them about how to be an expert in a specific technology today,” she said. “I’m teaching them about how to stay ahead of the trends, how to dive deep into a technology to explore how it might work in their problem space, because that’s the skill set we will need.”
Technology consulting firm PwC identifies their “Essential Eight” emerging technologies poised for greatest impact over the next five years. These categories include artificial intelligence, robots, drones, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, the Internet of Things and 3D printing. But for Abendroth, the opportunity for business leaders is less about any one technology and more about one’s ability to utilize that technology for their business and the advancement of the common good. “It’s not that you need to be an expert in all emerging technologies, but you need to be aware of them, aware of what they are, aware of their basic functionality, how you might use them, what the benefits are, and what the risks are,” she said.
Ryan Radzak ’21 MBA is a marketing and business development specialist at Kraus-Anderson and a former student of Abendroth. He designed his course project to serve as an opportunity to explore how a digital twin could be utilized in the commercial construction industry. “As a result of some conversations that I had with my organization’s IT leaders, I was invited to be on Kraus-Anderson’s recently formed internal business technology committee. I will essentially represent our marketing and business development department in vetting relevant emerging technology investments moving forward,” Radzak said. He noted, “Lisa’s class has opened up new doors for me to partner with leaders in my organization.”