Publication date (electronic): 30 June 2016
Viewing WIL in business schools through a new lens:
Moving to the edge of chaos with complexity theory
Laura Rook is a Management Lecturer in the Business School at Charles Darwin University. Dr Rook currently lectures in the areas of change management, business research, workplace ethics and work-integrated learning. Her research interests are organizational learning and development, work-integrated learning, curriculum development, change management and the application of complexity theory to organizations.
Lisa McManus is the Professor of Accounting and the Associate Dean of Research and Research Training for the Faculty of Law, Education, Business and Arts at Charles Darwin University. Lisa has published in a number of high quality international research journals in various areas but particularly focused on performance measurement and management.
Employers require well rounded work-ready graduates with the skills to adapt to a contemporary workplace. Australian universities are responding to these needs through the implementation of Work-integrated Learning (WIL) programs aimed at providing students with the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes employers seek. This paper describes a study of Work-integrated Learning programs in the Human Resource Management (HRM) discipline at a number of Australian business schools. Exploratory interviews were undertaken with a range of stakeholders and examined within a complexity theory lens. The findings suggest that WIL is viewed as a threat to the role of higher education rather than an opportunity. There is increased interdependence and vulnerability within universities and as universities struggle for resources to respond to uncertainties in their ecosystem, they are being forced into making short term changes rather than co-evolving with their environment. By looking at the connectedness and evolutionary properties of the universities involved in the study, a number of recommendations are suggested to encourage universities to move to the edge of chaos, where a university’s full potential can be realized. Complexity theory provides a new way for viewing the intricacies of higher education course development and provides an argument for universities to create enabling conditions to co-evolve with the ever changing and complex world we live in.
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