There is no denying we are living in very interesting times. With a chaotic global economy, constantly evolving technology and an ever-growing population, today’s leaders face a plethora of challenges. Yet they also have an unequalled opportunity to make an impact, not only on those in their immediate sphere but possibly hundreds, thousands and even millions around the globe, thanks to ever-improving communication tools. It is this awesome responsibility that makes it so necessary for today’s leaders to have a solid knowledge of where they have been and where they are going.
Business schools are stepping up to the task of helping to create leaders of tomorrow who are not only knowledgeable in their immediate positions but who are prepared to learn from other sectors, countries and cultures. Anne Nemer, Assistant Dean for Executive and EMBA programs at Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh in the US believes: “the single word that best defines our program is ‘agility’. Our philosophy is that business leaders must be nimble and move with speed to succeed in today’s business world. It’s clear that future economic growth will come from emerging markets, and it is important that business leaders develop firsthand knowledge of how to conduct business abroad and how to approach decisions with a global perspective. Globalism is a cornerstone of our EMBA Worldwide Program.”
According to a 2010 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Developing economies have accounted for nearly 70% of world growth over the past five years.” With consistent expansion in countries such as China, India and Brazil, the need to work well in an international context is imperative for executives today. Mario Ramo, Managing Director of Executive MBA programs at the University of Zurich in Switzerland notes: “We are deeply convinced that global leaders need a global mindset to successfully adapt to the changing/expanding markets. Thus, for many years now our EMBA program has offered a specific focus on intercultural management to students. Participants first get a two-day introduction on culture and its consequences in business before they tackle specific business regions and their cultural contexts. In this way, they are able to structure their acquired knowledge right from the beginning.”
Maryke Luijendijk-Steenkamp, Director of Marketing & Admissions at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in the Netherlands adds: “We take our participants on international study tours annually to ensure they have exposure to economies perceived to be different to those they operate in. We have a faculty base that is 80% fly-in, ensuring we have academics presented in a globally diverse way. With Rotterdam being the third largest port in the world, and the city itself boasting an extremely international residence base, the environment is very conducive to internationalization – a facet that can be seen across all our programs.”
Even schools that are based in the fast growing developing regions are taking note of the importance of globalization for today’s leaders. Nan Sze Marie-Antonie Chua Director, Graduate Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School points out that though the business school is based in Singapore they have made a concerted effort to, “have international faculty, international participants and international locations for our program segments, including Singapore, India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, and Los Angeles.” Top executives today understand their strength in business depends on knowing how to work well on a global basis and business schools are showing them the way.
The need to work with and understand countries and cultures is also key to strengthening global finance. The world economy is going through great change right now and though change is almost always a good thing it can take a bit of adjustment for all involved. “Conventional wisdom might be that the best time to pursue an EMBA degree is when the economy is booming, but the degree is even more powerful during challenging times such as these,” affirms Katz’s Nemer. “Our graduates invest in themselves and position themselves to emerge from the economic downturn even stronger. That’s how the best companies handle tough times, and it’s how people should too.”
According to a 2010 report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the “GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of emerging and developing economies accounted for 20% of world GDP in 2000, 34% in 2010, and will account for an estimated 39% by 2015.” A similar study by Carnegie also published in 2010 predicts that “developing countries will account for two thirds of world trade in 2050.” But perhaps most impressive is that, according to a McKinsey report from July 2010, “the global emerging middle class now stands at two billion people who spend US$6.9 trillion a year, a figure which is expected to rise to US$20 trillion by 2020.” So, instead of all the doom and gloom that economists seem to be sharing these days there is actually a very strong global economy growing right in front of us.
The world economy is not shrinking, far from it, it is actually expanding. As Trendwatching.com’s Exceptionall report states: “innovations will increasingly come from all corners of the globe, with brands and talent from emerging markets in particular getting ready to shine. Now that virtually the entire world has joined the consumer arena, prepare for an avalanche of new brands, entrepreneurs and innovations from ‘emerging’ markets that will have global potential and appeal. Sure, the expansion of global markets creates new opportunities for existing well-known brands, but the real story of the rise of these new powerhouses is the new brands that are making waves, both within their domestic markets, but increasingly outside these, competing and even beating the established, entrenched incumbents at their own game. One thing’s for certain – the range of brands that consumers covet will be even more diverse in twenty, ten or even five years.”
As the 2011 McKinsey report Women Matter 2 states: “Over a billion new consumers will join the global marketplace between 2006 and 2015. Geographic expansion will require strong global positioning as well as a solid local presence.” The best business schools are helping their participants understand their roles and responsibilities as current and future leaders, while top executives are realising the part they can play on an international scale. Many EMBA programs are using what is known as the ‘PEST analysis’ methodology to guide students in their business evaluations. It is a simple but important and widely-used tool that offers a big picture of the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological environments where a company may be operating, or looking to operate, in. According to mindtools.com, this form of analysis is used by business leaders worldwide to build their vision of the future because it “ensures that what you are doing is aligned positively with the forces of change that are affecting our world. By taking advantage of change, you are much more likely to be successful than if your activities oppose it.”
As the Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 by the World Economic Forum states: “The complexity of today’s global economic environment has made it more important than ever to recognise and encourage the qualitative as well as the quantitative aspects of growth, integrating such concepts as inclusiveness and environmental sustainability to provide a fuller picture of what is needed and what works.” The best business schools understand this and are adapting their EMBA programs to address the needs of the leaders of today and tomorrow. According to the 2011 Executive MBA Council report, 62.5% of Executive MBA programs require an international trip as part of their program experience while only 23.1% of full-time programs make this compulsory. This difference clearly shows the emphasis EMBA programs are making on working with a global perspective and a cultural understanding when in a leadership position.
Vani Nadarajah, Associate Admissions Director, IE Global Executive MBA in Spain agrees. “The objective of our program is to help our participants build a ‘global view of business’. We do this through maximising diversity in the student body and faculty. The program’s online periods mean experienced executives can stay connected across the globe, across industries, cultures and busy travel schedules, contributing and sharing a current view of business.” As the McKinsey report Women Matter 2 notes: “Connectivity is transforming our ways of living and interacting. Knowledge has become commonplace; it is no longer seen as an asset in its own right. The use of new technologies is influencing the social fabric and fostering a new, virtual economy.” This is the new strength that tomorrow’s leaders will understand and master. A September 2010 McKinsey report states: “700 million people will start using the Internet in Asia in the next 5 years.” This is just a portion of an enormous new market opening up for companies the world over, to reach, understand and work with. The world’s best business schools will be there to light the way and show them how to do it.