Friday, April 05, 2013

Global B-schools chart emerging markets course

Last week, a group of 71 second year MBA students from London Business School (LBS) were in Mumbai on a week long trip, soaking in the business culture of the financial capital, meeting CEOs like Raymond Bickson (The Indian Hotels Company - owner of the Taj group of hotels) and Sanjeev Lamba (Reliance Entertainment) and immersing themselves in conversation with the likes of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Farhan Akhtar to get a grasp on emerging business trends in Bollywood.

The visit was part of a new curriculum introduced by LBS - global business experience (GBE) - which offers an opportunity for second year MBA students to choose from five locations around the world to gain learning experience. LBS is not the only business school emphasizing on a global business experience for students, with a specific focus on emerging markets. Last August, nearly 300 students from Chicago Booth went on 25 trips around the globe, led by 100 second year trip leaders. The school's first ever emerging markets summit will be held in April this year, wherein students involved in the emerging markets group along with those in groups covering Latin America, South Asia, Africa, Asia-Pacific and other regions, would come together.

Harvard Business School (HBS), on the other hand, has FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development), a curricular innovation which was launched two years ago. FIELD is a required first year course that spans a full academic year. The objective of the global immersion portion of the course is to increase students' global intelligence. One of the modules under this takes place in 14 different emerging market countries and is designed to develop students' understanding of what it means to lead in a global setting, in a place they have never been before.

There is a clear shift in business education from being only about location-specific topics and activities to a more global experience-oriented field. "Emerging market learning has become an important quality for a student. You have to allow students to interact with different cultures and draw on the experience when they go out in the world," says Amelia Whitelaw, Associate Director for Global Business Experiences at LBS.

The GBE curriculum at LBS is designed to be fast-paced, engaging and demanding where students are expected to deliver a group project working in an unfamiliar environment and with peers with whom they have not worked before. Likewise, Chicago Booth prepares its students to excel in a global setting. "We do this in several ways, starting even before students arrive on campus. In the summer before students begin classes, they have the option to attend one of many international trips with a small group of their classmates," says Stacey Kole, Deputy Dean of the full-time MBA programme at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Most business schools are striving towards a single objective: to take students out of their comfort zone and put them in a position where they have to act and make decisions, rather than discussing the theory as they do in the case method. "Business is conducted in a global arena and leaders are expected to have a global perspective. In order to be effective, our students have to be as comfortable in Mumbai as they are in Mexico or Manhattan," said Brian C. Kenny, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, HBS. This change has a direct correlation with the way businesses are chasing growth and profitability beyond national borders. All businesses, whether American, European or Asian, are trying to close the gap in globally adept talent.

However, at the Fletcher School, global experience doesn't just mean being able to market a detergent in a foreign country or figuring out how to adapt the car you manufacture to road conditions in poorer countries. "It can mean something as humdrum as: Do you have the ability to cross a cultural chasm and extend your hand in friendship to a business colleague or partner? You should be able to say to your foreign partner/colleague that, 'Not only have I taken the time to write the 40-point PowerPoint deck, but I've also learned how to have a conversation with you over dinner about a sport that you guys probably are deeply interested in and I cannot understand. And I can talk about the sport in the language that you would use'," said Bhaskar Chakravorti, Senior Associate Dean, International Business & Finance, The Fletcher School, Tufts University. That explains why LBS wants its students to become conversant in at least two languages.

Source: The Times of India, April 5, 2013

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