It’s nothing new for business schools to offer international components in their MBA and Masters programmes. But, with the growing influence of emerging markets, it’s increasingly important for schools to display their global credentials and respond to student demand for a more worldly mindset.
In most cases, schools do this by offering ‘study trips’ where groups of students are sent to another country to experience a different culture, a different business ethos, and, perhaps, a different way of life. Typically, these trips last between one week and one month, and are intended to better prepare students for the challenges of global business upon graduation.
One such study trip is run by Professor Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. Every year Professor Moore takes a group of MBA students to one of the world’s fastest growing economies to see for themselves how business is done in a different environment. Previous destinations have included South Africa, Israel and the GCC, while this year’s trip headed to Russia, where students met with local executives, visited the Czar’s imperial palace and even managed to fit in a spot of ice fishing. “Immersing yourself in the local culture is absolutely key to understanding how business is done there,” Moore explains. “At Desautels we firmly believe in giving students the opportunity to better understand where the global economy is going by experiencing it first-hand.”
Even the Harvard Business School is waking up to the importance of global experience. Under the leadership of Dean Nitin Nohria, who became dean in July 2010, the school has included internationalization as one of five priorities for the road ahead. First year MBA students now take part in an ambitious 8-day global immersion experience called Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD), in which students work in small teams and partner with organisations in emerging markets to develop new product or service concepts for the local customer.. Harvard is a late-comer to the international study experience, but the scale of the project and involvement of faculty has impressed many, including the students themselves
A growing number of business schools seem to be taking the view that a degree of fluency in at least one other major language is essential for the next generation of corporate leaders. Every London Business School MBA student for example must achieve competency in one language other than English by graduation, while INSEAD requires candidates to demonstrate at least a practical knowledge of another language before starting the program and a basic knowledge of a third language before graduating.
In the US, one school that is particularly committed to this way of thinking is the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Its international MBA programme puts students through intensive language training starting with a one-month introductory module, backed up by between four months and a full year of immersion overseas. On top of this the school has employed a cultural anthropologist to help students to learn about the importance of understanding a local culture, as well as local business practices.
Dr Kendall Roth, Senior Associate Dean at the Moore school argues that with the current path of globalisation, the ability to speak a language and understand the culture of a market in which you are trying to do business will only increase in importance. “Though English is widely accepted by most as the global language of international business, with more emerging economies entering the scene and the West losing dominance over the rest of the business world, this is something that will rapidly change. In this new multicultural business environment those MBA’s and international business people who can operate at a local level will find themselves at a distinct advantage.”
Perhaps it’s time for business students the world over to think less about global domination, and more about local integration.