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Developing the international management mindset

Published: 25 Mar 2013

Despite the relative slowdown in its rate of growth recently, it seems more than possible that China can expect to become the world’s leading economic power at some point in the foreseeable future.

But if the country is to achieve its full potential, it will need to reach out beyond its traditional markets into new and increasingly competitive ones around the world. And, along the way, it will almost certainly need to build and sustain corporate structures that do not just embrace Chinese nationals, but individuals from a very wide variety of other nations and cultures.

However, one factor threatens to hold China back – an ongoing shortage of managers and professionals, who can combine technical expertise with the necessary complements of commercial awareness, international experience and the softer skills vital for effective staff development and retention.

Faced with this challenge organisations and individuals have been turning to business education for some time now with a view to speeding up the development pipeline. And, despite the growth of such highly respected schools as CEIBS in China and the immediate surrounding region, most of these potential buyers of business education programs have headed to their traditional home in the USA or Western Europe.

But while a one or two year MBA program in one of these locations can provide invaluable exposure, not just to best practice management techniques, but also to the knowledge and experience of fellow students, can they provide everything needed to help Chinese companies become truly global players in the years to come?

A growing number of authorities in the field are now taking the view that one of the most important skills for the next generation of business leaders will be the ability to create, work in and develop international teams. And, in their view, such a skill cannot be developed on one campus, even if supplemented by study trips to other countries. Instead, they maintain, students need to get exposure to as many of the world’s key business markets as possible during their program, and not just to local academics, but to local entrepreneurs and corporate leaders too.

One example of this relatively new breed of multi-site programme is the GEP or Global Entrepreneurship Program, run by China’s Zhejiang University, Purdue in the USA and EM Lyon in France, which moves students across the three campuses during its one-year duration. At a more senior level, the IMPM executive program – known in some circles as the ‘anti-MBA’ because of the philosophy of one of its chief proponents, Henry Mintzberg, takes more experienced managers and professionals to Brazil, China, Canada, India and the UK.

Jay Swaminathan, associate dean of the OneMBA program, which embraces schools in the US, Latin America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, believes that multi-site programs also help to get away from the western-centric view of much traditional business education. “What these sort of programs do is allow participants to see everything on an even basis – there is no presumption that an approach is somehow better because it originates in a particular place,” he says. “It means that they can evaluate methods and techniques without any ingrained prejudice, assessing them objectively on their inherent robustness and worth. Perhaps equally importantly they allow managers and professionals from the key emerging markets to share experience and knowledge without the filter of practice in more established economies.”

And that could be something that will be invaluable to any Chinese professional who sees themselves helping to build the next generation of global businesses.

Read original article (in Chinese): 21st Century Business Herald, March 25, 2013

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