How Executive MBA Education Builds a Strategic Outlook

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A transformation you will embrace

Upskilling for a strategic perspective and career development is what those who enrol in an Executive MBA (EMBA) programme aim for. To ensure they achieve their potential, business schools craft a profoundly transformational C-level learning experience for participants and equip them with the leadership approach, mindset, self-awareness, knowledge base and support network.

Thus, executives emerge skilful and confident to steer business development through constant change and regardless of location. “Executive MBA programmes give students the tools they need to position themselves as invaluable leaders in the market,” says Michael Desiderio, executive director of EMBAC, a non-profit organisation that unites more than 200 universities.

How do business schools do this?

Peer learning in a select class

An EMBA class is highly diverse, bringing together executives from varied backgrounds (personal and professional), industries and regions. Their maturity and wealth of experience is an invaluable resource. A typical class may have an average age of 38 years with approximately 14 years of work experience and about nine years of management experience. “The collective experience base of students, which clearly is significant, leads to a level of discussion that is substantive and hard to duplicate elsewhere,” EMBAC said in its EMBAC Membership Programme Survey, released in 2019.

This stimulating environment not only enriches the learning experience, but builds confidence with the solid collaborative spirit that lasts beyond the duration of the business school studies. “During 18 months, I developed my hard and soft skills together with high profile professionals who became a family. Now I feel ready for the next step in my career,” says Antonio Fajardo, EMBA Class of 2018 at ESCP Business School in Europe.

Immersive experience, flexible format

To facilitate the transformation of current or future leaders, business schools use a wide variety of teaching methods: immersion; experiential learning; international exposure such as study trips, projects and multi-campus learning; multicultural teamwork; and executive, leadership and career coaching.

How Executive MBA Education Builds a Strategic Outlook

To grasp the approach, you can explore one of the oldest schools on the Old Continent, among many others – ESCP Business School. It delivers its EMBA programme in flexible five-track options with three different durations: 18, 20 or 30 months. The course is delivered in an online format. There is also a blended format that includes nine core courses providing the cross-functional knowledge and managerial skills that a business leader needs and 10 to 12 electives which can be chosen from a list of 50. The course includes five week-long, location-specific seminars held in different places in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the US, through which peers explore the burning issues in global business by building their network and pool their knowledge and experience with that of their peers. The programme ends with an International Consulting Project, where peers work in intercultural teams over 12 to 14 months on an in-depth analysis of a situation or an issue faced by a company and make recommendations that the company can implement in order to meet the strategic challenge at hand.

Global perspective through a strategic lens

EMBA students have an unparalleled opportunity to gain international experience through the various study trips included in their programmes. According to the EMBAC survey, 93.2% of all EMBA programmes offered mandatory or optional global trips in 2019. Through study trips, peers attend classes in the world’s most developed and important economic hubs, where they get unique exposure to global business perspectives. Corporate boardrooms, educational training centres or real business units replace on-campus classrooms. There, students meet and learn through real-life cases and interactions with corporate officials, politicians and senior members of the corporate world.

“I wanted to fill in some gaps, things that I hadn’t done before, and in certain areas go deeper – in leadership, communication, personal development. That’s one of the things that TUM can offer,” says Jim Kraimer, Class of 2016 at Germany-based TUM School of Management. And this is said by a man with a 25-year experience in various management positions gained before enrolling in the programme. “For me the highlight was going to Beijing and learning so much about China, about the fast-developing market there. […] We had the opportunity to meet with people from the government, people from industry, Germans or other internationals who are working there trying to grow their businesses, and to learn about Chinese people, about innovation and the high-tech industry,” says Kraimer. TUM’s EMBA programme has a mandatory trip to the Chinese capital.

Immersion is also provided through classes held at different campuses located on different continents. For instance, the EMBA at ESCP is delivered at the school’s campuses in Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Turin and Beirut.

Quality and relevance in turbulent times

Triggered by globalisation processes all over the world, which were particularly intense in recent years, schools have customised their EMBA programmes by relying more and more on the strategic use of technology. In 2019, about 55% of EMBA programmes offered distance learning options, compared to 42% in 2015, and more than 90% of EMBA programmes leveraged technology to implement the electronic delivery of course materials, the EMBAC survey showed.

The survey was released in October 2019, months before the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the Covid-19 pandemic. With the outbreak of the health crisis, remote EMBA delivery has surged to ensure health and safety while continuing to deliver quality education.

“We don’t expect to change the courses offered in the programme, but rather enhance the content to empower and equip participants with the tools they need in order to understand and thrive in a post-Covid-19 world,” says Cedomir Nestorovic, Geopolitics Professor at ESSEC Business School and academic director of the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA Asia-Pacific programme.

The school is constantly reviewing its courses to include important elements that will allow participants to cope with and understand the business environment post-Covid-19, he said.

Business schools continue to be centres of thought leadership. They initiate diverse discussions, masterclasses and podcasts on a wide array of business topics in the context of Covid-19, but most importantly, with a strong post-pandemic recovery focus. All these initiatives have enriched their EMBA programmes. In addition, they demonstrate how agile business schools are in mobilising and deploying expertise as most relevant.

Whatever comes next, EMBA programmes will continue to take business executives on transformational journeys that equip them with confidence and a strong expert network they can always resort to beyond the programme.

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