The business landscape has been transformed by globalization, which has encouraged companies to internationalize, by substantially boosting the volume of types of cross-border transactions in goods, services and capital.
With individuals and businesses now conducting a far larger number of these complex interactions across borders, the world’s future business leaders are increasingly required to understand and engage with multiple business systems.
And that means that master’s in management degrees are having to adapt both their curriculum and pedagogy to lay the foundations for their graduates to launch global management careers.
“There is an emergence over time of increasing commonalities between business conducted across company borders, but this is also countered by some indelible differences between nations and an increasing scope of geographic activity by multinational firms,” says Andrew Delios, vice dean of MSc programs at Singapore’s NUS Business School.
As such, he says MiM students must develop both an understanding and appreciation of these differences, which comes from work in the classroom alongside directly experiencing traveling or working in various regions of the world.
NUS recognizes these aspects as a core feature that is fundamental to the design and success of its master’s in management program. Other business schools, around the world, are equipping MiM students with the skills to operate in this evolving and complex environment.
One such program is the Global Masters in Management at London Business School, which is taught in London and Shanghai. “International outlook and understanding will be key to the MiM graduate,” says Oliver Ashby, program director at LBS. “It is likely MiM graduates will work in many different locations in their careers, both physically and working for international companies.”
Throughout the program, students learn business through an international lens, whether through modules on global macroeconomics or field trips in a variety of different business hubs, from Texas to Dubai, visiting local businesses. The students also come from 50 different nationalities and 94 percent are from outside the UK, so they learn to work as part of a multicultural team, led by an equally diverse faculty body.
“Business is global and cannot be learnt in isolation,” says Ashby. “Certain practices may be unique to certain countries, but our students need to be able to operate in any geography. Employers look for talent that understands, and is part of, a global marketplace.”
Nida Bektaş, executive director at Koç University Graduate School of Business in Istanbul, Turkey, agrees. “MIM students do need to understand and engage with multiple business systems in a cross-cultural context to be able to see the global picture,” she says.
“They need to examine critically the global developments and issues both from the perspective of multinational company boards and as well as the needs and expectations of global consumers, employees and citizens by taking into account the social impact as well.”
She adds students need to follow global trends and have an understanding of the emerging political, economic, technological, social and environmental contexts — both to cope with the change but also to establish a critical approach to be able to build the better. “To be competitive in the today’s businesses, students must be aware of the complexities in the corporate world.”
To achieve this, Bektaş says MiM programs must be highly interactive, using both technology and teaching practices that stimulate knowledge sharing, in order to respond to the globalized needs and expectations coming from the private sector. And, critical to that is interdisciplinary education, linking business studies with other academic subjects, she believes.
Jolande Bot-Vos, academic director of the MSc International Management at Imperial College Business School in London, echoes the same sentiment. “In addition to the integration of global business perspectives into the core curriculum, students at Imperial can undertake specialized electives, such as geopolitics, to further their understanding of the global business space,” she says.
The backbone of Imperial’s MSc International Management is the Leadership in Action module that is specifically designed to help students develop leadership skills in an uncertain world, exploring topics such as resilience, how to lead strategic change, design thinking and self-reflection.
These are virtues extolled by CEMS, a global alliance of leading business schools and multinational companies that together offer the CEMS Master in International Management, which is delivered jointly by these academic institutions.
“Studying at a second business school abroad and taking part in international internships with corporate partners enables our students to immerse themselves deeply in other cultures,” says Nicole de Fontaines, executive director of CEMS.
“Students also take part in business projects, during which they team up with peers based in other global business schools. This allows them to draw on the ideas and experiences of students who often have vastly different global perspectives.”
The biggest challenge that such schools face is to build respect for other cultures, to build respect for other systems of leadership and governance, and to develop a non-judgmental culture. “When this is accomplished, we can have what a university should be: an open environment that inspires discussion and learning, as founded upon curious and intelligent individuals wanting to know more about the world around them,” says Delios at NUS, which is part of the CEMS alliance.
“It is not a place to reinforce prejudices, it is not a place to emphasize differences; it is a place to learn and grow. I know our students want this to happen, and it is solely a failure of an institution if they do not breed broader global perspectives in students.”