Shaking up business
Designed to broaden and enrich knowledge and leadership skills, top-tier Executive MBA programmes equip participants with the professional development and strategic perspectives necessary to face 21st-century business challenges.
Because no two business problems are ever the same, the Chicago Booth Executive MBA programme provides students with a thorough a set of core disciplines which underlie business decision-making, says Richard Johnson, Chicago Booth School of Business associate dean, Executive MBA Program - Europe and Asia. Core disciplines include economics, psychology, sociology, statistics and accounting. “We teach students a set of frameworks to apply those disciplines to each and every new business challenge or question they are faced with,” says Johnson. “This highly analytical, databased approach to business means that, as managers, our students come up with stronger solutions that can be backed up,” he adds, explaining that this is extremely important in a tricky, demanding business world. Johnson believes students and alumni are more confident because they can stand by their solutions and their decisions, which they have reached not through gut feeling or “off the shelf” solutions, but through a disciplined approach to looking at a problem critically, deeply, and from all angles. “This approach allows students to have an almost immediate impact on their work and on their companies, and this impact grows throughout the programme and beyond, once they become alumni,” notes Johnson.
Established in 1943, and considered the world’s first Executive MBA programme, the Chicago Booth EMBA is designed for mid- and senior-level executives looking to advance or make a change in their career, and who wish to expand their knowledge and skills through a formal business education. Students remain in full-time work, and take the programme in 16 intense, one-week sessions over a 21-month period. Johnson says the week-long module format is powerful because it allows students the opportunity for in-depth study, group work and networking. “There are also fewer distractions,” he points out.
To ensure academic rigour and high-quality learning experiences, the programme offered on the Asia campus has exactly the same curriculum, taught by the same faculty members, as the one offered on the Chicago and London campuses. Graduates are awarded the same degree. The preparation it gives students and alumni for working in a global business environment is another highlight. “Companies need people who are practised and skilled at working with people from a wide range of cultures,” Johnson notes. To address this issue, Chicago Booth students spend a third of class time with mixed groups from the three campuses. This results in participants from more than 50 countries, and a wide range of industries, coming together. “Having your ideas and thoughts challenged by others with very different ideas and experience serves to make your own ideas that much better,” says Johnson. He also notes that, early in the programme students tend to expand their network to include a global group of business partners, advisors, potential clients, colleagues, and lifelong friends. In spite of the proliferation of web-based courses on just about any management topic, Johnson firmly believes they are not a good replacement for the learning experience in the classroom. He says there are ways in which learning can be enhanced by technology. For example, the programme’s director of academic support provides web-based tutorial sessions for students to review the materials they have covered and help them prepare for upcoming exams. Once they have finished a session, students can download a recording and watch it again, or download the written materials from the session. They also have free access to online collaboration tools, in order to “meet” classmates for group work or review sessions on their own.
Renowned internationally for its rigorous academic approach and emphasis on high-quality research, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) offered by the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) College of Business is designed for senior executives who want to make a difference in the way management and professional practice are conducted by developing their own ideas and interests. The programme is now in its 10th year, and a growing number of graduates have had their research findings presented at conferences and published in prominent academic journals. “We stress from the outset that the most important thing is that the research conducted by our students makes a genuine contribution, with practical and societal impacts,” says CityU DBA director, Professor Muammer Ozer.
By ensuring the student mix includes experienced executives from different industries and nationalities, Ozer says, research can be focused on the most interesting and relevant management and business challenges. However, because students tend to have the mindset of business executives, the first 12-to-18- month phase of the four-year programme concentrates on developing the research skills and methodologies needed to apply theoretical understanding through independent research. Ozer says that a fundamental strength of the programme is the networking between learning partners and faculty. “Our faculty have cutting-edge knowledge, in-depth understanding, and expertise in global industries and business,” he adds. The close relationship between faculty and students plays an important part in helping the latter define their research topic. For example, instead of looking at innovation as a broad concept, the topic could be refined to explore the impact of innovation on leadership, employee motivation, or what facilitates innovation in a specific business sector. Interaction between students also ensures a valuable exchange of problem solving ideas and different perspectives. Classes are structured to accommodate executives’ demanding work commitments, running for three consecutive days, one weekend a month.
With a unique focus on combining tradition with modernity, says Professor Andrew Chan, director of the Executive MBA at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School, the emphasis is on ensuring the programme is interactive, dynamic, and pays close attention to the changing business world. “To equip students with the most updated knowledge, we offer a multi-dimensional learning environment,” Chan says. Senior executives and entrepreneurs join the programme because they are looking for an enriching experience that provides them with new knowledge, perspectives and experiences, which they can apply to their businesses and the wider world. “Their motivation for joining the programme is not merely increasing their salary,” Chan stresses. “We are especially proud of the fact that many of our students subscribe to one of the programme’s core values, which is social contribution,” he says. “These are students seeking ways to contribute to society, because it is in keeping with their values.”
“We are especially proud of the fact that many of our students subscribe to one of the programme’s core values which is social contribution" - Andrew Chan
The programme offers examples of graduates who have put what they learned into practice by leading their companies to successful public listings. There are also examples of alumni deciding they need a career change and moving into a business they had previously never thought of. Some career changes have been dramatic. For instance, Castillo Figueroa Arnaldo, from the class of 2013, was managing director of a trading firm while studying for his EMBA. After graduation, however, he returned to his native Honduras, and, early this year, became minister of economic development. In the same class, following graduation, one student quit her job as a director of a 4A agency to partner with another alumnus who happened to be CEO of a listed restaurant chain. Together they set up a new restaurant in Wan Chai.
Spread over two years, the CUHK EMBA curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation in all major business functions. The programme also deals with the changes occurring in different business environments, exposing students to a wide spectrum of local, regional and global case studies and complexities. “There are group projects, individual assignments, field trips, and study visits to leading universities around the world,” explains Chan. He adds that there are also conferences covering “hot topics” such as big data, Fintech, Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT). High-profile speakers are invited to share their knowledge, experiences and new initiatives with students during forums and seminars. A good example is the talk delivered in September by Professor Liu Mingkang, former chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, on the China-led “One Belt, One Road” initiative. As an independent programme, Chan says, the business school has the flexibility to be innovative with curriculum design. “The programme’s extensive alumni network, as well as its good relationships with business entities in the region, is a valuable source of CEO guest speakers and practical experience-sharing sessions,” he says.
To accommodate the work schedules of busy executives, classes are offered on Saturdays and Sundays, so that students generally need to attend classes only once every two to three weeks. While classroom schedules are designed to minimise the effect on work commitments, students also have the time between classes to review the materials and prepare questions for when they next attend class. “It is necessary to provide an opportunity for students to learn, unlearn and relearn during their studies,” says Chan. He adds that they also visit other top universities to gain insights from their leading courses. Over the last three years, students have visited Cambridge, Oxford and Stanford universities.