A Word from the Associate Dean: Remaining Connected with the Business World

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean and Director of the Global MBA

It's not a ground-breaking observation to say that today's business world is changing, and as such the needs of businesses are evolving, as well. Companies today are seeking a new breed of managers: individuals who are agile, adapatable, and comfortable in a volatile and uncertain environment. Successful managers today are those who can function in multi-cultural teams, who are sensitive and exposed, and who are capable of solving problems that didn't exist ten years ago. Business schools have traditionally trained managers who have general knowledge to get the 'big picture' in a cilpany and who can both guide employees and guide strategy. Students traditionally read the classic case studies; they learned that the Tylenol recall was good PR, that the Exxon Valdez was not so good.But is textbook knowledge, learned in classrooms from lifetile academics, sufficient training for this complex, globalized, hyper-connected world we are operating in today?

And when current best practices in management are in the midst of revolution at places like Google, Facebook, and Apple, are the articles that were published last year or even last week up to date enough? The answer, obviously, is no. Traditional approaches to business education are too narrow to be relevant in today's business world, and degrees from institutions that have failed to innovate at the pace at which business itself has innovated are producing students who are already behind when they should be helping their employers to be one step ahead.

So how do we bridge this gap between the buginess school and the business world? How do we stay relevant in a climate where something is new one day and obsolete the next?

At the Global MBA at ESSEC Business School, we have designed our program to do just this. Our academics cover business fundamentals, but they focus on the problems, markets, and questions of tomorrow. Emerging markets, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, public policy, environmental concerns... these are just some of the topics that our students explore in depth with faculty from renowned institutions around the globe. Our diverse cohort, too, fosters a multi-cultural and multi-perspective forum for discussion. The GLobal MBA student body is 90% international, representing 14 nationalities and students with six years' average experience across a range of industries and functions. We believe that at this point in their professional trajectory, our students have the real-world know how to make an MBA a truly valuable experience.

But what makes the GLobal MBA unique and what has truly prepared our first cohort of students to become relevant and transformative meaders in the 'real world' is what happens outside the classroom. Our emphasis on experiential learning means that at multiple points throughout the year our students pack their bags, close their text books, and get out in the field. A study term in Singapore punctuated with company treks, visitors from local and international business based in the city-state, and plenty of chances to get immersed in the fascinating and varied culture of South East Asia exposes our students to the opportunities available to them in Asia. A field trip to Eastern Europe this year revealed the inner workings of eight Russian companies to the Global MBA students, an instructive glimpse into doing business in a political and economic climate quite different from our own. In these projects that go beyond mere simulation, the students have learned to navigate and capitalize uôn the diversity of skills in their multi-cultural teams in a hands-on context; langauge, technical proficiency, business etiquette and customs, problem-solving, communication skills, adaptability, and resourcefulness have all come into play in a variety of ways in each location.

Our approach to building meaningful relationships with the 'real' business world happens closer to home, as well. ESSEC's commitment to engaging with the business community has made us the favored school for French recruiters, and resulted in our students reporting the highest level of satisfaction with their post-graduate integration into the working world. The Global MBA frequently hosts noteworthy speakers, both ESSEC alumni and members of the business community at large; individuals like Pierre Nanterme, CEO of Accenture, Antoine de Saint-Affrique, president of the Foods Division at Unilever, Peter Herbel, Head Counsel for Total, and Michele Amièl, Head of Talent Management for LVMH come to mind. These intimate presentations give our students an exciting chance to interact with, question, and connect with today's business leaders.

And for students who want to do business while they learn, internal organizations such as ESSEC Ventures and the ESSEC Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship help students build their own businesses, providing resources and tools, assisting in seeking funding, and even incubating a number of start-ups each year. On an institutional level, ESSEC has partnered with other schools to create the Council for Business and Society, a global ammiance that seeks to build partnerships between policy-makers, academics, and corporate leaders in addressing key issues at the intersection of business and society, encouraging dialogue, disseminating educational materials, and combining expertise to advance important initiatives.

Our strategy and approach is to give students not just the knowledge but the tools and experience they need to be able to think on their feet and provide innovative, timely, relevant solutions to the companies they will enter after graduation. By focusing on hands-on and experiential learning, we push our students to test their classroom knowledge and build upon it, becoming truly global managers for a business world that needs them.

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