Regional focus key for Asian business schools


“Leading China’s Future – Future Chinese Leaders” took place on 26-28 November 2006.

The conference, “Leading China’s Future – Future Chinese Leaders”, examined the critical issue of leadership in China, which is made more urgent with the country’s rapid economic development and growing political and economic influence.

It was jointly organised by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) and the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and ran on 26-28 November 2006 in Shanghai.

Leading scholars, academia, business leaders and administrators from around the world took part to discuss what kind of leaders and leadership China will need for its leap forward into global markets.

They discussed how China might balance ambitious growth objectives and socio-economic transformation and how Chinese companies might gear themselves for the challenges of the global market.

Other issues the conference studied were:

• Developing globally responsible leaders in China, based on the experience of EFMD/UN Global Compact Initiative

• Shaping the future of business education in China, focused on the current situation of business education in China and its future challenges

• Developing human capital in China, focused on management development and organisational development challenges when Chinese companies go global

• Managing diversity and cross-cultural management, specific issues of the Chinese market such as “Chinese Returnees from abroad”.

Mr Nair, founder and chief executive of the Global Institute For Tomorrow, took part in a panel discussion on “Developing globally responsible leaders”. He was joined by Mark Drewell, group executive of the South African diversified industrial company Barloworld, and Stephan Rothlin, vice president and secretary-general of the Centre for International Business Ethics at Beijing Dongfang University. The session was moderated by Henri-Claude de Bettignies, Professor of Global Responsible Leadership at CEIBS.

Mr Nair made several key points during the discussion, a summary of which appears below:

• Business schools are in danger of creating one-dimensional technocrats who are not likely to meet the real needs of Asia, even corporate Asia.

• A more broad-based approach to business education for young Asians in needed and it needs to come from within the region. It is naïve to think that international business schools which are steeped in western models of capitalism and culture can do this by simply adding cosmetic phrases about being “Asia-focused”, “culturally attuned”, etc.

• The reality is that business schools are more business than schools and the competition is tough. The customer is paying for the stamp of approval of a western MBA and the result is more of the same and mainstreaming of thinking.

• The onus for change needs to come from within Asia, though even here it is difficult to create business schools that define a more appropriate regional focus. Witness the Indian business schools, which all aspire to be US-style schools.

• The salaries that financial institutions and others are promising Asian MBAs have created amongst candidates a very calculated approach to enrolling in MBA courses. Unable to compete with the cache of a western MBA, Asian business schools have been hindered in their development, stifling the growth of alternative business education in the region. There are a few exceptions, for example in China. Top business schools have created great hype around their brands and a market for their courses with their “clients”, drawing the best who can afford them and locking out other candidates.

• Far too many of those teaching appear not to have been involved in business and particularly not in Asia. Not only do they push a certain ideology but are also unable to transmit to students what it really takes to succeed in business in Asia.

• There is little integration of the key challenges of our times in Asia into the western-developed curriculum: ethics, environmental and social issues, role of perverse incentives and the geo-political nature of development in Asia.

The CEIBS works to support China’s economic development and further its integration into the world economy by preparing highly competent, internationally oriented business leaders that can work within the Chinese economic environment. At the same time they can adapt to the driving forces of business globalization, international competition, and international co-operation.

The EFMD is an international membership organisation, based in Brussels, Belgium. It has more than 500 member organisations from academia, business, public service and consultancy in 65 countries. It provides a forum for information, research, networking and debate on innovation and best practice in management development.