Executives approaching the mid-point of their careers already have considerable experience enabling them to tackle the various industry and corporate challenges that inevitably occur. What they also tend to have is one well-honed set of skills - perhaps in finance, marketing, operations or IT - and therefore, a rather one-dimensional view of the business world.
In different ways, this limits an individual's ability to solve new problems, think creatively, and understand the big picture, all of which are obviously key attributes for anyone who hopes to run a large division or major enterprise. And it explains too why the Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA programme places such emphasis on offering an all-round curriculum taking students beyond their personal 'comfort zone' and pushing them to consider business from wholly new perspectives.
'The global business climate is changing so quickly it demands leaders capable of agile, complex thinking,' says Dr Sally Blount, dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. 'A focus on insights, problem-solving, and challenging the status quo are part of the programme's heritage and spirit.'
In conceptual terms, Blount notes that the foundations of the highly-regarded EMBA course are built on an understanding of the power and importance of free markets. From that follows an exploration of the pragmatics of smart management - what makes companies and employees tick and how to effect change. In specific modules, it also entails discussion of the intersection of the public and private sectors, and where issues like compliance and corporate governance are having most impact on regulation and the broader business landscape.
It is a matter of not just teaching 'the rules', but getting students to open their eyes and find ideas and inspiration from those around them.
'With this balance, our students are then equipped to lead wisely and to make positive impact in their organisations, industries and communities,' Blount says. 'Over the last decade, business has become more complex than ever, so the world needs programmes like this to educate, equip and inspire tomorrow's leaders.'
An essential part of that is to realise, for all the advances in technology and the buzz about social media, success in business still comes down to having good personal relationships. Deals are built on mutual trust and, in every industry, knowing who to call is the key to getting things done.
Communications technology has made the world a smaller place. Online commerce will continue to boom, and some traditional boundaries will disappear. However, to make the most of all these opportunities, people still need a tight network of trusted advisers and colleagues for both personal and professional development.
For that reason, the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA stresses the importance of teamwork, the diversity of each class, and the value of having a strong, international alumni association. 'Today, we live in a true 'collaboration economy', and it is critical that we master the art of interconnection to bring people together,' Blount says. 'Regardless of time, space, or location, we must be able to do that in authentic, meaningful ways.'
To reflect and incorporate changes in the global business environment, Kellogg recently finished a nine-month strategic review, resulting in a comprehensive plan to keep business education moving forward and challenging preconceptions and reshaping thought leadership.
'As we move from concept to action, we will be optimising what we teach across programmes and how we use technology to expand our global footprint in locations like Hong Kong,' Blount says.