Building Sustainable Legacies

The importance of field work

Stakeholder research[1] indicates that organizational leaders and business managers cannot be developed without a solid foundation of work experience. In the prevailing North American educational system, it is typical for high school graduates to launch directly into undergraduate education, which is often directly followed with graduate education. Europe and North America differ in the definition of post graduate education, and in particular in the entry requirements of MBA candidates. While in the U.S. work experience is often optional and desirable only, the traditional two-year North American MBA program provides graduates with a very limited first-hand exposure to business and management combined with a significant theoretical experience of business problems. In Europe, the majority of MBA programs are for executives with significant work experience including management experience. They are able to reflect what they learn in the program with their real-life experience at work. The level of discussion and the learning mechanisms are dramatically different with the teacher being much more of a facilitator than a lecturer and with highly innovative program elements that immerse participants into hands on field work across the world, often in developing countries and often as consulting projects for entrepreneurial ventures.

The importance of field work is grounded in the very well established Germanic apprenticeship model. Switzerland, which is highly appreciated for its highly skilled workforce, is still very much relying on this model with more than 75% of its young generation of today choosing to pursue an apprenticeship rather than entering university for studies.

The future management school integrates work experience through reflected field work into its curriculum. Most importantly it foresees creating an experiential year in the second year of undergraduate education, following the historic German model of the “Wanderjahr” (the year of wandering around that forms an integral part of the traditional trade apprenticeship. Chapter 5 provides a detailed example of how undergraduate business and management education could look like at the management school of the future.


 


[1]            The 50+20 project undertook a stakeholder survey in August 2011 (add reference)

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Author: Dr. Katrin Muff

Dr. Katrin Muff is a thought leader in the transformative space of sustainability and responsibility at Business School Lausanne, where she acted as Dean from 2008-2015 until self-organization made such a title redundant. Under her leadership, the school focused its vision on entrepreneurship, responsibility and sustainability in education and research. Her business experience includes 10 years at ALCOA (GM in Russia, Industry Analyst for Global M&A in the U.S. and Business Analyst Europe), 3 years as Director, Strategic Planning EMEA at IAMS Europe (Procter&Gamble), and 3 years as a co-founder of Yupango, a coaching consultancy dedicated to start-ups and training management teams.

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