Business schools: “think globally but act locally”

In recent times we have witnessed a debate that, although it was underhanded (more in the context of private discussions between colleagues), it was clear a necessary change in which some business schools in the world were already entering a process of de-globalization regarding their way of understanding the training and qualification of their candidates for their MBA’s.

To understand this question that we are raising today, we are going to refer first to something that is more about semantics (and the proper use of terms). Every time we read or hear the term “buzzwords” (which can be translated as “words of new use”) it is that something is moving in that field of knowledge, be it training, marketing, NT’s or any other. The question is whether the application of these terms, which are beginning to be used to define a certain behavior or situation, undoubtedly have a moment that can be considered critical in terms of everyone referring to or talking about the same thing (analysts, critics, academics, etc.) and that responds to a real need to describe an event, situation or behavior.

We believe from the AEEN, that without a doubt, in most situations the term is circumscribed only in order to clarify a new assessment that is made of an area of ​​a discipline, for example, marketing, to introduce a new methodology, which in fact are already being applied by different organizations. These types of situations are now going from being fashionable to being part of the necessary change and adjustments that all disciplines have to endure.

In the field of what is known as globalization, the situation that is presented also falls in this line and has unfortunately suffered an abuse in its use, but without a doubt, it is a concept that encompasses the entire spectrum of economic and social activity, geopolitical, cultural, geostrategic, etc. Therefore, globalize is a perfectly assumed term as is competitiveness or productivity, just to cite two examples, because there are a lot of them.

Very well, let’s go a little deeper into the situation that is taking place. Because the first thing we must clarify is that we do not like the term de-globalization in the field of postgraduate training. It is better (it has more property) to speak of local actions carried out by a business school, be it in Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Seville or any other Spanish capital, in the case of our Spanish environment. This is also valid for a business school in Brazil, located in Sao Paulo, so its local reality and actions in the region are quite different from those found in Recife or Curitiva.

Therefore, although we understand that there was a very marked moment of use of the word (when everyone at the end of the nineties of the last century referred to globalization), today (with more media and caution) it is still used to daily because it is a palpable reality that we suffer it for better or for worse, in all areas of life, be it for people, organizations, institutions, governments, countries, etc.

For this reason, it could not be otherwise than in the field of business education, preferably in the postgraduate field, no word has been more popular in the recent past than “internationalization” and its synonyms.

You can enter any website of any business school and you can see, for example, any marketing program in which you will find a number of explanations that contain keywords designed to attract the attention of a demanding MBA candidate. Undoubtedly, networks, as well as business models, in addition to students, research, learning and campuses are all “global”, because they define a reality rather than a fad in the application of a term.

Vincent Mangematin from the Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, argues that “global may not necessarily be good since everyone says they want to be a global business school, because the word” global “is very homogenized the term and loses its meaning the more it is used”. Even an MBA student observes that, when comparing activities and programs of the schools, they all offer similar services, and the only way they can compete is on price.

Mangematin’s thesis is that what “once was distinctive becomes ordinary and, furthermore, being global may not necessarily be good. In reality, with thousands of business schools worldwide, a good portion of which offer a ‘global’ or ‘international’ approach to their MBAs, so it can be difficult to differentiate one from the other.

It is natural that each school offers an international program that is highly focused on globalization processes, on how large multinational corporations act, since the aspiration of many candidates (perhaps the vast majority) is to be able to aspire to a job in a international company, so he believes that his global training in a business school will open those doors for him. But as Mangematin very well points out, there are more MBA graduates than executive positions of middle management, and it is especially more demanding for those who are senior management positions.

So Mangematin has a suggestion that we find very interesting: “At a time when the whole world is going global, business schools should limit their approach to prosperity.”

What is he referring to? Simply to two questions that are: differentiate in the programs (not being one copy of another) and worry about the local reality of the region in which the school is located. And according to Mangematin, although the package of programs and content may be the same (ideally it should have similarities with differences that characterize each and every school), the important thing is that the content of the courses can change depending on the location of the business schools. The idea is not to enter more and more specific niches, the “MBA in something”, but to offer a general education with a touch of the environment.

His idea is not for schools to throw away their curriculum and start over, but simply to alter the way they present their programs to future students, recognizing that schools are influenced by their environment. Students already choose to apply to Stanford, say, because they want to benefit from its proximity to startup centers in the San Francisco Bay area.

Antonio Alonso, president of the AEEN (Spanish Business School Association) and general secretary of EUPHE (European Union of Private Higher Education)