Creating responsible citizens to lead organisations to sustainable success

Preparing MBAs to lead sustainable economic growth is the core task of Business Schools, argues Professor Percy Marquina, Director General, CENTRUM PUCP, the Graduate Business School of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Interview by David Woods-Hale

What do you think differentiates the MBA at CENTRUM PUCP?

When students search for a Business School at which to study their MBA, they look for prestige, a high-quality academic programme and networks. At CENTRUM PUCP, we possess and offer these elements to students. But we offer more than that.

We prepare our students for the future by creating responsible and socially committed leaders, who think, decide, and act based on principles. We believe in an holistic form of education that enables students to assimilate the knowledge they require to lead companies based on the experiences they have shared in our classrooms and in their lives. 

Our programme also provides students with the human skills demanded by companies, such as time management, task prioritisation, complex problem solving, the ability to train others and to build sustainable networks.

With reference to Latin America in particular, why is it still vital to develop world-class business education? 

Globalisation and interconnectedness are growing at an exponential rate; every day it becomes evermore important to understand that our actions have far-reaching impacts. As technology advances, it will become easier to reach new audiences, but it will be more important for professionals to acknowledge that competition is no longer local, but international as well.

What innovative teaching methods have you come across that are used to create the leaders of tomorrow?

Emerging, disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and machine learning are changing teaching methods in Business Schools and can help us to adapt teaching to each student’s learning needs. For example, at CENTRUM PUCP, we use IBM Watson Personality Insights analytics to understand and predict the personality characteristics of our students. Using these results, we take a more humanistic approach to our MBA programme.

How important is sustainability, and in what ways have Schools adapted this into their programmes? What does sustainable leadership looks like?

Sustainability is crucial nowadays and we try to instil this in our students. By sustainability, we mean that professionals should meet society’s needs, preserve humanity, increase opportunities for others and make their organisations’ marketing, finance and human resources departments sustainable. We guide students to take decisions that put society’s needs ahead of profits. 

What are the biggest challenges facing global Business Schools today?

The biggest challenge for Business Schools is helping to create responsible citizens. We must be able to develop competent professionals while guiding students through a process of social sensibility. And we must also be competitive. 

When facing global competition, we find that every School that has been able to obtain good results and trained their professional workforce is making a name for itself in the areas in which it excels. 

Gone are the days when professors used to teach traditional subjects in a static way; the time is ripe for a new model of professor who is able to inspire students’, teaching and learning from them in a constantly evolving environment that demands greater skills and vision in order to develop social innovators. 

At CENTRUM PUCP we have developed the NeuroManagement-Lab initiative, with the objective of identifying students’ main leadership competences and areas of development. Through this programme, we enhance the user experience, helping to personalise education, shaping skills and helping students to discover their strengths and work on their weaknesses.

How do you instil the thirst for global mobility and an international mindset in your students? 

Whenever I step into a classroom or I encounter a student, the message I always try to communicate is a simple one: do what makes you happy and you will lead the way. Having visited so many places, I have confirmed this theory: students overachieve when they are able to work and pursue their goals in something that makes them happy. 

If you are able to identify and understand your passions, your thirst and commitment towards your goals will increase every day and your competition will become global. 

You will innovate, search and look for solutions to questions that have never been asked before because your thirst for knowledge will push you to think more broadly. During their MBA, our students are exposed to global experiences such as international faculty, peers, global case studies, international study stages, business programmes abroad and so on.

You urge your students not to put limits on their goals – can you share some insight into how MBAs can take theory into practice? 

Through many case studies, we teach students the ways firms and managers have faced and solved unexpected problems. I advise them to stick to their principles and the message of their organisation. 

If your organisation has a distinctive characteristic or stands for something, wear it as your own personal badge of honour. 

One story that people can relate to is Apple’s. Steve Jobs, former Co-Founder and CEO of Apple, believed in innovation and in the superior quality and practicality of products. He used to say: ‘Apple products should be easy to understand. Everyone should know how to use them’.  

His team believed this, too – at a time when this was not expected – and created products accordingly. Acting in line with the beliefs of your organisation can help it differentiate itself in a saturated or extremely competitive market. 

At CENTRUM PUCP we promote entrepreneurship as a way of creating innovative business models. Several start-ups are created every year by our students, and have a great impact on society. For example, three graduates from CENTRUM PUCP and three from the faculty of engineering PUCP were among the 15 finalists in the Cisoc Global Problem Solver Challenge. The talented Peruvians developed Pukio, an intelligent mechatronic system that generates clean water through the condensation of water vapour in the air. Collaboration is vital in an uncertain climate. 

How does your Business School link and work with other Schools, employers and alumni? 

Relationships are about co-operation, and co-operation is about progress. We challenge ourselves to establish partnerships with other Business Schools to provide the best each School can offer in a combined MBA or specialised master’s programme. 

We promote co-operation between our departments to allow the ideas and innovation to flow through the veins of our School. We create opportunities for alumni to collaborate with us so that we benefit from the skills and experiences of the professionals we create in our classrooms. Co-operation has grown in importance among Business Schools and it is yielding better results.

What would your advice be to other Business School leaders operating in such a volatile and uncertain world?

Education is not about outcomes. It is about the impact. At CENTRUM PUCP, we have a mission: educate to serve. We serve academia, the business world and wider society. But we are also here to educate people about sustainable development. 

We want people to learn to thrive in a competitive world. Business Schools should also follow suit: educating people to allow them to see the bigger picture and teaching professionals how to lead the departments within their organisations.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

I believe we are all more aware of the global challenges ahead than we were a couple years ago. We are in the process of acknowledging the impacts of our actions and the dangers of not doing so over the long term. 

Business Schools have taken advantage of this. We teach students to think about impacts on society and how our actions can be turned into positive outcomes for the greater good. 

Sustainability is both an individual responsibility and about teamwork: we all have to engage in the right actions to produce a positive impact. I believe Business Schools are preparing people to provide sustainable and egalitarian economic growth.

Professor Percy Marquina is Director General at CENTRUM PUCP, the Graduate Business School of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. He was previously General Manager of Rhone Poulenc and General Manager, Commercial Manager and Marketing Manager of companies related to the Richard O’ Custer group. Marquina holds PhDs from the Maastricht School of Management and the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in business administration and strategic business administration, respectively.

Perspectives on Asia Pacific business education

Business School leaders from across Asia Pacific talk exclusively about the challenges and opportunities facing them. Interviews by Jack Villanueva and Kevin Lee-Simion

Yang Yang, CEO and co-founder of iPIN

Can you introduce yourself?

I am a founder of an AI company in China, which is developing a platform that will allow people to make applications to help college and high-school students in their personal career development plans, and also help students complete applications for Schools. 

A big challenge of AI is that machines cannot understand highly abstract words such as the US or AMBA. However, all the business areas people need AI to understand, relate to these words.

In order to overcome that, we built a social-economic graph and used it to model the whole economic development of China. This way, machines can understand highly abstract words such as ‘companies’, ‘Schools’, ‘majors’, ‘occupations’, and ‘cities’. Because of this, we can provide some applications to help people plan their career path or help recruiters to recruit people by quickly finding the best candidates among millions of applicants.

How can AI help foster innovation and entrepreneurship in tomorrow’s leaders?

AI gives innovators a lot of new tools. For example, there were a lot of people who wanted to do something before, but they couldn’t because they were lacking AI technology. Now, because of things like deep learning, machines can do many different kinds of work, especially classification work, better than human beings. This has created many new opportunities in many business areas.

How has the use of AI changed the business landscape in China?

AI in China is growing very fast. Many companies in China are using AI to solve different kinds of problems in areas such as finance, education, manufacturing and e-commerce. China has a huge population and can generate large quantities of data, especially data around personal behaviour, and this can help businesses and entrepreneurs in China. This can also help machines better understand people’s behaviour in many different dimensions.

Suresh Mony, Director of the Bangalore Campus of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS)

In your mind, what does a ‘great’ Business School programme look like?

Educators have a big role to play in creating jobs in society. With the advent of AI, jobs are really being threatened. World Bank research finds 69% of the jobs in India and more than 70% of the jobs in China will disappear within the coming decade. So we must do something drastic. It is SMEs that will create the most jobs per unit of capital invested. The world before 1820 was known as an entrepreneurial society, but everyone had small businesses. With the advent of the large-scale enterprises, it became a society of employees. If jobs are going to become scarce, we need more enterprises and Business Schools should be more instrumental in that. 

The great programmes generate graduates who are analytical, who can synthesise ideas and manage businesses. They are probably not the best at creating businesses.

Entrepreneurship requires people who have critical thinking skills, tolerate ambiguity, and can create. The curricula and pedagogy will have to be tuned to help students create value.

Pedagogy is still classroom orientated. We’ll have to have less of the classroom and more action in terms of enabling students to observe, be apprentices, go out in the market, make their own studies, and make their own decisions. This will help them create a value proposition for the customer.

Do you think today’s students and subsequent graduates are being taught the skills they need to succeed?

Sadly, no. A recent US survey found only 11% of Business School graduates set up their enterprise and of those, only 7% raised capital. 

The mind set for Business Schools is to train students for industry and capture low-hanging fruit. This makes students more job orientated. And the fact that Schools are able to land students good jobs in industry means the hunger is missing in students. 

Business Schools have to have a different structure for entrepreneurship and education, and for faculty. They should not be judged by the workloads or research output, but by how they can create entrepreneurs.

How can Business Schools work to support students’ development of knowledge of entrepreneurship?

A Masters in Entrepreneurship Education, would be a distinct programme and Business Schools should develop it as a two-year long programme with sufficient focus on the action learning part of it; action learning for innovation, and action learning for entrepreneurship.

It would need to be seperate to the conventional MBA, which supplies talent to industry so graduates can become executives. You have to have a different pool of students for entrepreneurship. If you have a creative outlook and innovative ability, I think you will go for entrepreneurship education.

Those who come from business families, even if they do an MBA, after one or two years go back to their businesses, or they go and set up their own enterprise.

Sherry Fu, Director, University of Manchester China Centre

How can Business Schools better support students to participate actively in their own futures?

Business Schools need to provide systematic business knowledge which should build a solid foundation for students. This requires curricula to be continually updated so they keep up with social and economic developments.

Schools need to pay more attention to extra-curricular activities that support students’ career aspirations. The extra-curricular activities and career support are vital. 

In terms of career development, we need the right people to be career advisors. These people don’t have to be academically strong, but should be practical, have real industry experience, and insight into specific sectors that they can share.

We should manage students’ career expectations. Career support doesn’t mean holding the student’s hand; it’s about giving the right advice. We don’t guarantee students a job, secure a job for them, or find a job for them. However, some students will have those expectations that when they sign up to the MBA programme; they will get their ideal job, a promotion in their company, or a better paid role. Students need to take ownership of their own career development.

What we do as Business School educators is support, give advice and make sure we work with students to help make things happen so they can achieve their career goals.

Do you think it’s also about pushing students to become entrepreneurs rather than just employees?

Entrepreneurship is a trend in China because society is encouraging young people to run start-ups and the government has policies to support start-up companies.

We encourage students to have an entrepreneurial spirit so they can be more passionate, but I think Business Schools also provide career support so that students can become more senior within big organisations. 

On the one hand, we encourage students to move forward to gain senior roles, but for those people who want to run their own companies, we can give them more ideas or more education on innovation
and entrepreneurship.

At Manchester Business School, we have an enterprise centre and an incubator for students who want to set up their own companies. The School will invest in them, financially support them, and give them an education in entrepreneurship and innovation.

How can Business Schools nurture the skill sets employees need to succeed?

There are four key areas around which we nurture our students’ skills. The first area is about core skills and the core employability sessions that we deliver via webinars. These webinars are about careers and are given
by industry speakers, practitioners, and our professors. 

Second, we make sure each centre has dedicated staff to tailor sessions to our students with the right information to fit in the local market. 

Third, we provide tailored one-to-one sessions and employ career advisors to provide consulting to students. We ensure the people working for us have real business knowledge and an understanding of the jobs market.

The fourth way in which we nurture our students’ skills is by running events to which we invite industry speakers and we make sure our current students and alumni attend. This means students can learn and get opportunities from their peers, get the right skills sets for career development, and build networks.

We don’t want students just to master the main theories of business. The key is whether they can use these theories to
handle the challenges in the workplace and make a contribution.

As a Business School, we should make sure our students are socially responsible. They shouldn’t just care about making money, they should contribute to their organisation and the wider community.

Robert Yu, Head of China, Lego Education

What’s the concept of Lego Education?

Lego Education believes in learning through play. We empower students and teachers to become lifelong learners through playful learning experiences with our digital and physical education solutions.

Education is about empowerment. At Lego Education we’re very fortunate that we started a journey of this empowerment in 1980. Over the past 37 years, we have learned a lot, experimented a lot, and gained a lot.

Delivering playful experiences at Lego Education is about four things. These are encouraging cultivation of computational thinking; encouraging the building of STEM curriculums; helping and investing in the professional development of teachers globally; and investing in the ecosystem
with global partners.

How does playful learning fit into the Business School?

A playful learning experience should be joyful and socially engaing so that, students find meaning in it. That’s how we define ‘playful’. 

We feel Business School students are facing too many challenges in finding a job, stepping into a career, and solving real-life business problems.  

Can you explain some of your work in encouraging students to be more creative?

We help teachers learn what it means to be a lifelong learner, to be creative, and actively engaged in the classroom. Only when teachers are empowered to deliver a creative classroom can any of type learning happen and that kind of study habit can be cultivated through the teaching process.

We encourage teachers to design a lesson plan, promote different solutions in the classroom, and encourage them to ask students to come up with different solutions and communicate them and in the process, evaluate and reconsider options. Through these processes, students develop computational thinking. They learn to deconstruct tasks, to generalise, and come up with solutions which they will evaluate. At the end, they learn to look objectively at their conclusions which is what we want out of a creative experience.

Does learning in a more creative and playful way lead to innovation?

We have research showing that playful experiences induce deep learning. It’s not just about engaging or creating learning spaces to encourage creativity, it’s about the playful experience itself that includes deep learning which will help learners develop different kinds of skill sets.

Why do you think it’s important for MBAs to collaborate and be lifelong learners?

We live in a world of change and we adapt to this by continuing to learn, being curious, being innovative in the process of solving problems, and coming up with solutions that can help build abstractions. These are all things we are trying to promote, and encouraging learners and teachers to develop throughout the learning experience. 

I feel Business School leaders realise that learning is an experience, and this can be enhanced through different approaches; whether that’s action learning, playful learning, case studies or internships. Once we look at holistic learning in this way, students can benefit immensely.

Why is it important to have that balance between the digital and physical approach to creative and playful learning?

We integrate a digital experience into our entire solution because we know that students are using digital technologies every day, and they will face more digital options in the future.

We believe it is important to give them an understanding and a framework blending physical and digital experiences in a leaning scenario, early on.

Peter Helis, CEO, Helis & Associates

Why is it important for Business Schools to collaborate and build partnerships?

The difference between partnerships and competition is that one is positive and the other is negative. Partnerships are about talking with each other and competition is more about organisations assuming, or not knowing, what is going on in their markets, and not dealing directly with each other.

I would always prefer a partnership because one plus one becomes a lot more than two. We’ve seen that in China, where corporates are very keen to have partnerships with the Western world. Sometimes this is viewed as a joke because people in the West still see China as a competitor, instead of a place for potential partnerships.

In terms of China and Asia Pacific, do you have any examples of exciting and interesting partnerships that you’ve worked on or are working on?

Think of our company as a platform. We don’t build the partnerships directly, we build a platform where people can meet and exchange ideas.

We organise conferences, matchmaking and delegation trips for both sides. We’ve organised very large conferences in southern China and western China. We’ve also organised conferences in Munich and Berlin.

Through these conferences, or platforms, people meet. And then once they meet we can follow up on this. 

When we look at APAC, Vietnam and Myanmar are doing very well, but China is really like a continent, and there are so many untapped areas with huge potential. We can basically copy and paste some of the principles that you’ve already applied in the region in which you’re based.

If you venture to central, western, or southern China, you still have a lot to do before you go to the other APAC countries.

How can a Business School begin to work out a partnership?

Start by doing some research at home and see what areas are interesting. Then, if you don’t have a plan for China in motion, engage with a company such as ours and explore how you can approach potential customers or business partners. If you already have a business in China, take the next step. 

Look beyond your current surroundings and try to set up businesses in southern or western China.

Martin Lockett, Dean of the Nottingham University Business School in Ningbo, China

What are the main elements of evolution for the MBA?

It’s about improving the skills of people who come as students onto the MBA. Some of that will be about deepening knowledge, but a lot of MBAs spend too much time on knowledge and not enough on attitude.

You can give people learning experiences that enable them to experiment safely with new ideas, so they learn the skills needed.

At a Business School where I used to work, we asked students to develop a new business idea. Then we reflected afterwards to get people to think about questions such as ‘what did this mean for me?’ and ‘what can I learn from this?’

In our MBA we ask students to develop a business plan, and we hope they will take that forward. They can experiment and learn in a safe environment and develop their skills as a leader – whether that’s for their own business, developing innovate ideas in an organisation, or for a more general role in an established business.

Meeting India’s demand for business education with responsibility

How Mumbai’s Athena School of Management aims to change the parameters of traditional management education in India

India’s burgeoning young and aspirational population ensures an ‘insatiable’ demand for quality business education, according to Aditya Singh, Director of Athena School of Management in Mumbai.

This underlines the importance of the place held by the country’s Business Schools in society, their responsibility towards it, and their potential to make an impact.

‘A good business programme is not only about a qualification,’ says Singh, cautioning   against the ‘commoditisation of business education’.

In the following interview, with Business Impact’s Content Editor Tim Dhoul, Singh outlines the approach and ambitions of Athena School of Management, encompassing the importance it attaches to internships and experiential learning as well as the value of community work.   

Demand for places at top Business Schools in India is high. Are there any particular qualities Athena looks for among its applicants?   

The phrase we use constantly is ‘marks don’t make a business leader!’. While we do give weightage to academics and scores, we follow a profile-based admissions process.

We evaluate applicants equally on the basis of their extra-curricular achievements, including achievements in sport, social impact projects and volunteering activities, as well as their work experience and any prior international exposure. Most importantly, we evaluate their desire and hunger to succeed in making a positive and sustainable impact both in business and society.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Business Schools in India and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

Indian Business Schools have to be extremely careful to avoid commoditisation of business education. A good business programme is not only about a qualification!

With a huge young and aspirational population below the age of 25, there is an insatiable demand for good education [in India]. However, it is critical that Business Schools keep their eye on the ball and realise that the final measure of our success is going to be borne out by the number of our graduates that excel in the corporate world and the world of business.

How many entrepreneurs are we truly able to create?! Business Schools have to create actual and tangible management and leadership skills among their students.

What do you think makes Athena’s Post-Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) programme stand out from others that are available in India?

The Athena PGPM is designed to be an experiential-based pedagogy with a focus on real-world and practical learning. Our goal is to ‘positively impact the world through our students’.

The programme’s key features include: multiple internships with some of India’s top companies and startups; international immersion programmes across Europe, Asia and Canada; a faculty that includes top corporate leaders at CEO, Director and VP levels; a campus in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India; and small class sizes to ensure quality teaching and a keen focus on the students’ personality and soft skills.

Can you tell me how internships are incorporated into Athena’s PGPM programme and why the School places so much importance in them?

Internships are an integral and important part of the Athena PGPM. The programme includes a two-month long internship in each semester, which works out at a total of six to seven months of internships during the whole programme.

Interns are expected to implement their learnings from class, and to improvise and execute on a real-time basis. Each intern has a mentor attached from the company who guides them.

Alternatively, some students choose to pursue an international internship where they work with organisations in different geographies, along with understanding and appreciating different cultures and societies. Athena students have interned in different countries in Europe and Asia, including Italy, Turkey, Germany and Nepal.

Aside from internships, how else does the School facilitate experiential learning?

Experiential learning is a constant form of learning where the student is the ‘centre of gravity’ and the faculty are enablers and facilitators of learning rather disseminators of information. In order to facilitate, we include design thinking, action learning and project-based learning. 

Students pursue live projects with companies and NGOs, case study competitions, multiple internships along with consulting assignments. Students also have to work with projects in the social sector and with non-profits in order to truly understand business impact at all levels of society.

Do you think that PGPM/MBA curricula should be developed in collaboration with employers?

At Athena, we believe that potential employers have an extremely important role to play in the design and implementation of our programme. We follow the end-user process of curriculum design in order to keep our modules relevant and at the cutting edge of business practice and innovation.

Inputs and guidance are taken from senior stakeholders representing potential recruiters along with roundtables and conclaves that are held to discuss the changing and rapidly evolving business environment.

Can you tell me a little bit about Athena’s international immersion modules?

Global exposure and cross-border learning experiences go a long way towards creating future global leaders. While the international immersions are not mandatory, an increasing number of students are embracing the opportunity.

This year, we have students travelling to Singapore, Germany, Canada and the US for modules on topics ranging from leadership and entrepreneurship to analytics and Industrial Revolution 4.0. The experience of studying at these global institutions as well as interacting and living with students from across the world is a truly life-enhancing experience.

I note that community service and personal development initiatives are actively encouraged at the School. Can you tell me of any programme requirements here and/or what options are available to students during the programme?

While prior experience in community and/or social development is not mandatory, it is preferred. At the School itself, we actively partner with organisations such as Rotary International, AIESEC, Rotaract and other NGOs to make a positive impact on society.

Athena is also an academic partner of the United Nations Global Compact which reinforces our vision to contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is mandatory for all Athena students to complete at least one live project towards community/social development.

What are your hopes for the School in the next five years – what do you want to see happen?

Our vision is to challenge the limits and change the parameters of what traditional management education has been in India. We see trending areas in business education that include entrepreneurship, analytics and design thinking, and we wish to establish a centre of excellence in each of these.

We also hope to increase the trend of international students studying with us in Mumbai. The hope is that, in the next five years, an Athena business graduate can create value for their organisations or create their own venture anywhere in the world equipped with experiential and innovative learning, international exposure, and a desire to excel and contribute to society.

Is there anything you’d like to see change among Business Schools both in India and in the rest of the world?

In a rapidly changing socioeconomic context, we have to become nimbler and more flexible in delivering solutions to our students which are relevant to the business environment.

We need to be able to predict change effectively and stay ahead of the curve rather than playing catch up. Business Schools also need to shift focus from extremely theory-centric learning to practical and real-world learning while encouraging students to become change agents in their future organisations. We have to harness new technologies so that they can complement and, in some cases, supplement current learning methodologies.

Aditya Singh is the Director of Athena School of Management in Mumbai, where he currently teaches leadership and differential thinking. He has more than 15 years of experience across the corporate sector, consulting, entrepreneurship and academia. Aditya is a graduate of the Wharton School’s Accelerated Development Program (ADP) and holds an MBA (PGP-FMB) from the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai.

Focus on business education in Latin America

Heads of Business Schools from Latin America discuss Business School programmes in their region and how these are developing and interacting with business. Interviews by Jack Villanueva and Kevin Lee-Simion

Jorge Talavera 
President, ESAN Graduate School of Business, Peru


What does a ‘great’ MBA programme look like?

Great MBA programmes support the best product – students. To support them, we need to provide them with the key factors for success which include knowledge, soft skills, leadership and team work.

How has international business developed in Latin America? 

To develop international business, we developed our students. We established very good connections with the business sector. We provided them with the leaders, and they told us what we have to teach in order to be relevant. 

How are MBA programmes similar across the world, and how do they differ?

In the past they were quite similar. People in developing countries followed the programmes in the US and Europe, but MBA programmers try to solve the problems in the region. So now we have to adapt programmes and develop our own, to give our students the ability to solve problems in our society. 

Do you think the MBA mindset has changed?

I don’t think so. People have always studied for MBAs because they want to lead institutions, and Schools have provided students with knowledge to lead institutions.

What are the main challenges Business Schools face? 

Coping with change in terms of technology, and dealing with competition due to globalisation. We have to compete to provide solutions for society, and good quality professionals.

Should there still be a focus on local businesses and local economies as well as the international business economy?

You have to be good in your own country first. Then you can take your success abroad and provide other societies with solutions.

How important is it for Business Schools to continue to innovate in order to compete with businesses around the globe?

Innovation is important but sometimes innovation is confused with change. Organisations change and say they are innovative because they changed – but then go bankrupt. You need to innovate and it needs to be successful, otherwise it doesn’t mean anything.

Xavier Gimbert
General Director of the Graduate Business School of Universidad del Pacifico, Professor of the GBS of Universidad del Pacifico and Professor of ESADE Business School 


How do you see the decision-making process changing over the next few years?

The decision-making process has to be strategically ongoing, because the environment is changing every day. Also, decision making is becoming more collaborative.

Decision making is the most important process in managing an organisation. If you don’t have the best people and a good process, it will be a disaster.

How are strategic models beneficial to a business?

Models are guides and their objective is to help you to think, reflect, and make decisions. In a decision process, a model gives you different steps you have to think about in order to make decisions.

How important is innovation in strategic management? 

Innovation is one of the key elements of strategic management. But do you have to innovate in order to be successful? Innovation is something a company should have the option of doing, but doesn’t always have to do. 

Do you think MBAs are learning the skills required to succeed in the future? Or do Business Schools need to evolve?

I think the content of the MBA is evolving as there are more soft skills, which are fundamental to getting a good job, managing companies, reading changes in the environment, making fast decisions, and adapting to change. These areas can’t be taught though ‘real’ content.

Why is it arguably more important than ever to create alliances?

We are in a global world and can’t do everything alone. In Latin America, it’s a way to improve, in terms of businesses and Business Schools. Alliances provide knowledge from abroad. It’s a very powerful tool. Nowadays, alliances are key and we have to see others not just as competitors, but as potential allies.

Martin Santana
Professor of Information Systems, ESAN Graduate School of Business, Peru

Should there be a greater emphasis on technology in MBA programmes?

I think there is an emphasis but it’s not significant. We are dealing with millennials, 75% of whom interact through technology. Our MBA programmes are not prepared for that, as technology is used more as a learning platform. But this is a different dimension we are talking about with the technologicalically savvy guys from the millennial generation.

How important is the role technology for Schools? 

I think technology is key and Schools are using it to gain connections around the world, to provide a leaning environment, create alliances, and persuade prospective MBAs and faculty to come to their School. 

What innovations have you seen in the world of digital business?

Change in the learning environment. It’s now an open environment with different technologies, but they are converging into one purpose for Business Schools – enhancing learning opportunities
for students. We are under pressure to create a learning environment for the millennial generation.

What are your thoughts on e-learning? How beneficial do you think it is to an MBA?

It’s very important, but I believe in a more blended methodology. A 100% online programme is not yet well accepted in Latin America as employers believe these are low-quality programmes. I believe blended programmes will be the solution but I’m not against having a 100% virtual programme.

In what ways could Business Schools use technology to
their advantage?

I think technology should be used to attract, retain, and train our students, and change the mindset of professors who are using technology for basic things.  Technology is a key component of being successful.

Do you think technology and millennials are essential for Peruvian Business?

I believe so because more than 40% of the population is made up of millennials. In the near future, the majority of the workforce will be millennials, they will be future entrepreneurs and will be running most companies.

How will millennial leadership compare to traditional leadership?

Millennials care about a lot more than just being managers. For one, they expect to have good mentors, and this will be the model they use in the companies of the future. They will become mentors and transformational leaders – focused on the person rather than the activity.

Do you think millennials lack soft skills when you compare them to previous students?

Yes, remember we are still talking about young people and they are in the process of developing. They lack social skills but it’s our job to teach them these. We can change their mindsets and help shape them so they can be successful. 

What do you think the future holds for the MBA?

There will be many different varieties of MBA programme, and they will come together with a blended methodology. This means you will be able to connect with anybody around the world, but we will have to change our methods of teaching, and our professors. 

Matthew Bird
Professor, Universidad del Pacífico Graduate School, Peru

Is there a big difference between how businesses are run and how the government is run?

There is in Latin America. There is a distrust between the government and the private sector. I believe many countries’ societies understand that they need one another, but the hard thing to do is to build the foundation for trust and identify those shared spaces for collaboration.

How important is innovation in solving social challenges?

Very important: innovation can be anything that is different and creates value. Understanding social systems creates opportunities to identify those small interventions where the government and private sector can work together.

To solve social challenges, do you think it is a one-size-fits-all solution all or is it case-by-case?

There are elements that are cross-cutting, and once you know how to tackle social issues, it’s down to harvesting local solutions to shared problems. This is one of the reasons I believe in design thinking because it really focuses people to listen, empathising first. Through that empathy, you can understand where the gaps are, and what people want, so you can collaborate better to deliver that.

In what ways will harvesting local innovative interventions solve common social challenges?

People look at social issues as problems, but people should see them as solutions. Take the informal economy. People originally viewed the informal economy as a problem. However, people were working in the informal economy. This means they were creating value through jobs, and therefore creating  income. It was a solution.

How do you think the rise in digital technologies is affecting Business Schools?

Digital technologies are already transforming the way we teach and interact with students. Technologies are creating challenges, but also opportunities. For example, with virtual education, you are creating competition between Schools, but there are also opportunities for people to overcome historical geographic barriers and push education into areas that have been traditionally harder to reach.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Business Schools in Latin America?

The biggest challenge for Business Schools in the region is to move away from a strong focus on teaching, as there are opportunities for research. Research can still contribute to value creation, but its potential has still not been tapped.

How much of an impact does cultural influence play in economic decisions?

You define decisions and use certain frames – influenced by social cultural backgrounds – to justify them. Then you identify decision criteria, and then the choices. These choices are permeated by your culture.

Oscar Muartua de Romaña
Director de la Escuela de RR.II. y Gobierno de la UTP en Universidad Tecnologica del Peru (UTP)

How important is it for countries to work together?

It is an obligation and we have always demanded that the international community resolve these problems. The UN means there is an international community of 200 nations, and stability has a path through hard times.

Do you think volatility makes collaboration more difficult?

It is more challenging, but we can provide more effective reactions. One of the biggest challenges, but also the most fundamental aspect, is to have dialogue, because only through this will countries understand each other. Also, science and technology are providing us with enough arguments to build our future to benefit all humanity.

Do you think international relations impact business education?

Business Schools need international relations to prepare future professionals. MBAs have a moral function – they are embodying the values of society while trying to benefit society.

will it be difficult for Schools to implement the UN’s sustainable development goals?

It will be difficult to adapt to reform. But these principles are nothing new. So it is about doing as much as we can through investment in education and generalised development.

How do international relations impact Latin America? 

International relations have helped us create Schools, bring in faculty, and establish MBAs. We’ve learned how development can create good results for a country, and we made this into a reality. International relations have also helped us become aware of innovation and entrepreneurship. Business has played an important role in the growth of Latin America. 

How are Schools in Latin America preparing MBAs for the future? 

Business Schools are preparing MBAs for an open economy, and everything that has been done by Business Schools is an investment in Latin America. MBAs are also learning about the linkage between the Business School, industry, and government, and the importance of moral values.

Racheli Gabel Shemueli
Research Fellow and Professor in the Graduate School of Business of the Pacific University in Lima, Peru

What do you look for in a prospective MBA student?

We want people who are different and who acquire knowledge and implement it. They have to be responsible leaders who want to create change. We are looking to the kind of person that makes a difference. 

What are the challenges in attracting these students?

The challenge is to state that our Business School is different. We say we are looking for quality, and we are very demanding.

How important is it for MBAs to have cross-cultural experience?

When we think about inter-cultural experience, we also think about local experience because Peru is very diverse. Cross-cultural experience is not just about travelling the world, but about working with diverse people. For an MBA to be exposed to cross-cultural experiences, and know how to work with this is important, in order for them to lead.

In what ways can cross-cultural issues be addressed in the future?

In-house learning is important so we can see what our students understand. Then it is a matter of doing the exercise, and doing it in your own life.

Why is innovation important?

Learning is interactive. I am learning from my students and they are learning from me. 

Professors are now just facilitators of limited information, and as a result, knowledge comes from both sides, the students and the professor.

Broadening students’ cultural experience

Josep Franch, Dean of ESADE Business School, Barcelona, discusses current differences between Spanish Business Schools and those in Latin America and the opportunities for Latin American Schools to attract more international students. Interview by Andrew Main Wilson

Considering the landscape of the top Spanish Business Schools compared to Latin America, what are your main observations of the differences and the similarities?

I would say that European Business Schools in general, and Spanish Schools in particular, have made significant improvements over the past 10 to 15 years. 

If you take, for example, the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking, in 2000 it was made up of 80% US Schools and 20% European Schools. If you consider the same ranking today, you’ll find 40% US schools, one third European Schools and 20% Asian Schools. 

This improvement didn’t come overnight. It started in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when European Schools began to internationalise. They started to change their reputation to attract international students and faculty. This happened 25-30 years ago and, as a result, the majority of European Schools today are probably at the forefront of internationalisation. 

When I consider Latin America, I still see it as regionally based, attracting regional talent, whereas at the majority of European Business Schools – and in the case of top Spanish Schools – we’re attracting students from all over the world in our MBA. 

We have 30% of students coming from Latin America, 30% from Asia, 25% from Europe and 15% from North America, so it’s a broad profile.

What do you think Latin American Business Schools need to do to attract more students from Spain and Portugal? 

Spain has, traditionally, been seen as the gateway to Europe for many Latin American Schools and countries. But at the same time [as a Latin American School] you need a focus on quality. 

International accreditations are the first step, but you also need to establish your brand. This can be done through publications of your key faculty who can produce and publish research in top journals. 

You need also to be relevant in the corporate world. Here, I believe Latin America has a great opportunity, with corporates coming from the regions expanding abroad. A number of [global multinationals] are seeing opportunities in Latin America. 

At ESADE, some students from Europe or Asia take our MBA because they see it as a gateway to Latin America. 

In a global world, there are lots of opportunities, but [success] doesn’t come overnight. It’s based on years of investment, publications, visiting companies, attracting people and placing graduates in
those companies. 

At the end of the day, your graduates and alumni are your best ambassadors. 

Do you think blended and online learning this will be the next step for Schools in Latin America, and will it be a struggle, in terms of investment? 

We’re all facing the same huge challenge. But, at the same time, it’s a huge opportunity. You can develop e-learning programmes anytime and anywhere, so the online revolution allows physical boundaries to disappear. I don’t see a difference between Latin American Business Schools and Schools in other parts of the world, in the sense that blended programmes are not a choice. A blended solution is something you need. It’s a percentage of your curriculum, but all programmes have to be blended. Fully-online degrees are a different issue. Schools across the world are discussing the next steps. How fast they’ll be able to go depends on how many resources they have and how fast a School moves. 

It also depends on how many risks they’re willing to take, because those that move first will bear the greatest risk. Other Schools will be playing the safe route of jumping on the bandwagon, but they’ll not be the first mover. In saying that, top Latin American Schools are coping well with, and addressing this challenge. 

You have partnerships with Schools in Chile, Colombia and Peru. What advice would you give Latin American Schools in building partnerships in Europe? 

We have a joint multinational MBA with Adolfo Ibáñez University in Santiago, Chile, and a double degree with Fundacao Getulio Vargas EAESP in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We are working with Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and Universidad del Pacifico in Peru. In Rio de Janeiro, we’re working with Fundacao Getulio Vargas on some executive education programmes. We’re working with some other universities in the region as well. 

I believe these partnerships are going to grow because they allow Business Schools to combine resources, areas of expertise and the footprint of the different partners in the same programmes. 

Partnerships also allow Schools to launch programmes that maybe they wouldn’t have launched on their own because of [limitations in terms of] size, capability, or lack of influence that they have in a
certain market. 

These partnerships are a good thing, but Business Schools have to be able to find a suitable partner. To me, one of the most important things is that you share the same approach and philosophy. A partnership is like a marriage. When you’re dating, you need to know the person and share
some things. Partnerships based on economic or financial factors are probably not the best partnerships, if you don’t share a vision, values, or if you don’t have the same ideas in terms of the programme and the education proposal for the Business community. 

What would you advise our Schools to do to encourage more Spanish and Portuguese-speaking European students to come and experience a Latin American School? 

Students have different ideas and motivations to go on exchange programmes. I’ve found very often that we might have Spanish students who prioritise going to the US or Asia because they see them as ‘cool’ destinations, rather than opting to go to Latin America. 

Sometimes, students assume – mistakenly in my opinion – that in the majority of Latin American countries, because the same language is spoken there, they cannot improve in a second language, but they can if they go to the US or another destination. 

It’s not just about the language, but also the cultural experience. If we share the same language or similar language, students can still learn different ways of doing business compared to Spain in terms of how international markets are evolving. There are fast-growing markets in Latin America with lots of opportunities. 

Some students want to go to Latin America because they want to pursue an international career and want to spend some years in that region because they will have lots of opportunities to develop themselves. We [as Business School leaders] need to keep insisting that there are plenty of opportunities [in Latin America] that students are failing to identify because they’re looking for the big names of American universities, that are attracting them to a place – rather than what they can learn.  

Josep Franch, Dean of ESADE Business School

Josep Franch has extensive teaching experience in various countries. He is an expert in international marketing and global marketing, and his main area of specialisation is brand management in multinational and global companies. He has also worked on subjects related to digital marketing and relationship marketing. 

From an educational point of view, he is one of the main European experts in the case study method. He has published more than 50 case studies in the fields of marketing and international business, some of which are available through the The Case Centre (formerly the European Case Clearing House). 

He has won the EFMD Case Writing Competition on three occasions (1999, 2001 and 2013) and also has three case writing awards at the North American Case Research Association (NACRA) Annual Conference (2004, 2010 and 2015). He regularly serves as a track chair in several case conferences and as a reviewer for different case journals and case collections, he sits on the Editorial Board of the Case Research Journal and Wine Business Case Research Journal and is one of the Co-Editors of the
Global Jesuit Case Series. He regularly delivers sessions on how to write and teach with case studies, both at
ESADE as well as for other programmes including the International Teachers Programme (ITP).

He has previous experience as marketing manager at Fuji Film and has worked as a consultant for different companies, including FC Barcelona, Interroll, Novartis, Soler & Palau, Sony and Xerox. 

He has also worked in many in-company training programmes with different companies including APM Terminals, Bunge, Desigual, Esteve, Novartis, Roca, Roland DG, Saint-Gobain, Sony, Telefónica and Tenaris.