Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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Advantages of European Business Schools

           With due respects to my alma mater, Harvard University, I have been for some time now advising yuppies who are planning to take up their MBA courses abroad to seriously consider European business schools like the IESE Business School in Barcelona, INSEAD in France (with a campus in Singapore), IMD in Switzerland and the London Business School, among others.  From my own personal experiences, having had exposure to both systems of management education, I had the intuition that business schools in Europe are able to better prepare their graduates for managing businesses in any part of the world.  American business schools, with very few exceptions, are too U.S.-centric in their research, faculty, student bodies and the business cases they discuss.  I was especially intimately exposed to the IESE Business School when I taught there for two school years recently.  The internationalization of IESE is already proverbial:  more than 80 percent of its MBA students come from countries outside of Spain; its more than 100 full-time professors with Ph.D.'s come from numerous countries all over the world; the cases discussed are from all the major continents, including Latin America, Africa and Asia.

          Thanks to a recent publication of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) entitled "Promises Fulfilled and Unfulfilled in Management Education" (2013),  I now have more than an intuitive conviction that European business schools can prepare Filipino and other Asian prospective MBA students for expertly operating in the emerging ASEAN Economic Community and the Trans Pacific Partnership better than such schools as Harvard, Chicago, Stanford and other U.S. business schools on which our university graduates have been fixated since the 1950s, including my own generation.  In the study of the EFMD just cited, the distinctive characteristics of European management schools have been clearly outlined as a result of several studies conducted by business education experts.  In these studies, it is argued that the European identity and model of management education have been shaped by a range of environmental characteristics that differentiate the European scene.  The factors that have contributed to these distinctive features are as follows:

          -Europe and the EU is a large trading area involving many cultures and countries.  Its diversity means that European trading corporations have learned how to expand and develop their businesses across borders.  They have wide experience of international business and international relations.  This multicultural diversity would fit well the business executive in any of the ASEAN country who would be operating across countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries and pursuing the ASEAN+1 or the ASEAN+3 linkages towards China, South Korea and Japan.  There is no question that a European business education would incorporate better the intercultural dimensions of management.

          -European companies have grown in size and have become leaner and fitter through European and international competition.  As a consequence, a series of large influential multi-national European corporations has emerged and gained reputation in the marketplace.  This European experience would be very useful to the future generations of managers of such companies as the Ayala Corporation, San Miguel Corporation, the Metro Pacific Group, United Laboratories and other Philippine conglomerates that have a long-term vision of becoming major players in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).  The same can be said for Indonesian companies like Sinarmas, Lippo, Salim, and Kalbe that are also increasingly expanding to the whole of the ASEAN.  Thailand and Malaysia have also their conglomerates expanding in the Southeast Asian region. Examples are May Bank from Malaysia and CP from Thailand.

          -Most European countries have a strong governmental and public-sector influence on the conduct of business and business policy.  Europeans tend to accept and recognize a broader role for government in business and society.  Although the Philippines would be the exception to the rule, Philippine conglomerates venturing into such countries as China, Vietnam, Myanmar, and even Indonesia--where governments also have a stronger influence on business operations--can learn a great deal from the European model in this regard, in contrast with the more laissez faire environment common in the U.S.

          Europeans generally favor socially responsible capitalism over what is sometimes unkindly characterized as unbridled market capitalism.  Centrist models of social democracy are more common in the European political environment than in the United States.  With the unsavory features of market capitalism that were exposed during the Great Recession, one would expect Asian societies to have a preference for the so-called centrist models of social democracy that Germany epitomizes.

          Given these distinguishing characteristics of European societies, European business and European management education have developed a balanced relationship with government and society.  In this context, business grows not only economically and technically but also with social responsibility and legitimacy.  The European culture and environment encourage more direct cooperation with government to improve income distribution and social welfare with an emphasis on balanced human and economic progress.  At the firm level, as noted by Schaik (1996), there is an emphasis on softer skills, more socially responsible management, and vision and communication skills for engaging employees.  Europeans believe strongly in a balanced philosophy in management education involving an appropriate mix of course and project work to develop skills of analysis, synthesis and criticism.  Through this process, the differentiation between European and other models of management education becomes clear and provides welcome diversity in models of management education.  Filipino and other Asian yuppies who are planning their MBA studies abroad should contact the EFMD at info@efmd.org whose website is www.efmd.org.   EFMD, which is an international not-for-profit association, can provide very valuable information about the leading European business schools.   For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.   I may be contacted by those who are interested in the IESE Business School, where I continue to be Visiting Professor.