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Globalization and the development of B-School curriculums   August 20, 2005:  


            When John Thornton left Goldman Sachs, and started to teach at Tsinghua, Beijing 's elite university, he gave an interview to the Financial Times August 22, 2003 (www.ft.com).   Thornton said    "(The decision to teach at Tsinghua) was logical.  There are four big themes in the early 21st Century: the emergence of China, the turmoil in the Islamic world, the disgraceful way the world treats Africa; and the environment.   China is the only area where I believed I could make a significant impact".)     How does one develop curriculums to deal with these issues?     Tsinghua's needs are different from a new B-School in Eritrea. 

   In designing a B-School curriculum, management educators know that there    are basics of accounting and corporate finance and the management of information systems which have universal value.  However,   beyond that they are in a world of customized curriculum design (CCD).    CCD and other forms of data-mining and knowledge management are some of the most potentially valuable areas   for venture capital firms to explore as new investment opportunities.   The world's major news sources are seeking ways to commercialize their archives and intellectual inventories; wikis and blogs are creating new forms of information and knowledge management.  Screening these new sources of content provides intriguing models for new B-School curriculums.   From the perspective of the globalization of B-Schools, CCD represents a significant opportunity.  A library of case studies and business situation analysis can be created and then utilized for specific educational "missions".    Otherwise, we will end up using boilerplate materials in contexts and situations where they do not apply.    

            In international development policy making, those involved are increasingly coming to realize that it is imperative to create specialized B-Schools in emerging economies if one is going to maximize the potential for economic growth.   In assuring that an emerging African country with prospects has a chance at managing globalization and creating the preconditions for its own sustainable prosperity, it requires an indigenous B-school with a capacity to produce economic innovators and political leaders appropriate to the context.  (For the purposes of this memo, Eritrea is a good example.) The B-School then becomes the hub which connects Eritrean business organizations and activities to the global economy, the way a North American B-School serves as a transmission-belt between the next generation of business leaders and its broader economic environment . 

            There are at least four things which are clear   from the perspective of B-School activities and those concerned with the practical management of the global economy: 

(i)                  The MBA curriculums of major global B-Schools have tremendous significance for global economic activity.  They   have succeeded in creating a network of leaders conversant with "best practices" and "investment trends".  In an ethical environment, these MBAs have the skills to create win-win deals and back innovative entrepreneurs.  They have developed a capacity to create and assess new business models.  They have  knowledge of hundreds of deals and deal-makers.  The B-School credential is of such value that when an investor arrives in Istanbul and meets an MBA from a well-respected B-School, he or she has a way to relate and communicate that facilitates negotiations.   Because of the power of this "elite" network, it is necessary for advocates of globalization to be constantly vigilant that the economic activities they are creating have widespread benefits and are not just being conducted for a small elite.  

(ii)                B-Schools can ensure that best practices can be shared in a number of activities, from how to manage culturally diverse firms to how to ensure oil revenues are productively reinvested.   At a mouse click, we can learn about the best practices in technology commercialization from Swiss science parks, Silicon Valley venture capital firms and Japanese corporate labs.      Latin American business leaders learned from B-School analysis of privatization and capital market behaviour in the 1990s.  There is a similar impact today on how well-managed forms of social entrepreneurship can create value in Africa.     The sharing of best practices and the development of business models that are customized to local situations is now a commonplace of global business.  

(iii)               Within these MBA networks,   certain trends and "paradigms" become accepted, setting a global agenda which needs to be constantly reassessed.         The techniques we use are built on "paradigms" where large numbers of people in decision-making roles share certain assumptions about "value-creation" or globalization".    At the beginning of the academic year 2005-2006, the most important global "trend" is the management of the rise of India and China and the constantly changing role of emerging markets in investment calculations. Those in B-Schools whose role is to develop a "broader perspective" need to develop a paradigm appropriate for the economic agenda of the next few years.  The first wave of globalization did not adequately deal with the issues of how capital-market led globalization would create the preconditions for sustainable prosperity in, say,  Malaysia.    It also did not deal with the issues raised by the economic investment power of countries like India and China as they emerge as global players themselves. Global B-Schools are the only institutions where a new framework or "paradigm" can be developed.  This time it needs to address the concerns of those who have to manage domestic industries in periods of volatile international capital market activity as well as those in investment banks rightly concerned about transparency in investment actvities. 


(iv)              B-Schools are not like chemistry departments.  They do not exist to search for new compounds.  They are designed to interact with the practical world, where many ideas are to be found.  In that sense, B-Schools are more like geologists, prospecting for the best resources.       The imposition of categories of "research" borrowed from other disciplines has put the competitive advantage of B-Schools at risk, and is really one of the key reasons there is an emerging backlash against B-School products.     B-Schools being designed to advance the economic agenda of emerging economies have a special responsibility to inoculate themselves against abstract thinking.  That is one of the responsibilities of being part of global elite. 


             If the first thing Eritrea needs as an institution for effective development is a strategic plan for its domestic business education, what should an Eritrean B-School curriculum look like?  B-Schools have created a framework for talking about new business models, assessing value-creating propositions, fostering economic growth based on market discipline, and bringing together managers who have been exposed to a variety of concrete case-study oriented "simulation" experiences.  This framework has to be applied to a different agenda.   


            The best new B-Schools in this global context will be the ones that successfully address these generic issues while organizing their educational experience to serve a specific local market.     Customized curriculums with organized information from global media sources will produce specific kinds of case studies, one which will lead local business students to develop a framework appropriate to their objectives.   Here is a cut at ten cases, the discussion of which could produce a composie mix of skills and knowledge appropriate to a young Eritrean business leader: 

(i)                  a comparison of successful entrepreneurial activities in an emerging market-context with transferable relevance from Zambia,  Kenya, or Kazakhstan. www.honeycareafrica.com provides one type of example ;

(ii)                adapting cooperative Islamic financing sources like the Somali hawala to provide entrepreneurial finance with transferable expertise to microfinancing strategies in Bangladesh or Jamaica;

(iii)               wireless telephone entrepreneurs in different countries,  building an entrepreneurial sector in Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, www.vodacom.cd is an example;

(iv)              the development of successful stock exchanges even at an early stage with limited liquidity with transferable best practices from Accra or Tallinn www.mbendi.com gives insights into www.gse.com.gh ;

(v)                developing institutional investors to facilitate the development of an efficient capital market with transferable expertise from Kuala Lumpur to Lagos - how to create domestic financial institutions capable of international activity;

(vi)              best practices for management of microfinance loans in terms of  performance of investments;

(vii)             management of cross-border activities in zones where there has been recent nation conflict;

(viii)           management of appropriate health care measurement, monitoring and distribution capabilities in areas of low-penetration medical care;

(ix)              Understanding the strategic planning of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Korean foreign investors based on their performance in markets like Sudan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan e.g. www.petronas.com.my .

(x)               Transparency International rankings and their impact on foreign investment rates, www.transparency.org .

               This is an attempt developing a curriculum for a Business School which is targeted for the economic development of a particular country.  All of these case studies have relevance to the next generation of Eritrean business leaders. Many are transferable to other countries experiencing a similar challenge for developing efficient local capital markets and successful entrepreneurial businesses.       It is once more a question of how knowledge can be efficiently and effectively organized.     Cases, follow-up video interviews, on-line commentaries and discussions make possible this kind of educational strategy.   

             Because B-Schools are now expected to do so much, it is not surprising that there are easy criticisms of any specific B-School for the things it doesn't do.   A decade from now, someone will write that the implementation of the end-of-poverty agenda failed because of deficiencies in B-Schools.  And hopefully, someone else will write that poverty was dramatically reduced and the conditions for sustainable prosperity introduced in a number of countries around the world because of the success of B-Schools in developing innovative products for this new market need.     


             A B-School serving local needs will develop new courses or programmes.     A fundamental question is how to increase   agricultural productivity in African markets.  The virtual team that needs to be assembled to solve this particular challenge is one which would do applied research on issues of entomology.   Applied entomology and science-based agriculture applied to a new green revolution could increase protein-yield per acre and dramatically advance the cause of the eradication of global poverty.    A great B-School will be able to put together a "course" on "Increasing Productivity and Competitiveness in African Agriculture" without worrying about artificial boundaries between disciplines.    It would involve agricultural chemists; people capable of coaching managers of agricultural cooperatives, trade analysts conversant with the manner export markets have been limited for African agricultural product.   The case materials for a programme like this could come from other emerging market African economies.   Just as a financial media editor would assign a journalist to look at cacao production in Ghana and the genesis of an African domestic food processing industry in Ghanaian chocolate products,  the difficulty of exporting Burkina Faso cotton into protected G8 markets,  the opportunities  and challenges presented by growing Chinese herbal medicines in east African agricultural land,  a strategic management of an Eritrean B-School would require that materials be generated and distilled from these experiences and taught as part of an ongoing curriculum

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