Mike Page, Dean/Director Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Foundation
Erasnus School of Business
Business generates wealth in an international, culturally diverse and technologically advanced world, characterized by rapid change and complex interdependencies. It is a powerful driver of progress and economic development, and a key agent in what defines our human condition. As it impacts on people's daily existence on a global scale, the concomitant responsibilities become more onerous, and the individuals who lead businesses find themselves playing increasingly significant roles in society.
Consequently, a sound education in leadership and management is essential. In addition to economics, business leaders need to understand the fundamental characteristics of this enormously powerful instrument over which they have control, and the ways in which it can affect people's lives. The ethics of corporate behavior - of going beyond the mere letter of the law - are fundamental in ensuring the sustainability of businesses in the long term, and hence the continued generation of wealth.
An MBA is not just a package product for 'filling in gaps' in knowledge and competencies. It is a vital step in the transformative experience of lifelong learning. Executives are challenged to take a fresh look at themselves, their international colleagues, their every day business practices and the constantly changing market situation. As well as presenting content, in the form of the latest business knowledge, an MBA education aims at igniting the spark that enables participants to accommodate these new concepts, to generate new perspectives and to gain new insights. In this way participants are armed with a reflective outlook, a broad conceptual framework and with a practical set of mechanisms, which enable them to engender creative business solutions, to effect organizational improvement and change, and to tackle future unknowns and uncertainties long after they have completed their studies, and throughout their professional lives.
The bedrock for developing exceptional managers and leaders is the capacity for critical thinking and the ability to work with people of different professional and cultural backgrounds. An international learning environment naturally fosters critical thinking ability because students and executives are constantly confronted with a diversity of bright colleagues who bring perspectives they would never otherwise encounter that in turn leads to a more questioning attitude.
Critical thinking entails multiple perspectives; understanding one's own base assumptions, and those of others. It is crucial to decision-making as it allows you to analyze and understand the functional areas and come up with a set of options. Decision-making is a subtle art. Rather than choosing right from wrong it is about selecting alternative possible 'rights'. Decision-implementation entails the effective use of human capital; the active and enthusiastic participation of people. The more diverse those people are, the greater the challenge to manage effectively together, the greater the rewards reaped in creative business solutions.
This is why interpersonal core management skills are as important as functional area knowledge. They facilitate the integration of functional skills and should be seamlessly threaded throughout the entire curriculum. Since the success or failure of business areas such as finance, marketing and operations is determined by people, core management skills enable you to get the best out of your most important business resource, namely the people of talent that work for organizations
Today, business schools and the corporate world have developed a complex, symbiotic relationship in terms of knowledge sharing. Business is increasingly a vehicle for the expansion of applied knowledge for the benefit of customers specifically, and society generally. Business schools, therefore, should also foster networks of relations between corporate and academic spheres so that the conduits remain open for information between all those who generate, refine and use the different knowledges.
An MBA education plugs you into the network. It fuels creativity, passion and decision-making capacity. Rather than relying on the passive absorption of knowledge, it frees people to use knowledge proactively and compellingly; to make informed choices and take risks in a positive energizing sense, enabling them to face the challenge for a better future for both stakeholders and society. The motto of business education used to be "Dare to Learn", now it is "Learn to Dare".