Francois Ortalo-Magne, dean of the London Business School (LBS), on how the institution can provide value to students facing a slowing global economy and help them navigate the promise and peril of the fourth industrial revolution
Talk us through your Global Business Immersion field trips?
We do this around the world. We engage faculty. These are the most transformational experiences our students talk about. When we first started here actually it was students of the region who were choosing that option.
Now when we do it, it’s students from around the world who come here to gain an in-depth knowledge of how to operate in different international environments. It’s being fuelled by what’s happening in the region and the positioning of the UAE and Dubai around the world, but it’s also about us, because the students who come to our school are students who tend to be very curious and very open and who want to learn about what’s happening in the world around them.
What percentage of your students in Dubai are from outside of the GCC?
Half the students are commuters and around 20 percent are from Africa, North Africa, South Africa and India, but there are also a growing number from Russia and Europe.
This is if you ask about the proportion of students within the degree programme, and they’ll take their core classes together.
Then they take electives, and then it becomes more diverse because we have students from our London programme, students from our global programme in Colombia or Hong Kong, who will come here for electives. Then, the mix of students in the classroom becomes a lot more diverse.
The way the programme is structured, they would come here for this one week immersion experience. This is where you get a really big mix of students coming in for these block electives, because we do offer the most popular electives in Dubai, and just for the experience, you might have British students who are on the US/British programme who choose to take the elective in Dubai.
There is really a lot of intermixing that happens, because they also get to know one another in London, then they connect here again here.
And what about your executive MBA programme?
The students in our executive programmes have an average of 12 years of experience, they tend to be in their mid-thirties, but there is a range as well, because we know that the critical element of our value proposition is the diversity of the class.
The diversity that matters the most is the diversity of thought and perspectives, because most people who come to us, they have the option to work and study part time with us.
The big differentiator is going to be that we give you access to many more perspectives than you would have solely in a work environment. We’ve created classes that have immense diversity. The age range of the school for example is between 21, 22 and 65.
So what you’re nurturing is familiarity with a globalised world, which is what Dubai represents?
Absolutely. That’s why I’m so happy that my predecessor chose Dubai as a place to have a centre for the campus, because you see now, with the partnership we have, you come to us as a student, you get Dubai, London, you get partnerships in New York and then Hong Kong, Shanghai. We cover the world, and then those students, because we do these one week electives, they just mix and match.
What can somebody at executive level in Dubai gain from LBS?
The executive MBA is excellent for people who already have managerial responsibility and they want to push up to the higher level. It’s excellent also for people who may not have a business background and want to push to the next level. It’s really a brilliant stepping stone into leadership, not just because of the skills and knowledge it’s going to give you, but also because of the network it’s going to give you. It’s going to give you the set of friends you need to succeed as a top executive. That’s very much our core offering here.
By now, we are getting to an 11-year track record of doing this, and we have senior people who have succeeded very well in the region doing that. In terms of executive education, it’s a bit more junior on the offering except one class, maybe. The teamwork for emerging leaders. That’s on managing your people. We’ve done three of these types of classes over four or five days in Dubai and we’re looking to do more. We’re also looking at offering other types of programmes that are more senior, if there’s the demand for it.
These are four-week programmes and what’s interesting is that a lot of those C-suite types who do those public programmes, they actually enjoy doing it in London.
What do some of these CEO-level programmes entail?
I’ll give you a topology of the type of things we do there for CEOs. One very simple product, we call it the discovery programme. The typical client there is an organisation that’s about to engage in a strategy and they want us to stretch their mind before they get going. We’ll help with self-discovery, we’ll help with organisational discovery. What we mean by that is we want to deliver self-awareness for the individual, but also for the organisation.
We might take them on a trip to Silicon Valley, or to Estonia, or to London to get them to think differently, to get some peripheral content ideas to really just open their mind ahead of that deep intense work.
We might do deep intense work for them as well, but that’s one type of programme. Another type of programme is once you have decided where you want to go, then the question is, how do you help organise within the organisation to facilitate the change? There what we have done is not just training the second layer below the C-suite, but actually cascading the training in the organisation to make everyone more effective and more innovative. We’ve trained 4,600 people at ING Group. The top layer, we train the normal way, classroom interactions, case studies, and then digital and facilitation and then purely digital.
What GCC-based companies have you worked with in this way?
Dubai Ports World and Emirates, they have been on the journey. They’re continuing to be on the journey. They have been repeat customers of this global business consortium with us. They really like it. They come with a particular issue that they have within the organisation. Then, based on the issue everyone is bringing, we organise learning modules.
Last year, for example, the group went to Ethiopia and Kenya, where Mars Chocolates has big facilities. Mars is known to be really good in terms of culture. The other organisation, we knew that they were interested in culture, and so they all went to Mars and Mars hosted the programme, we facilitated the running of it. They also wanted to learn about big data, so we took the whole group to Oracle, and they all learned together. They took that programme and we helped them learn from one another.
We have always been positioned that we are here to help individuals and organisations make decisions that are more likely to be the right decision. We are here to help people make better decisions. We help people reflect.