What can I learn about global business in 10 days?
May 7, 2013 -- Guest post by Lisa Miller, Executive Director of the Center for Global Business and Government
So, what can an MBA student learn about global business in 10 days? A heck of a lot, if the experience is structured correctly. That’s why we spend a tremendous amount of time at the Tuck Center for Global Business and Government thinking about the design of our Learning Expeditions, or LEs. The LEs are courses taught by Tuck professors that take place overseas, often in emerging markets. We strive to organize just the right blend of company visits, cultural excursions, and lectures.
At the very beginning of the planning process, the professor identifies themes for the course. For example, in 2013 the Japan LE focused on six themes, including the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and how Japanese companies are responding to globalization, while the 2013 Israel LE examined innovation, primarily in the high-tech sector.
Once the themes are set, the professor works with the CGBG to identify the types of activities that he or she would like to include. We think a mix of activities provides the best experience – from hiking an ancient section of the Great Wall in China to touring a working gold mine in South Africa to meeting senior political figures like Shimon Peres in Israel. We leverage the strong Tuck network to find the best people with knowledge of the country in question to make this happen. Our network includes the Tuck faculty, our students, and – of course – our incredibly loyal alumni.
Next, the professor arranges pre-departure activities to prepare students for the in-country learning experience. There are many different approaches, but the goals are to provide students with some background information on the country and to encourage them to be active participants during the trip. Professors might ask students to research and educate their fellow students on specific site visits or aspects of the country. They might also ask students to write down their preconceptions of the country, so that they can revisit and reflect on them during the trip. The discrepancy between preconceptions and reality is often stark, and this provides fertile ground for learning.
I think the on-going discussions during the trip also play a big role in the learning process. Traveling as a group, often all together on a bus, affords the opportunity to talk about the country’s culture and history and to debrief after a company visit while it’s all still fresh. The professor can facilitate the conversations, perhaps draw on the local expertise from the native tour guides, and challenge and discuss things in an informal manner. I think the students really learn a lot from these ad hoc conversations during the trip.
The final assignment for the LEs encourages reflection and sharing as well. Most LEs require that students write short papers and some require that they make presentations to one another. In the future, we might ask LE participants to formally share their experiences with the wider Tuck community, so that even those who were not able to go on the trip can learn too.
There are many opportunities to be creative in the design of LEs, and this is one of the reasons why planning these courses is so much fun. We think that the perfect recipe for learning about global business in 10 days is our unique blend of:
• establishing a strong unifying course theme
• prepping before traveling
• leveraging the Tuck network to arrange company visits with top executives
• mixing in visits to cultural and historic sites
• traveling together in a small group with a Tuck professor
This formula sets the Tuck LEs apart.
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