Q: It was about the first Friday of last month, when your column answered this question: “For us who are marketing practitioners, how much more will we learn about marketing from an MBA versus from seminars like the ones you offer and those we’ve attended?”
Our company executives are all MBAs starting from our founder and chair. In fact, none of our assistant managers get promoted to managers unless and until they get an MBA. And not just any MBA will do. It has to be an MBA from AIM, La Salle, Ateneo or UP.
We’ve been vindicated by the results of this policy. In good times and in bad, we never had a year when we did not reach our revenue and profit quota. So we found your parity rating of the MBA and short-term executive development programs and seminars as unfair and wrong. Our company regards even AIM’s ExecDev programs of four or eight weeks as way below in quality learning versus its MBA. You can just imagine how much less is our regard for one- to three-day seminars.
We’d like to ask your column to take another look at your “diagnosis and MRx” of the MBA versus ExecDev programs and correct where they were wrong and unfair. We believe you owe this to your readers.
A: If you take a “static” concept of the MBA, there is a very reasonable basis for your impression that our MBA “diagnosis and MRx” were unfair and wrong. By “static” we refer to comments about the MBA as being “basically the same,” or that “its fundamentals have remained unchanged.” So we’ll respond to your request by taking a more “dynamic” concept of the MBA, and look at MBA’s “history.” How did its actual role in executive marketing education change over the past decades.
We’ll talk about the MBA as it evolved in AIM. This was where until his retirement in 2004, the Senior MRx-er was a full professor for 25 years. In the 70s, the MBA was the ultimate ExecDev Program. Because the Harvard MBA was THE world-class MBA then and AIM was set up by Harvard, AIM came to be known as THE Asian MBA or the Harvard of Asia.
Where were the short-term one, two or three month ExecDev Programs? They came into being during the initial two years of Martial Law. The AIM Faculty developed and conducted them primarily as money-making “exports” to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. In terms of “redeeming social value,” they were an embarrassment. But monetarily, they very quickly became the effective though hidden currency for ExecDev.
Then in the ’80s, as the AIM ExecDev Programs that started with a two-month BMP (Basic Management Program), it almost at the same time followed this up with the originally three-month MDP (Management Development Program). So AIM got to be known more and more for its ExecDev Programs than for its MBA which was then called MBM (or Master’s in Business Management).
The real turning point came in the 90s when AIM decided to bring ExecDev one more level up. It launched a TMP (Top Management Program) for COOs, CEOs and board of directors. TMP was an “instant hit” not by luck but by design. AIM constituted a TMP teaching faculty made up of “local” and “largely Harvard-imported” professors.
TMP was a turning point because it was no longer an MBA class where visiting board of governors and other overseas guests were invited to observe. It was the TMP that became effectively the “pride” program of AIM. Gradually and not at all slowly, it became usual to refer to the ExecDev programs as “mini-MBAs.”
AIM’s ExecDev Programs gained international recognition. At one point in the late ’90s, France’s Insead, which became the largest and most prestigious MBA school in Europe, invited AIM to a partnership. It was a straight-forward deal saying in effect: “AIM, you’re good in ExecDevs but weak in the MBA. We, Insead, are strong in the MBAs but have relatively poor turnout in our ExecDevs. So why don’t we have a partnership where we teach you how to grow your MBA and you teach us how to grow our ExecDevs.”
AIM turned down the invitation. Inside and among many alumni, this came to be known as AIM’s second “strategic error.” The first was of course AIM’s earlier decision to severe its formal ties with HBS (Harvard Business School). While most will say this was the bigger error, others (including the Senior MRx-er) believed it was the “strategic error” in not partnering with Insead that was the more fatal.
It had to do with the emerging trend in ExecDev. By the start of the new millenium and up to the present, more and more companies had set up and sustained their own “schools” variedly called “academy,” “training center,” “corporate college,” and even “corporate universities” like McDonald’s Hamburger University in Oakbrook, Illinois. By this time, at least three compelling ExecDev realities came to gain not only more and more acceptance but advocacy as well.
To begin with, the world of work was well on its way to becoming a knowledge world. That meant the organizing resource center is no longer primarily skills but knowledge. But knowledge has a short shelf life and becomes quickly obsolete.
To continue to be effective, executives found they must engage in continuous learning. Eventually, most came to realize it’s a process of life-long learning. It was then Dean Sonny Coloma who recognized this and so called his AIM office as “Executive Life-Long Education.” The MBA? It became just the beginning of continuous executive education. That’s where it is headed. That’s going to be its future.
What about those very short but mushrooming executive marketing seminars? What’s their future? We ran out of space. So, that’s for next Friday.