Saturday, March 23, 2013

U-Aspire: Educating Global Managers

At the core of what we do at U-Aspire is about preparing Global Managers. 'Intensely Global' is what we want our graduates to be, so that their ambition, vision and practises are aligned to the possibilities and challenges of globalisation. 

The term, globalisation, is indeed laden with value judgements. At one end, activists may see this an inexorable expansion of global capital, steamrolling the diversity and flattening the communities across the world. On the other end of the spectrum, there are flat world celebrators, people who see the undoing the curse of the Babel, the world unifying around the English language, and democracy with centrist parties who are hard to tell from each other. Either in its demonic conception or the dragon-slayer one, Globalisation evokes strong sentiments: It needs explanation if we are to put this down as the key graduate attribute of the U-Aspire education.

The rise of 'Global' in our lexicon is somewhat curious, tied closely to the dot com days and the notions of unified cultures and the dreams of the march of democracy, however ill-advisedly, during the Bush-Blair days. It is also tied to the decline of the 'International', a favoured expression before the rise of the Internet and the demise of the Soviet empire. Indeed, 'International' itself was somewhat usurped by the cold warriors from its original, humanist, origin, grounded in the various national/ local contexts and it signified a certain ambition to overcome the petty differences and achieve a common understanding. However, this was soon used in labels of various Soviet sponsored organisations, and became, with the advent of Stalin and the doctrine of socialism country-by-country, anything but international. The Global, in context, could be seen as a reflexive term, originating from the individualism of the Eighties, and the conception of an Universal Man (or Woman): With the turn of the millennium, this morphed into an unquestioned conception of an English-speaking, Suit-Tie-wearing, Election-voting, unsentimental capitalistic androgynous globe-trotting Homo Sapiens.

With U-Aspire, we are trying to construct a new sense of 'Global', though. We approach this term not with the reductive individualism, but the original humanist sense, where it is about connecting with others rather than steamrolling the differences. Our commitment to Global does not come from the convenient assumption that we are undoing the tower of Babel and everyone will soon be wearing Prada, but that human connections are the greatest opportunity of our age and today's challenges, against climate change, diseases, nuclear Armageddon and Cyber meltdowns, all need global cooperation and understanding to be solved.

The starting point of training of the new 'Global Manager' is to recognise that we live in societies, and our opportunities and challenges lie in connecting and expanding, rather than being selfish and self-serving. The other starting point is to recognise the differences, that reaching out needs respect and understanding, and careful appreciation, and even celebration, of diversity. We shall explore management models and principles, but critique it with this nuanced, but more real, perspective. 

By design, U-Aspire education is to be global. The learners will interact with local mentors and global tutors, local peer group and a global one. They will study a common curricula, but it will be diverse at the point of delivery, supported, socialised and contextualised locally. So, the conception of global isn't theoretical for us, nor this is about a Business Lounge view of a different culture: The programmes are constructed to offer an immersion and engagement in global thinking and long term development of global mindset.

Indeed, we have carefully considered the elements of a Global Mindset, brilliantly conceptualised by Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh in their 'Being Global: How To Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World', as a three dimensional development of Global Intellectual Capital (awareness of the world), Global Psychological Capital (knowing the ways of the world) and Global Social Capital (building worldwide connections and friendships). For many of us involved in this project, this is a lived experience, and we have embedded this into the curriculum design. Our learners, we expect, will have 'default' global stance, curiosity to learn about the world, respect for differences and urge to connect globally: We would be exposing them to global work and global thinking and expect them to work in global teams in solving the business challenges that we create for them.

I see our approach at U-Aspire to be different from usual B-School approach to globalisation: This is not about reducing all differences to measures of probability, but to make diversity a lived experience and inclusiveness the default state of mind. Like every education, establishing this, transformative, view of globalisation will be U-Aspire's mission.

 

 

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