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Monday, April 7, 2014 C9


The key to a corner office


The Oxford-HKUST Leadership and Public Policy Series gives decision-makers a chance to debate problems facing the world. Photo: HKUST

Shaping a future Joint initiative lets experts discuss global issues, writes John Cremer


o function well, every modern society needs a corps of trained officials and policymakers with the knowledge and vision to manage priorities and shape future goals. With this in mind, two of the world’s leading universities have joined forces to offer a series of high-powered executive education programmes dealing with topical issues and likely challenges which no government or large organisation can really afford to ignore. For example, the upcoming programme in the OxfordHKUST (University of Science and Technology) Leadership and Public Policy Series is on “Understanding Social Protest and Contestation”. Over four days, starting on April 23, handpicked faculty members and distinguished guest speakers will share their expertise on

Professor Angelina Yee

everything from the evolution of social movements to the significance of recent developments in Taiwan. Included this time are modules on the French Revolution, the counterculture of the 60s and 70s, protests in rural China, the rise of social media and its impact on public opinion, and the Arab Spring. The aim is to examine the lessons to be learned and to shed light on the challenges faced by societies, which can seem ever more unsettled. “We provide a global context and historical perspective and will finish with a panel discussion, featuring Larry Diamond of Stanford University, on the path to democracy in Hong Kong,” says Professor Angelina Yee, special adviser to the president of HKUST and director for leadership and public policy executive education. “Through the series, participants will debate hot issues of current interest and hear authoritative voices on topics of relevance to Hong Kong and the region,” Yee adds. The target audience is senior executives and officials from both the public and private sectors. Understandably, a number of the 40 or so attendees expected for each programme will be nominated and sponsored by their employers. In principle, though, anyone can apply. The broad proviso is

that attendees bring something to the class in terms of innovative thinking or leadership experience and, therefore, are able to hold their own in interactive discussions on real-world issues. The first programme in the series, held in January, was on envisioning the future city. It was very well-received, with participants highlighting the chance to learn from “thought leaders” and international experts about the ever increasing demands of managing rapid urbanisation. “The students were very eager to learn,” Yee says. “Some were from government departments, the Urban Renewal Authority and the Housing Authority. Others were from the private sector, but keen to learn about public affairs. Overall, the feedback was fantastic.” Future programmes later this year will variously focus on challenges and prospects for the global economy, innovation centres and how to get there, and China’s foreign relations. The first of these events, which has been scheduled for July, will include expert-led seminars on such topics as the euro zone, the US economy since the global financial crisis, and emerging market myths and realities. The intention is then to zero in on China’s market liberalisation, the internationalisation of the

renminbi, and Hong Kong’s changing position within the world economic order. “We want students to have an appreciation of how Hong Kong fits into the regional and global scheme,” Yee says. “Therefore, we spend a tremendous amount of time co-ordinating with Oxford to find the best speakers and the best combination of speakers for every programme.” The usual division of labour is that Oxford is responsible for the more theoretical or international aspects, while HKUST handles the regional parts of the agreed curriculum. As preparation, students are given two questions to consider before each seminar and asked to come up with two of their own. This ensures involvement and establishes a direct link with their day-to-day work and the challenges they face.

recent study examining the career profiles of top executives in Fortune 100 companies has sound advice for young, ambitious managers targeting the top echelon. Good education, wide general knowledge, patience, and a good mix of internal and external moves all help a bid for the corner office. The research, which examined the key factors in successful executive careers in 1980, 2001 and 2011, found that education definitely counts. Executives in top-tier positions in Fortune 100 companies are five times more likely to have graduated from an Ivy League university than counterparts in tier-three positions. They are also three times more likely to have done an Ivy League MBA, especially if hired from outside the firm. “Elite institutions can still shape career paths in very visible ways. Top-tier education pays off,” says Monika Hamori, professor of human resource management at IE Business School, who conducted the research with colleague assistant professor Rocio Bonet and Wharton School professor of management Peter Cappelli. Hamori says managers with a narrow area of specialisation get coveted promotions more quickly, but do not usually rise to tier-one positions. Chief

executives, chairmen and chief operating officers (COOs) often take a more “generalist” route, gaining experience in jobs with a wider scope. “General management takes longer, but is the best way to reach the top,” Hamori says. Length of tenure with the same employer has increased. Also, in 2011 executives took longer to reach senior positions than their counterparts in 2001. “The 2008 financial crisis has slowed down executive career paths. There are fewer positions available and executives are not so willing to venture out to other corporations in the hope of landing an attractive position,” says Hamori, who advises patience until the effects of the economic slowdown are over. Instances of a full career with the same company have drastically fallen since 1980, with executives finding it best to

Elite institutions can still shape career paths in visible ways. Top-tier learning pays off

balance internal and external moves as they advance. But jobhopping too often is not advised. “When we analysed the career histories of the top executives of 2011, we found the average executive worked for fewer than three companies,” Hamori says. “My advice is that if you jump between companies, make sure that next time you spend a longer stint with an employer and do your best to be promoted there.” There is greater diversity today than in 1980 in Fortune 100 companies. Chances to get to the top have improved for women and executives born outside the US. “First of all, we see increasing diversity in the top echelon. In 2011, 18 per cent of top executive positions were held by female executives, a considerable increase on 2001, when 11 per cent of these jobs were filled by women. It is also a huge jump compared to 1980, when the proportion of women was zero,” Hamori says. This reflects trends in the Fortune 100, which now has fewer heavy industries and energy firms, employing fewer women, and more health care and retail enterprises, where there are more. Women usually stay in second- or third-tier posts. Only 6 per cent are in toptier roles such as chief executive or COO. Andrea Zavadszky

Tier-one executives in Fortune 100 firms are far more likely to be Ivy League graduates. Photo: Bloomberg

C10 Monday, April 7, 2014


China business schools go green Sustainability and CSR are now the watchwords for the nation’s education, writes Freda Wan


hina’s business leaders have an increasingly important challenge: they have to drive their companies to achieve sustainability, not just profits. Already, the top business schools in China have mandatory courses teaching sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) to all MBA and EMBA students. The challenge, though, is to get those students – and others – to put theory into practice. At the main campus of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) in Beijing, there is even a requirement that all students, whether chairmen of state-owned enterprises or senior managers of private organisations, must complete a volunteering requirement. They have to mobilise their colleagues and build a community investment project as a team. “In this way, there is a larger influence on the company,” says Anson Wong, assistant director of the CKGSB’s research centre on sustainable and inclusive development. “We believe that when there is one leading business person doing things the right way, others will follow.”

When established in 2002, CKGSB was one of the first business schools in the world to make an ethics course mandatory for all MBA students. At that time, ethics was a less debated topic in the world of banking and finance than it is now. As a result, the school’s 5,000 alumni, and about 2,500 current students, have taken the course, which today incorporates key aspects of sustainability and CSR. By Wong’s definition, several Chinese business leaders are already implementing CSR principles in “the right way”. One of them is Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, whose company provided a 60 per cent discount on services for subscribers with a “gold” credit standing and free training for small- to medium-sized enterprises, when the financial tsunami hit in 2008. The company also partnered with Grameen Trust of Bangladesh in 2009 to form Grameen China, a micro-lending institution supporting small businesses in rural communities. Another example is Wang Shi, founder of real estate company China Vanke Group,

Richard Brubaker

Anson Wong

Many of China’s most eminent business leaders are already implementing CSR principles as the nation’s corporate culture embraces sustainable development. Photo: Reuters who has pioneered green buildings, biodiversity and impact investing and who, like Ma, is a CKGSB alumnus. Wong conducts field research into the CSR initiatives of domestic enterprises and government entities in China and uses them as case studies at CKGSB and for general audiences. “All Chinese companies which try to implement CSR initiatives always encounter some challenges and have to work towards resolving them,” says Wong, who sees value in informing both mainland and international observers about efforts and successes in China.

In theory, very few people oppose sustainability. But in practice, the Chinese government still has some way to go in changing the attitudes and behaviour of mainland companies. In March 2013, the Ministry of Commerce issued official guidelines for Chinese businesses investing overseas. All state-owned enterprises are now putting these into practice, but the guidelines are not compulsory in a legal sense. It has also been difficult for business schools to teach the next generation of leaders to be socially and environmentally responsible. Richard Brubaker, adjunct

professor at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), has taught more than 1,000 MBA students since 2009 about sustainability and CSR. He emphasises the practical application of CSR concepts, using case studies of both foreign and domestic brands. “We begin with risk analysis,” he says. “But we also try to show students how entrepreneurs are identifying opportunities which are redefining industries.” Brubaker once had to convince students of the importance of CSR. Now, they generally accept the concepts and are keener to learn the tools related to implementation.

Brubaker’s CEIBS course on “business, society and environment” includes a practical project which, for example, has inspired former students to set up a food bank in Shanghai and a waste recycling programme at the Shanghai World Expo. Overseas companies investing in China regularly hire CEIBS graduates to manage their CSR projects. “Several firms are now expanding their internships and corporate consulting programmes into the school as well,” Brubaker says. Demand for sustainability and CSR courses at Chinese

business schools can only grow as the country will have to tackle an enormous environmental challenge in the years ahead. “Water and air quality are deteriorating at a very fast pace,” says Brubaker, who has lived in China since 2002 and advised many international companies on sustainability issues. “If the goal is to urbanise another 300 million people, and double the size of the economy in real terms, we will only see the size, scale and scope of challenges for China’s environment grow.” CEIBS plans to start executive development programmes focusing on CSR and sustainability in 12 to 18 months.

Putting innovation into action to achieve results

HKU’s Innovation in Action forum will show how to develop the skills to exploit opportunities. Photo: EPA


xecutives in every industry know that innovation is the key to remaining one step ahead of the competition in a fast-changing business environment. It takes new ideas and approaches – plus the courage and skills to implement them – to create value and achieve sustainable growth, whether in finding new markets or introducing new products and services. For this reason, the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) executive education team and consultancy firm InnoFoco are staging a special “Innovation in Action” forum on May 7. The thinking behind the event is that companies in Hong Kong aren’t moving as fast as they can to meet the challenges of the 21st century. They may know the goals and the buzzwords, but in practice, there have been few breakthroughs of real note in the last 15 years to give substance to the claim that Hong Kong is a hub for innovation, ready to show the rest of the region how it’s done.

Julian Birkinshaw, professor and chair of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, will demonstrate what it takes to build an organisational culture which allows creativity to flourish. This will extend to developing a process turning creativity into innovation, as well as investing in start-ups to enhance capacity and scope. “Setting aside a few wellknown examples, the vast majority of established firms feel there is a big gap between their efforts [at innovation] and their achievements,” Birkinshaw says. “I think a more useful approach is to start from the principles of innovation – the underlying ideas and themes identified over the years – and to see if we can find ordinary companies that are putting these principles into practice.” He plans to do this with the help of three locally based leaders from Hong Kong Broadband Network, Rackspace and Silicon Valley Bank, whose organisations have won praise

The vast majority of established firms feel there is a big gap between their efforts and their achievements PROFESSOR JULIAN BIRKINSHAW, LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL

for being great places to work and for finding new solutions to old problems. An afternoon workshop will then focus on management innovation, identifying better ways of working so that companies can compete more effectively in the knowledge economy. “The forum will show how organisations can develop the ability to both explore and exploit opportunities,” says Professor Amy Lau, HKU’s director of executive education. “These two approaches require very different mindsets and skill sets – as organised and structured as in a multinational, but also as nimble and flexible as in a start-up.” Lau says innovation does not happen by chance. It thrives best in an environment with a diverse pool of talent, clear processes, the right kind of incentives, and visionary leadership. Richard Kelly, chief catalyst at Fung Management, who will deliver the keynote opening address, believes that nothing prevents local companies from leading the way in any number of fields. In his view, though, there is also an urgent need for many executives to shake off a sense of complacency and make a concerted effort to catch up with other parts of the world. “Hong Kong is lagging behind other major economies in Asia in the innovation race,” Kelly says. John Cremer

Monday, April 7, 2014 C11


Trailblazers get head start

Photo: iStockphoto


Steps to the top Executive education offers a route to success, reports John Cremer


either companies nor individuals have the option of standing still in today’s fastpaced, highly competitive business environment. In every sector and at every level, organisations must ensure they have the skills and breadth of experience within their ranks to respond effectively to new challenges and inevitable change. These needs largely explain the growing popularity and prevalence of executive education programmes. Often tailor-made for companies, the usual objective of such courses is to give managers the cuttingedge knowledge and wider perspectives required to take the next significant career step. “The basic aim is to improve leadership capabilities and foster strategic thinking, thereby creating value,” says Della Wong, head of the executive education office at HKUST Business School. “We help people to benchmark against best practices and reach the next level of success.” With particular reference to the school’s “leading for success” and “high potentials leadership” programmes, Wong notes that participants are nominated and sponsored by their companies. Typically, those taking the former

programme have been working for 10 years or more and, among other things, are looking for the chance to gain new insights and share experiences with people from respected companies in other industries. The 10-day course covers aspects of strategy, people management, marketing, leadership and change management. In contrast, the “high potentials” option is designed for individuals with five to 10 years’ work experience, who have been identified as likely high fliers. Accordingly, the fiveday programme is centred on decision making and leadership, team communications and team performance. “We work closely with HR professionals and senior corporate executives to understand and address the key learning needs,” Wong says. “In designing the programmes, we also engage faculty and subject experts to ensure relevance, so that content reflects the latest knowledge about industries in the region and globally.” The school can obviously draw on its extensive experience of offering customised and open enrolment programmes for thousands of senior executives over the years. By taking a collaborative approach with employers, it is possible to provide the skills and know-how

to meet current and future challenges, demonstrate what it takes to attain leadership positions and, more importantly, to succeed. “Executives doing business today don’t just need to find one solution, they must think of several,” Wong says. “So, as a learning partner, it is critical for us to contribute to business growth, talent development and succession planning by translating trends and requirements into practical knowledge and organisational capabilities.” Professor Xu Yan, associate dean of HKUST Business School, points out that the secret to corporate success is having effective leadership at each level. With competition sure to intensify in almost area of endeavour, it is more essential than ever for managers to have the outlook and abilities to instigate improvement and inspire change. “That is why you find most executive programmes focus on leadership as there is such keen demand for these skills,” Xu says. “With effective leadership, companies can stay competitive in a fast-changing world by reaching organisational goals, maximising productivity, promoting harmony, and creating a positive culture.” Xu emphasises that on-the-

job learning and in-house coaching and mentoring achieve only so much. It is also important to have the different ideas, outside contacts and alternative points of reference to be gained from appropriate academic programmes. The right courses allow leaders to make decisions using more than personal judgment and experience, which can be unreliable guides. Instead, they can apply models based on research and best practice and follow frameworks which are proven to be effective. “We hope to see a change in our participants,” Xu says. “We aim to empower and inspire them to foster innovative and strategic thinking and immediately apply what they have learned.”

everal Hong Kong-based business programmes now offer modules focusing on launching start-ups and turning ideas into viable enterprises, but in this respect the University of Michigan can claim to be at least one step ahead. Their Stephen M. Ross School of Business has already introduced a one-year master of entrepreneurship degree, which is attracting widespread interest and a fast increasing list of applicants. Taught in collaboration with the College of Engineering, the programme aims to give students the knowledge, tools and advice to convert their own concept into a standalone business, and uses a practical, action-based approach, not just theory and talk about what others have done. “The degree is oriented towards people with technical bent and a clear idea or interest they want to commercialise,” says Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the school. “They usually have a background in science and engineering, but relatively little work experience, and the plan is that people emerge with a qualification and a new business.” A good example is the member of last year’s first intake who worked on a low-cost, higheffectiveness warmer for premature infants in less developed countries, where an incubator may not be available. As a form of blanket, it uses a particular technology to meet an

obvious need and is already gaining significant traction. During the admissions process, applicants are expected to discuss a project or concept in some detail, but are not obliged to stick with that during the programme if their interests happen to shift elsewhere. Courses, case studies and seminars cover aspects from business basics to identifying potential markets, getting funds, developing and launching a product or service, and generating revenue and profits. In drawing on expertise from the business and engineering faculties, the intention is to represent “both sides of the equation”. It helps students to assimilate different viewpoints and approaches and, in very practical terms, demonstrates how individuals with diverse talents must work together to get any project off the ground. “In real life, there are people with different backgrounds, temperaments and vocabularies,” Davis-Blake says. “When implementing or running a business, it is important to know how to deal with them.” She adds that during the programme there are opportunities to work with student-run venture funds, university-backed pre-seed and social venture funds offering support for various types of enterprise. The overall aim is not to emulate other success stories, but to originate. “There are many ways of developing entrepreneurship capabilities, but our master’s is aimed at a very definite population of students who already have an idea,” says Davis-Blake, who visited Hong Kong in mid-January to meet alumni and explore possible partnerships with locally based business schools. “We are trying

to address the gap between theory and practice by putting students in a setting where there is a lot of cross-fertilisation and germination of ideas, and spending more time working on their specific projects.” The business school expects demand for this type of degree to grow consistently. In part, that is because entrepreneurship is in the news, a hot topic, and with the advance of technology, the number of products or services with commercialisation potential continues to grow. In addition, it is a function of broader social changes which see the younger generation less inclined to follow the more standard corporate career path taken by many of their parents. Having seen how that can turn out if recession hits or ambitions are frustrated, expectations about the world of work are changing on all sorts of levels. “The new generation of students is quite different in how and what they learn and the kind of careers they aspire to,” DavisBlake says. “They want to work for themselves or companies reflecting their values and ideals. There is a very different mindset among a much larger percentage than ever before. The forces underlying this trend will continue for the next decade, with young people now having different life experiences and new technology. “Our students learn how to run businesses that do three things: create economic value, be good employers and good neighbours,” Davis-Blake says. “We have opportunities for them to understand the interaction between business and society and serving community needs. We don’t tell them how to spend their lives after graduation, but they are both equipped and empowered to make a positive difference.”

Students learn to … create value, be good employers and neighbours Alison Davis-Blake


Postgraduate & Executive Education