Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interview: We will be one of the world’s leading business schoo

Last July you took over GSBA Zurich and have re-branded it as Lorange Institute of Business Zurich. What are the major changes since then?

There are many changes. Perhaps the most noticeable is the change from a portfolio of relatively standard, conventional program offerings for a portfolio of cutting-edge programs. Examples are six new Executive Master Science offerings, all in areas where Switzerland would have specific competences and interests like Modern Marketing, Wealth Management and Modern Banking, Shipping and Logistics Management, Talent and Intellectual Capital Management, Business Driven Information Management and Sports and Entertainment Management.

We have also developed a sense of more than 20 short 2-day programs that serve as both parts of the various Master Science tracks and can be taken also by executives as independent, freestanding courses – we deliberately want to bring master students and more experienced students together. We are doing many changes when it comes to marketing, too – here the focus is to communicate our value propositions to students and executives in a straight forward, clear and entirely open manner. We have established a field force that invites companies and prospective participants in the various markets. We have invested a lot of time and energy in our new website. Brochures and advertisements have been totally re-done.

Why do you focus on specialized master programs?

For us the critical issue is to offer a set of programs that can best prepare the students for practical, successful careers in leading organizations. To fit you for an Executive Master of Science, which is more focused on a job area application than a general MBA is therefore the key. Specification leads to jobs. This is also what our market research and our Advisory Council says. Later on our students can then broaden their competence-bases and earn an Executive MBA.

But first of all, students in a part-time program already have a job. And prospective students in Switzerland and Germany mostly have a specialized degree like in engineering or science. What they need is mostly more knowledge in general management.

You are absolutely right – the students have a job, normally full-time. The interplay between learning on the job and the learning at the Lorange Institute is key (shorter, quite frequent modules, often over the weekend). And what is General Management? They get required modules in strategy, leadership and cycle management. Beyond this they take various other modules that will contribute to their knowledge in general management. All modules have a managerial focus. So, yes, general management is key and I am confident that they get this very heavily here, in contrast to the typical axiomatically brand specialized courses given most other places.

So far the Executive MBA was the flagship program at the former GSBA. What are the major changes for this program?

Our Executive MBA is designed as a logical extension from our Executive Master Science. This is an important shift – we believe that students should first focus on in-depth understanding of a particular area of business for them to broaden further. That means the Executive Master of Science focus comes first and for those who wish, they can continue to take an Executive MBA.

Lorange Institute isn’t a recognized university in Switzerland. Therefore, you still have to work with validated degrees from the University of Wales. How do you want to solve this problem?

What matters the most in the end is that we offer high quality. This is what builds reputation and respect in the market place. I was leading IMD in Lausanne for 15 years. We had (and have) a strong reputation, but since we were not part of the Governmental or Cantonal system, we were not recognized either. There is a new proposal law now being debated in Bern – Switzerlands capital. This law should probably also encompass private academic institutions – provided that these pass strict academic accreditation criteria. Switzerland has always benefited from variety – and the educational sector is likely to become stronger with this new law in place. I welcome this.

But that´s only part of the truth. IMD awards a degree from University of Lausanne and therefore a recognized degree. The University is also accredited by EQUIS. The degrees at Lorange Institute are validated by University of Wales and that university doesn´t have any of the major accreditations in business.

We are as of now, having the University of Wales validation. You do have your own opinions on this. We also have an ok from the Swiss Department of Education that we can give the degrees. But, of course, we are aiming at EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA accreditations. So far the feedbacks are good.

You want to establish a new business school model. Could you explain the reasons for this approach and how it's meant to work?

I feel that speed and innovation is particularly critical in today’s society and many academic institutions and business schools are not this – they are bureaucratic, full of silos and have professors, teachers and staff that tempt to be axiomatic with a „me, me, me“ culture. A major step for us has been to deliberately stay away from full-time faculty. Instead we go for a stable network of part-time faculty – well established at the cutting-edge in their fields both when it comes to teaching and research. And no departments, no titles, no tenure, no offices! The result is that we can bring strong teams together to deliver on many specific cutting-edge programs. This approach is also cost-effective. And we do not want to become another organization to fail because of high costs. Regrettably, many academic institutions are in the danger-zone to fail.

What is your progress in attracting new faculty members so far?

We have had no problems attracting new faculty members. For instance, 13 of the 16 faculty in the basic Master’s Programs are new. 18 of 18 faculty members are new in the 2-day program offerings. Leading faculty members from more classical academic institutions want to be part of our fast, innovation learning context.

Could you name some faculty members and the institutions they are coming from?

Frankly, I would prefer not to, at this stage. I am still working on this and do not want this in the press yet.

You also want to involve your part-time faculty in the government and the research of the Lorange Institute. I have doubts, that a top school let its faculty member, for whom it is paying for, do research credited for Lorange Institute. So does your model really work? And what are the names of the schools you already working with?

I thought that this would be the case. But, interestingly, many of the deans and definitely many of the professors, state that what is going on at the Lorange Institute is so innovative that their primary institutions can benefit from this – the slowness in these, partly due to the dominant axiomatic, silo-based focus, makes it difficult for them to innovate this way. It is great for them to share our experiences.

How are you planning to get accreditation without a faculty and without your own research?

As I said, we deliberately do not want to have a permanent faculty – we have a stable network of part-time faculty members who are strong both on teaching and research. We are of course doing research at the Lorange Institute. I do not want to put myself in the forefront, but – in all humbleness - I am still active on research myself. And the professors in our network are doing research, with the Lorange Institute being properly credited. We also support research within the six areas of our Executive Master of Science specialization focus. We are seeking accreditations with AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB. I have written a memo regarding our stable part-time faculty network approach and have said clearly that the Lorange Institute does not have and does not want to get a full-time faculty. All three accrediting institutions have stated that they want us to go ahead with the accreditation process nevertheless. They seem to put emphasis on innovations – and we definitely represent this.

How important is Executive Education and what kind of programs does Lorange Institute offer?

Executive Education is becoming more and more important. It is the one segment of business school’s portfolio that tends to offer growth. As mentioned, clear coordination between Masters’ courses and executive education might have the promise of even better learning. We try to do this – with our 2-day program offerings. We have many new executive education offerings. This internal format makes it easier for companies to release participants to come to these programs, too – both from an affordable cost point-of-view, as well as from a cultural acceptable consideration - how can you be needed in your company, if you frequently can take time away to go to long programs?

Let me mention our Managing in Business Cycles program. The focus here is on timing, though in/out, and/or long/short decisions and understanding turning points. When I sold my own shipping company 2 1/2 years ago, many called me an idiot. Today many of those who branded me then in those negative terms call me an enlightened leader now. The point is that, if I was to sell my company now, I would probably have to settle to a sales price approximately 1/10 of what I then got.

Our Interim Management program is also a great innovation. Life-long jobs in one organization are probably largely a thing of the past. Temporary jobs and interim management are coming more and more. How can executives succeed as interim managers?

Are there any new areas in which you are offering programs?

We have undertaken a research program on effective Boards. Ulf Lindgren, our Dean and myself are meeting several Board Chairpersons for long interviews regarding this. This has already led to several new program offerings. This summer, for instance, we have the Board of Seaspan here, a Vancouver based shipping company. They will do one of their board meetings at our premises. Other options are board improvement programs especially aimed at private equity firms. As we know, private equity firms make use of the boards of their subsidiary companies (i.e. firms that they own) in order to implement strategies, control, etc. Strong boards are perhaps particularly critical in these contexts. We at the Lorange Institute are very active here.

Many executives may simply have a need to take some „time off“, in a learning context – without wanting to take a specialized course. So during the last weekend in August we will offer the 2-day program "Speed, Action: Results", which offers lectures from a large cross-section of professors from our stable network of visiting professors. There will be many practical sessions – and each participant is being urged to choose those offerings that make the most sense for him or her. The executives do in fact design their own learning agenda – the vitamin pills that they specifically need.

Where would you like to see the school in five years?

There will be several ways to make value for a business school – today as well as 5 years from now. I am convinced that the Lorange Institute of Business will be one of the world’s leading business schools by 2015. Innovation and speed will become more important than ever – and we are superbly positioned to take advantage of this.


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