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Ready for the Future? Education for Daring Business Leaders in Post-crisis Greece

28 Aug 2014

WRITTEN BY Kyriakopoulos Kyriakos
Associate Professor of Strategy and Marketing
Academic Director of Executive MBA, Academic Director of ALBA – Eurobank MBA


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How can business education make a difference in Greece today? To address this question, take a look at the key challenge of the business community today. With the first signs of a shy recovery, cost cutting and managing liquidity are grossly insufficient for carving our way out of the deep recession. Unfortunately, most companies are still obsessed with lowering the break–even point, rationalizing production or simplifying procedures, which have been necessities in light of unprecedented liquidity problems and free fall in demand. No matter how pressing these needs may have been so far, they should not avert the attention from preparing a strategy for growth. Senior leaders charged with the growth imperative face two organizational challenges along the way: customer centricity and innovation. These two challenges should be the compass on how we should reform the management education and especially the Executive MBAs and Executive Education at business schools.


Take the customer centricity challenge first. Most companies embark on ambitious plans and train their employees to put the customer first, track customer satisfaction and their brochures make vows of faith to customers. Still, the results of these plans are often disappointing for many reasons ranging from arrogance to being paralyzed with an avalanche of customer data. The underlying cause, however, is lack of powerful customer insights. Wal-Mart’s prowess seems self-evident today but we should not forget that its success was grounded on a fresh customer insight that challenged the retailers’ convention in 1960s. While rivals located their discount stores where shoppers lived, Sam Walton saw the traveling cost and time were dramatically reduced due to President Eisenhower’s Highway System. He then decided to locate large stores in small towns and attract far away shoppers with low prices. Therefore, business education should prepare business leaders who will be capable of creating a firm capability for developing customer insights. Moreover, they should be able to align processes, HR policies, and information systems to convert insights into powerful customer value proposition.

On the innovation challenge, growth does not only stem from a novel product or service, but also from a novel business model. Most firms, however, have difficulty to think beyond existing demand and benchmarking competitors and create uncontested market space. Even if firms think out of the box, the biggest ideas won’t result in big profits unless they are embedded in a company culture that accepts risks and does not punish failure but rather treat it as an opportunity for learning. This echoes 3M’s unparalleled commitment to innovation premised on the belief that “you have to kiss many frogs to get one prince.” As a result, management education should help business leaders create the processes and nurture a culture that fosters the creation of new ideas and their conversion into new products, services, or processes.

To sum up, as the business community takes stock of the painful transition over the last 5 years, the awareness of the growth imperative grows. And so does the need of reforming management education in our country. Toward this goal, the ALBA Executive MBA, consistent with its innovation pedigree, introduces a novel curriculum and pedagogic philosophy to address business leaders’ quest for leading growth and renewal at their organizations.