Whether you are considering an executive MBA, an open enrollment Executive Education program, or contemplating using a coach or mentor, you should be sure that the program you select uses all the latest learning methods and technologies available.
And, very importantly, that you will have a great time doing it!
- Lecture? What’s a lecture? While still very reliant on MBA faculty members for delivery, Executive Education programs around the world are moving away from traditional MBA content. Program designers are exploring areas such as personality assessments, the inclusion of science and humanities content, as well as focused topics like strategic selling and corporate responsibility. Executive MBA and Executive Ed programs now include a mix of concern for your personal career goals along with the traditional focus on developing your business acumen. Dry lectures have given away to facilitated discussions that leverage your own experience. Yes, there is serious management theory being taught, but the goal of the best professors is to make the theory emerge from the case study or class discussion.
- That Edutainment. Greater attention is being given to creating programs that are closely linked to the issues and concerns of practicing managers. Some critics complain that offering you the chance to take inventory of your skills and weaknesses via psychological assessments or demonstrating cultural differences through experiential exercises reduces learning to mere entertainment. The fact is, as a mid-career executive your biggest challenge is probably not memorizing the Four P’s of Marketing. Gaining a better understanding as to why you prefer selling one-on-one to making big presentations or getting an insight into why your last boss never seemed to make a firm decision can not only prepare you for your next assignment, it can help you become a more effective manager. Universities and private training organizations are investing in longer term partnerships rather than one-off transactions. They are blending access to practical and theoretical knowledge with real-time help in applying it. Executive Programs are now thinking beyond the formal program delivery and are striving to design ways to stay in touch with you, to keep you in contact with your classmates, and to help you connect your learning to your job. To do this they need to keep your attention, amuse you with interesting anecdotes, and listen to your concerns. Like a good Keynote speech at an industry conference, the Executive Education experience should be relevant, provocative, informative and amusing. “Edutainment” is a word that some use negatively and, of course, universities should not become comedy clubs…but if we can make learning a pleasure more learning will take place.
- There’s an App for that. Technology continues to change the way people obtain and share information. New training solutions take into account the impact of technology on teaching methodologies. “Moderated” websites which promote participation and are available 24/7 (eg: Harvard Business Publishing’s “Leadership Direct”) are beginning to bring static performance support tools (like SkillSoft or Harvard’s own ManageMentor) into the world of web 2.0 and beyond.
- Make an informed investment. There are few things that will better renew your knowledge, confidence and network than an investment in an executive program. Every university and training organization has its own style and specialty, however, and it is important to match that style to your own. Big school or small; local program or distance learning; highly rated traditional degree program or innovative functional-area certificate—the only bad decision is to choose a program without being absolutely certain that you will enjoy the experience and that the learning will continue after your classes are over.
It is only a small exaggeration to say that you should use the same benchmarks you use to evaluate a new iPhone or tablet computer to decide which executive program you choose. You may be a bit overwhelmed by some of the new ways schools make their learning available, but once you begin to experience them you will wonder how you ever learned without them!
About the author:
This article is from William (Bill) Shea. Bill has spent most of his career in Executive Development, both in training organizations such as the Center for Creative Leadership, where he was the first MD of their Brussels Branch, and in higher education at Harvard Business School where he is currently Director, Corporate Relations and Market Development for Executive Education. He is a former Board member of the American Society of Training and Development.