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What’s the value of business learning?

For a senior executive who has already found success in their field, what’s the draw of Executive Education – why go down the further learning path? That was the question a cohort of participants on our recent General Management Programme tackled in a recent round-table discussion…

executive education delegates

Ganesh Naidoo (Medical Director, Primary Healthcare): “I’m a doctor by training, so I run my own business, mostly through self-taught skills. I got to the top of the tree in terms of my skills as a medical professional, and I wanted to have some way of applying that standardized, formal structure of learning to the way I was thinking about business and to gain an understanding of the ways innovation is driving change in business.”

Tshireletso Matshego (Senior Manager: Strategy Formulation, South African Reserve Bank): “I think it’s about the fact that when you work in a professional service, you spend so much time doing those things you don’t get enough time to reflect on what is changing in the wider business environment. Doing an executive education programme helps give you time to reflect on coming new developments in your own space, and also gives you the opportunity to learn from your cohort in the room… in terms of what they are facing and how you can use and apply their lessons back to your own profession.”

Ewan Wilson (CEO, Wilson Aviation Consultants): “A lot of it, at least for me, was about confirmation of what I may have learnt in the past, with verification of potentially what has changed ¬– and the things that I was not aware of. And all in an environment that was Cambridge-based, which itself is a very unique proposition, with a cohort of individuals who I would also learn from and may be able to impart my experience to.”

Pat Chung (Principal Executive Officer – Tender, Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, Government of Hong Kong): “Frankly speaking, I don’t think this is going to be essential for my day-to-day work, but having said that I feel a massive a benefit to the exposure to the other people here, to other ideas. All of my life I’ve been working within the government in Hong Kong, so it’s about giving me the opportunity to meet other professionals from other professions and exchange knowledge… so it’s a huge personal benefit.”

Tshireletso: “I think there’s been an equal balance between my personal benefits and my business’ benefits – after all, you can’t divorce an individual from the organisation. You take the learnings and better yourself in terms of what you do, which at the end is beneficial to the organisation. I’ll definitely approach my work differently, and think differently in terms what I should be doing and how I should be applying what I have learned here.”

I know that, personally, my own confidence has improved and my broad understanding of multiple aspects of business and management have improved.

Ewan: “I agree… I don’t think personal and business benefits are mutually exclusive – both parties derive significant benefits. I know that, personally, my own confidence has improved and my broad understanding of multiple aspects of business and management have improved. I will be able to share and impart that understanding with the broader organisation upon my return, which will have an immediate impact on the business and its day-to-day activities, so there is an obvious benefit for my stakeholders, shareholders and customers.”

Ganesh: “I think sometimes when you are in a highly specialised industry, and in very competitive environment, you can often get stuck in a narrow frame of thinking. Being exposed to people from other industries, and thinking about strategic advantage, allows you to go back to your business with a much broader view of your own particular challenges, and hopefully can provide valuable blue sky thinking to the organisation as a whole.”

Pat: “I’ve paid for the opportunity to have had a chance to really rethink what I have been doing. Looking back at the past 23 years I’ve been in the government dealing with government regulations, and this course has provided me with a very precious platform to see from the outside world what is happening in other industries. Also, because I’m responsible for the government procurement, some of the subjects and discussions have been really interesting to me personally. I can see how we are operating and spending money as a government, but to get an opportunity to see this kind of interaction from a business’ prospective – and lots of different kinds of business – has been really useful.”

Tshireletso: “Yes… I wanted to come in there, in terms of faculty. So much of the learning from peers is enabled from the faculty team’s style of teaching. Because if you had a faculty that says: ‘I know it all, I’m a professor so I’m going to tell you exactly how it all works…’ and not give you an opportunity to discuss and try to formulate ideas relevant to your industry, then we wouldn’t have had the outcomes that we have had. You can definitely attribute the strength of the cross-peer sharing to the style of faculty that we found here in Cambridge.”

The experience we are receiving is unique because the way that each of us experiences the concept in our own industry is completely different.

Ganesh: “That’s been really interesting because the professors are willing to just introduce the concept to the group, but the experience we are receiving is unique because the way that each of us experiences the concept in our own industry is completely different. For me, to hear how that strategy might be employed in an airline industry compared to a supermarket industry, or the oil and gas industry compared to healthcare, has been really enlightening. To think there are common threads between what we all do, and we’re just all thinking all about it slightly differently to the application.”

Ewan: “The diversity I found on this course is hard to articulate – I’ve run out of superlatives – it’s what made it incredibly special. It even comes from the lecturers and they are themselves very diverse and through that diversity that we can derive all these benefits, so that’s been a very exciting component and a key takeaway.”