Executive education programs offer leaders a chance to learn from and work with some of the brightest minds, in a variety of disciplines where new insights and theories can be tested in a forgiving environment.
But without a handle on changing global realities, that doesn’t mean these programs will remain relevant, said chief learning officers and other leaders tasked with overseeing their organization’s executive education strategy.
“You have to understand and be able to grapple with what your clients are facing, whatever the broad range of business trends and skills are,” said Devin Bigoness, executive director for executive education at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. “We need to be able to quickly adapt to what our client needs to move their needle and grow their business.”
Here are a few of the realities driving change in executive education that are critical to organizations enjoying the full value of their investment:
Technology: People learn across a much wider selection of technology platforms, and it is increasingly acceptable to learn online or through blended learning, more so than, say, a decade ago. One response to this that has been growing in popularity: flipping the classroom.“Anytime I’m working with a client, we’re always thinking about what’s the right medium and methodology that maximizes their time together but uses it very wisely,” Bigoness said.
Speed of business: It’s unlikely that any leader would argue the world of work hasn’t gotten more pressurized given the intense need to drive change. The speed of change and innovation is happening faster, and as a result, learning leaders are feeling this pressure directly from senior leadership. That means organizations in executive education programs have less time to spend learning in one long sitting. “It used to be that you could say to a client ‘Come to Ithaca for a month or six weeks over the summertime’ and engage that way,” Bigoness said. Now “if that was your marketing pitch, you’d be very challenged unless you were doing something very distinctive.”
Competition: Academic executive education programs are operating in a growing landscape that includes leadership consulting firms, professional service firms and the proprietary learning organizations developed by companies themselves, in addition to other business schools. As such, their learning offerings must be up to the minute, relevant and, above all, effective methods with which to develop leaders.