Opinion: The importance of international education on global mobility

A time of global challenge requires globally mobile leaders developed through an international education, argues one international management education expert

Written by Roland Siegers, executive director of CEMS (Global Alliance in Management Education)

This is a unique period in world history, which requires exceptional leaders, who can overcome major political, economic and environmental challenges.
The perceived stability of historical superpowers is being contested by new political and economic powers and we are facing an age of dynamism in international relations. We can expect more regional collaboration such as ASEAN and Mercosur to develop and more individual countries – India, China, Brazil and soon maybe Indonesia or Nigeria – to play even bigger roles in global politics.
This is compounded by technological advancements on a scale matching that of the industrial revolution of the late 19th century; networked production, 3D printing, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and more are sure to disrupt old industries and see new ones thrive at a rapid rate.
At the same time, ecological impacts, such as global warming and water shortage, are sadly becoming all too visible and impact on us all. Energy-wise too, the end of the fossil fuel era is about to come, threatening the global business community but also creating opportunities for new players.
The modern world is by now like a village; and while everyone is connected virtually, “every day” life is still affected by local politics, language, culture, laws and geography. This presents another enormous challenge for the next generation of business leaders, who must be globally-minded, while sensitive enough to know when it is appropriate to act “locally”.
So how can we make sure our leaders are globally mobile and have the skills to tackle these considerable challenges?
Our best hope, as is confirmed by the history of human development, is to invest in the international education of future generations, to ensure that leaders of tomorrow can thrive in this age of conflicting dynamism and disruption.
For aspiring leaders, this means going out of thier comfort zone, living and studying for a few months in a foreign environment at an early stage in their career, learning more than one language fluently and becoming immersed in different cultures. It involves experiencing the limitations of their own world view, acknowledging what they didn’t know about the other place before, their wrong preconceptions, and, most of all, coming back changed as a new and more resourceful person.
To achieve this vision of internationally educated global leaders, we must first break the silos of topical academic teaching by channelling subjects such as philosophy, psychology, political science, computer science into business teaching.
We must open up the classroom much more to an exchange with practitioners and influencers in different domains, industry, but also NGOs, regulators and maybe artists.
We must find a good balance of using technology enhanced teaching with sophisticated in-class discussion, which may mean accepting other educational providers outside universities as legitimate partners, in a flexible lifelong learning environment. Universities should also imitate the realities of the working world with different forms of learning such as group work, online or blended learning and simulations.
At CEMS, we emphasise both ‘the big picture‘ in our teaching, looking at global strategies of multinational companies, as well as the ‘micro‘ aspects of what it means to be a leader in an intercultural environment through both theory and practice.
The time has come when a world in turmoil needs internationally educated, inspired leaders who can build bridges across the divides that separate us and break down borders.
These future leaders will understand the rapid rate of technological, economic and political change and importantly looking beyond profit maximisation towards creating long term value for an inter-connected society.
Global mobility will always remain key in this, as human interaction will never be substituted by the internet and has always been key to the survival of humanity.

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