Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

There is a non-profit organization in the U.K. called the AMBA. It stands for the Association of MBAs, and its main function is to accredit universities that offer graduate management programs. The group recently held its annual general meeting in London, and I decided to participate.

The meeting started on the evening of May 18 with about 130 people in attendance. Deans and directors of MBA programs came from various countries, including Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Chile, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., and Hong Kong. Many famous business schools such as INSEAD, the London Business School, Thunderbird, and NYU were also there.

In fact, MBA Week started on Monday with an MBA Fair at which prospective students could listen to presentations from each university. It was something like an MBA exhibition. A marketing communication seminar was offered on Tuesday. The MBA conference started Wednesday evening. That’s when I decided to participate.

GLOBIS was the only school participating from Japan. I had three goals—to network with overseas business schools, to learn about best practices, and finally to determine if we should seek accreditation. This coming June, GLOBIS will apply to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for status as a graduate management institution, utilizing the Special Zones for Structural Reform. We are at last moving toward becoming a graduate school that could issue MBAs.

MEXT certification, however, is only valid in Japan. Odds are that Japan’s business schools will begin exploring overseas accreditation in the future. GLOBIS also participated in last year’s conference, but this year I had come to size up the situation for myself.

Starting at 16:30, the chairman of AMBA gave a 30-minute speech. It was a humorous speech typical of the English. A certification ceremony followed with six business schools receiving accreditation. At the reception that followed, I decided to network aggressively and ended up extending my MBA institute network into Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Montreal, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the U.K. We talked about possible tie-ups. This was the highlight of the conference for me.

Throughout the conference, I had this feeling that something was different. The events I had participated in up until now had been mainly related to venture-capital, the high-tech industry, the management of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization, or gatherings like the Davos forum, where politicians and managers of large corporations get together. The atmosphere is always fairly intense at these conferences, with famous speakers vigorously expressing their innovative concepts. The participants at this MBA conference, however, were primarily educators, academics, and administrators. The schedule was somewhat loose, and things moved along casually.

This informality was also reflected in how people looked and dressed. At most assemblies, people wear suits, and even at “casual” affairs people tend to wear button-down shirts and chinos. Here, however, many people were wearing sport shirts and light-brown jackets. The age range was somewhat older, including many older women. Naturally, the prevailing atmosphere was fundamentally different from gatherings of CEOs, who are typically on the front line of business, aggressive venture capitalists dealing with life-or-death management, and politicians, who are always being tested by public opinion and mass communication. This was a mellow, subdued event, in both a good and a bad way.

There were two main concerns that people had in common. The first was the excessive competition that had emerged in a saturated MBA market. The U.K. alone already has 120 business schools, a surplus supply in terms of demand. The result is a competition to attract the best students. There was even a session entitled, “Survival strategy for the 21st century.” Another session offered scathing criticism of the academism of business schools. A consultant gave a speech saying that theses written by professors at business schools were essentially junk and were of absolutely no use at all!

The conference went on with this carefree atmosphere. Topics included strategies for differentiating your MBA from others, best practices for admissions and communications, methods for constructing alumni networks, new education methodologies, and trends in leadership education. Most participants were PhDs in management and were talented, well-organized speakers.

I have my own doubts as to whether PhDs are really the best business teachers. I think it is essentially more practical to have talented managers or businesspersons from the front lines of business teaching. However, one of the major factors for gaining accreditation is the number of PhDs an institution has. This appears to be a trend among accreditation institutions in the West. GLOBIS is weak in this regard. First of all, I don’t even have a PhD, and I’m the founder. So I’ve got to decide whether to invest two or three years getting a PhD.

One thing that I felt throughout this conference was that GLOBIS really is taking the right path. We have a substantial set-up in terms of curriculum, faculty (lecturers), the quality of students, teaching methodology, and a project-based approach, including drawing up case studies and leadership development sessions. In addition, our alumni network, career services such as GLOBIS Management Bank, extracurricular lectures at our Keieidojo, speaker sessions such as the GLOBIS Club, and annual Asuka Meetings all add up to a very rich selection of opportunities to learn outside the formal curriculum and network. We have provided very good opportunities—it’s up to the students to take advantage of them.

There are, however, a few more things we will have to do if we are to achieve our vision of being the No.1 business school in Asia. The major elements are to launch a full-time MBA program, offer courses in English, fortify our research capabilities, increase our communication towards the world, expand into a PhD program, establish our global reputation, and re-launch the GLOBIS Management Review, which has temporarily suspended publication. We need to firmly move forward step by step, seriously addressing these mid- to long-term issues. We really need to do everything we can for students who choose GLOBIS.

There are also some things I learned from this conference we can do right away. Here are just a few.

1. Introduce Project-Based Learning
A Venture Project System (provisional name) that applies the advantages of GLOBIS in terms of “change and creativity.” In other words, to offer opportunities for GLOBIS students to come into contact with the investment management of Globis Capital Partners. Students who are at large corporations and consulting companies do not necessarily know what is required at the front lines of a venture enterprise. I’d like to present opportunities for these students to directly experience the actual settings of change and creativity. I want to expand into offering this as an option for a final project.

2. Introduce New Teaching Methodologies
I intend to start new courses in presentation, career management, facilitation, and leadership development. I have combined all of these into what I call the GLOBIS Leaders Workshop. In addition to this, I would like to look into introducing new teaching methods to the Globis Management School (GMS). I have already introduced an education system for corporate training that utilizes a consulting approach called, “Issues with my company.” Could this method also be adopted by GMS?

3. Strengthen Our Support System for Women
GLOBIS already offers students a free child-care facility. It was opened this year in response to student suggestions for ensuring that child care was not an obstacle to learning. Apart from this, we also boast alumni activities like the women’s career forum. In addition, we want to make absolutely sure that we are doing everything we can to facilitate learning for women at GLOBIS by establishing scholarships and career-building support, as well as career models from successful female students.

4. Strengthen our Technology Program
I want to think of a way to incorporate feedback from the actual results of GCP high-tech investment into the GMS curriculum. So far, no other business school in the world has achieved this level of success in venture capital. Surely, this expertise can be more effectively incorporated into our curriculum. I also have, for the first time, authored a paper on venture capital for this conference. We already have essentials such as Technology Management and Venture Capital & Finance, but I want to further strengthen these programs.

Whichever path we take, I want to further strengthen GLOBIS’ competitive advantages in the area of change and creativity and establish a stress-free environment for both women and men, for as many students as possible.

Now, I am well aware of how much needs to be done to become No. 1 in Asia. Right now, GLOBIS is number 3 in Japan, according to the July 2004 edition of The Nikkei Business Daily domestic business school ranking. We are below Keio and Hitotsubashi Universities. I believe that for GLOBIS students and for faculty who are teaching their hearts out, we have to keep pressing forward, one step at a time, until we are No. 1 in Asia.

We originally started with a 30-year plan. Thirteen years have now gone by since our founding, so we have 17 years left. When I think that we have come this far from zero, the remaining 17 years almost look easier by comparison.

Over the course of the conference, I felt the strong conviction that the GLOBIS MBA will indeed become the No. 1 in Asia.

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