Positive Impact Blog

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The importance of field work

Stakeholder research[1] indicates that organizational leaders and business managers cannot be developed without a solid foundation of work experience. In the prevailing North American educational system, it is typical for high school graduates to launch directly into undergraduate education, which is often directly followed with graduate education. Europe and North America differ in the definition of post graduate education, and in particular in the entry requirements of MBA candidates. While in the U.S. work experience is often optional and desirable only, the traditional two-year North American MBA program provides graduates with a very limited first-hand exposure to business and management combined with a significant theoretical experience of business problems. In Europe, the majority of MBA programs are for executives with significant work experience including management experience. They are able to reflect what they learn in the program with their real-life experience at work. The level of discussion and the learning mechanisms are dramatically different with the teacher being much more of a facilitator than a lecturer and with highly innovative program elements that immerse participants into hands on field work across the world, often in developing countries and often as consulting projects for entrepreneurial ventures.

The importance of field work is grounded in the very well established Germanic apprenticeship model. Switzerland, which is highly appreciated for its highly skilled workforce, is still very much relying on this model with more than 75% of its young generation of today choosing to pursue an apprenticeship rather than entering university for studies.

The future management school integrates work experience through reflected field work into its curriculum. Most importantly it foresees creating an experiential year in the second year of undergraduate education, following the historic German model of the “Wanderjahr” (the year of wandering around that forms an integral part of the traditional trade apprenticeship. Chapter 5 provides a detailed example of how undergraduate business and management education could look like at the management school of the future.


[1]            The 50+20 project undertook a stakeholder survey in August 2011 (add reference)

Author: Katrin Muff PhD

Dr. Katrin Muff is Director of the Institute for Business Sustainability in Lucerne, Switzerland and Professor of Practice at the LUISS Business School in Rome, Italy. She consults leaders and boards in business sustainability and strategic transformation, and runs an executive program together with Thomas Dyllick. Her book “Five Superpowers for Co-creators” provides insights about issue-centered multi-stakeholder processes. She brings 20 years of international strategic and general management experience in Europe, Australia, North America and Russia and a decade of leadership in business education. www.KatrinMuff.com

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