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Why study the IE Brown Executive MBA?

"It develops a capability that is absolutely essential for the next generation of leaders"

By IE Business School  

This article was produced in association with IE Business School, Brown University

Recognised as one of the leading educational institutions in the world, IE believes that people learn through experience, and for that reason they go beyond conventional boundaries when it comes to innovating in order to offer unique learning opportunities. IE seeks to accompany managers and entrepreneurs throughout their professional career, providing them with tools to promote business leadership, address challenges, and perform in their respective areas of responsibility.

One of IE’s most renowned programmes is the IE Brown Executive MBA, an exclusive programme aimed at executives and entrepreneurs who seek to integrate innovative management skills with human sciences and practical business studies. This 15-month programme is born from a unique alliance between IE Business School and Brown University. During the programme students are not only able to study in Providence and Cape Town, but they also spend 3.5 weeks at IE’s Madrid Campus. Here students have access to cutting-edge resources, specialised classrooms, and modern facilities, among many other tools and resources.

Tomohiro Takahashi, an IE Brown Executive MBA graduate from Japan who completed the program in 2016, spoke about his experience with the MBA. He is currently the Assistant Manager of Logistics Solution Department at MOL Logistics (JAPAN) Co., Ltd.

Discover the route Tomohiro took which led him to choose the IE Brown Executive MBA and learn how his experience throughout the program influenced his career—perhaps challenging you to ponder how you will make your mark on the future of your own business as well.

What made you decide to do an Executive MBA?

I think each individual has their own reasons, signals, and timing when it comes to deciding whether or not to do an Executive MBA. When you talk about MBA programmes people usually mention the superficial aspects such as a high salary, promotion to C-level position, and benefits packages that, in a way, offset the sacrifices and hard work necessary for such elite schooling and training.

Admittedly, it is true that many who strive for an MBA embrace these kinds of motivations and that they do in fact serve as significant drivers during their decision-making. But as far as I am concerned, I purely aspired to understand this world more extensively and deeply, a desire to demonstrate my own capabilities in an unfamiliar arena, as well as to intrinsically embrace intellectual curiosity. This is what ultimately led me to gain new experiences in higher educational institutions.

Out of a large number of business schools, why did you choose the IE Brown Executive MBA?

I applied to a few highly prestigious programmes in the US and Europe. My selection criteria included top quality professors and students from a diverse backgrounds and a predominant focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.

I initially decided to enroll at IE Business School because the institution is consistently positioned as a top-ranked business school in the Financial Times world MBA rankings. Additionally, they have built a great reputation and a renowned programme which is grounded in innovation and entrepreneurship. I was also fascinated by the school’s spirit, ambiance and philosophy. And, of course, I love Spain.

In the meantime, struggling with daily business issues and experiencing momentous events in my personal life, I was beginning to sense a kind of limit to utilising traditional MBA frameworks, approaches and models that were available nowadays online and through books.

When it comes to practical aspects in our daily business, the traditional MBA approach occasionally did not function appropriately. Going by conventional common sense, past results and achievements, and what the theory indicated, those traditional MBA approaches powerfully persuaded me that I was doing the right thing because everyone was fascinated by these methods. Both those in-house and clients were completely satisfied with the performance and results.

However, there was obviously an ethical aspect lacking, as some decisions made by those working within this setting would not be the right thing in the long run, or sacrificed other essential elements completely. So I started to perceive this state of affairs as merely rhetoric and believed that rather than doing the right thing I was actually doing nothing more than making a thing right.

So I had been wondering and asked myself, “Am I able to confidently contribute to our environment, society, stakeholders, and in a closer sense, relatives, family, and friends by learning from a traditional MBA programme?”

It was in this context that I learned about the non-traditional and challenging IE Brown EMBA programme that integrates liberal arts and business in order to nurture the next generation of leaders. In addition to traditional MBA concepts and methods, IE Brown EMBA combines social science, natural science and humanities with business from broader perspectives to go beyond conventional MBA programmes. It was an innovative EMBA programme which I had never encountered during my search for MBAs. I selected the IE Brown EMBA without hesitation in order to find an answer to my internal questions.

What was it like to do the IE Brown Executive MBA?

It was a very complex process and an inspiring experience to understand a complicated world through the IE Brown perspective, to acquire problem-solving skills for business that are incorporated into a multidimensional framework of social science, natural science, and humanities as well as traditional MBA ideas.

Initially I was confused by the volume and scope of the learning content, as well as the complexity and relevance of topics. At times I would scratch my head in confusion because I was unable to find the purpose that those learning materials served.

However, as the programme progressed my understanding deepened and developed and then the whole course began to eventually converge into one point. Finally I was able to understand the essence of this unconventional and innovative IE Brown programme. Now I am able to confidently take a firm stance against a complex world no matter what issues arise.

What kind of students did you get to meet during your program?

In order to maintain the quality of the programme in every sense, only 30 participants are allowed to take part in the programme each year. Our class of 2016 was a very diverse group.

14 nationalities gathered from the USA, Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Oceania with an abundance of experience from 16 industries and sectors.

Each person contributed to the class with their expertise coming from various fields such as sales, marketing, personnel and administration, financial and investment, entrepreneurship, economics, engineering, programming, NGOs, law, international organisations, government-related sectors and more.

I learned many of the significant MBA elements from my cohort as well as from the diversified and superb faculty members. Everyone had integrity and great personalities so we created a very comfortable learning environment with regard to the rivalry and competition in the class because we helped and supported one another on an individual, team, and class level.

Since the relationship was deep, the connection among classmates is still very strong following graduation, with a network that spreads all over the world and this definitely formed an irreplaceable bond in my life.

What was the best part of doing the IE Brown Executive MBA?

The best part of the programme was two entrepreneurship courses which were provided in parallel with our coursework. This combination was very distinctive because there were opportunities to apply insights and desk theories gained from discussion in class into real life practice immediately. It was a valuable experience to be wrestling with a variety of literature and case studies while engaging in trial and error in the entrepreneurship coursework. I learned a lot of theory, practice, and application all at the same time.

In particular, the entrepreneurship session in South Africa was a memorable week. The project I was in charge of was solving the housing supply issue for the below base-line population as an entrepreneur. Our team member interviewed South African government agencies, politicians, NGOs, NPOs, banks, construction companies, local communities, activists and residents who lived in shacks to identify the essential problems.

The surroundings were complexly intertwined with a multitude of broadly spanning elements. Despite having prepared thoroughly for our mission prior to visits, the demanding environment relentlessly forced our team to leap above and beyond in terms of ideas, thoughts and approaches.

It was a tremor of excitement to tap into the essence of meaningful work which embodied that entrepreneurial spirit when our team gave a presentation to stakeholders. We went beyond their expectations.

What do you think are the strongest points about studying the IE-Brown Executive MBA?

I think the competitive advantage of the IE Brown EMBA is that it enables you to develop a capability that is absolutely essential for the next generation of leaders. In a single phrase, becoming an agent of change with robust leadership skills by uniting multilateral and interdisciplinary methods, and establishing a sensibility where you do not shy away from any difficult questions.

Referring to the aforementioned project in South Africa, you realise that it is very difficult to solve recent business issues using your own expertise alone because our business environment is broadly embedded in states, governments, societies, communities and individuals.

Governments, for instance, sometimes have problems such as corruption, financial difficulties and a lack of procedural transparency. NGOs, NPOs and volunteers have limited resources to respond to social issues. Companies make decisions based on their own business interests. Also at the micro level, a seemingly perfect idea offered by a third party may not always be a practical solution when you take into account things such as a country’s historical background, local communities’ culture and norms, and values held by individuals. In this way, there are many restrictions on collaboration among stakeholders to solve issues due to different conditions, goals, objectives, interests, and capabilities.

In such a context, an indispensable prerequisite is to have a broad perspective and knowledge in areas such as globalisation, capitalism, political science, history, sociology, ethnography, arts, psychology, ethics, and real entrepreneurship in addition to merely economics, corporate strategy, marketing, finance, cost control, operations etc. It is also absolutely essential to be able to structurally understand problems from various perspectives outside of the business arena and then challenge these in order to create breakthrough ideas to resolve the problem.

The IE Brown EMBA program systematically offers invaluable opportunities to acquire the capability to tackle situations in a multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary fashion.

After getting the IE Brown Executive MBA do you feel that your reputation and career have changed?

Opportunities for consultation and advice have increased dramatically both in the workplace and in my private life. Also, thankfully and fortunately, I have received excellent treatment packages from many multinational companies when they start new projects. I think these circumstances validate the fact that I have been powerfully delivering value in the business arena as a potential leader for the next generation.

The interdisciplinary methodology that I call the IE BROWN WAY is applicable not only to the business field but to social issues like the education gap and inequality, therefore I have extensively applied the IE BROWN WAY to generate value for society. I plan to challenge myself with new personal projects by utilising what I learned in the programme to bring about a positive impact for society.

As such, I state with great certainty that my reputation and career have become absolutely enhanced and have advanced to a higher phase. It is more than I had anticipated in my life.

Brown University was established in 1764 and is one of the world’s leading research institutions. It is a member of the Ivy League, which ensures prestige worldwide. IE Business School, which was founded in 1973, is an innovative and young top MBA school. The degree is awarded from both institutions and graduates receive highly valued recognition as a result. Therefore, under the robust brands of these two institutions, my classmates are also playing a significant role in their careers all over the world.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering studying abroad to obtain an Executive MBA?

I believe many institutions offer beneficial learning opportunities in various forms all over the world. I encourage you to look comprehensively for programmes that fit your true aspirations.

And if you carefully prepare and thoroughly think about what you want to acquire through the programme and how you can contribute to the class, your experience will exceed all of your expectations.

I would like to recommend the challenge of the IE Brown EMBA for those who define “X” in themselves under their own leadership and aspire to “go beyond X” regardless of whether you are engaged in business or have no connection to the business world at all.

From my experience, the IE Brown EMBA program is an unprecedented, non-traditional and innovative programme that allows you to find your own answers.

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