HBS Program Teaches CEOs

HBS joins schools in China and Spain to train Chinese CEOs on global market.

As many College students look forward to testing their skills in the world, some foreign professionals who are already accomplished in the world are returning to the classroom.

In a new transnational initiative, Harvard Business School (HBS) and leading business institutions in China and Spain are training Chinese corporate leaders to better understand global markets.

The “Global CEO Program for China,” run by HBS, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, and Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa (IESE) in Barcelona, will take a group of CEOs to three continents—while teaching them topics such as market strategy and business-government relations.

The concept for this program followed a classic model of supply meets demand, basing itself on what CEOs themselves wanted.

According to a survey of participants in previous CEIBS programs, many Chinese CEOs “wanted to learn about global competition and global markets—how to go to European markets, and how to go to US markets,” Program Co-director Zhang Weijiong, who is co-dean at CEIBS, said.

Their desire to learn will cost the participants about $43,000. It’s a hefty price, but one that is unlikely to faze them—the CEOs head Chinese enterprises with assets of no less than $1 billion, Zhang said.

Their companies are market leaders in industries ranging from financial services to electronic appliances to real estate, according to Cynthia Lu, national marketing manager for CEIBS.

The first of four five-day programs, which will take place between February and August, will start in Shanghai, continuing on to Barcelona and Boston. So far, about 40 CEOs are enrolled in the program, Lu said.

Program Co-director Krishna G. Palepu, also an HBS dean, described the partnership as a “research-driven initiative” that will allow HBS professors to make valuable contacts in China.

The CEO training program, Palepu said, helps to serve HBS’s mission, part of which is to build a “multi-dimensional” relationship with its focus regions.

“We have a global strategy,” said Palepu, who is senior associate dean for international development at HBS. “Part of it is furthering research in selective regions that we think are exciting and interesting regions to our faculty.”

The program will also interchange faculty from the sponsoring institutions. The program marks the first partnership between HBS and CEIBS, and the second partnership between HBS and a Chinese institution. For the past five years, HBS has worked with Tsinghua University in Beijing to offer executive education programs.

According to Program Co-director Jaume S. Ribera, faculty from the various institutions may have much to learn from each other.

“Providing our professors with the opportunity to work with HBS and CEIBS colleagues in a very demanding environment will definitely enhance their understanding of China and the challenges and opportunities that Chinese firms face today,” Ribera, professor of operations management at IESE as well as Port of Barcelona professor of logistics at CEIBS, wrote in an email.

While HBS and IESE are looking forward to establishing connections with colleagues in China, CEIBS is also eager to learn Harvard-style education.

“Because Harvard is a very top school, there are a lot of things we can learn about how Harvard operates, how Harvard designs programs,” Zhang said.

And when in good company, expectations run high too.

“Tied with Harvard and IESE, we face a great pressure,” Zhang said. “We have to push ourselves to do a good job.”

—Staff writer Lulu Zhou can be reached at