Global Business Strategy: Inside Baylor’s EMBA Capstone CourseMarch 27, 2019
“Global Business Strategy” is the name of a course that Baylor Executive MBA students take in their last semester of business school. Calling it a “capstone” course that combines “strategic management, innovation, and a focus on global issues as well as domestic ones,” its teacher, Dr. Peter Klein, has facilitated the class every spring since joining the Baylor faculty in 2015.
The Integrated Global Economy
A broad topic any way you slice it, Global Business Strategy can nevertheless be broken down into a few key components. One crucial area of study for EMBA students involves “looking at multinational companies—Fortune 500-type firms with operations in more than one country.”
By questioning how an enterprise “manages relationships across geographically dispersed and culturally diverse offices,” or “deals with local rules, like tax policy regulations,” students learn to appreciate what it actually means to “participate in an integrated global economy: whether that be sourcing supplies from China or Mexico, hiring foreign-born workers, or accessing international financial markets.”
An International Perspective
A second way that Dr. Klein tries to make strategy relevant is by tying course materials into the international trip that students take at the end of the EMBA program. As trip destinations vary from year to year, so does Dr. Klein’s curriculum.
Assignments might include briefings on the economic conditions present in a particular country or region, and presentations on how those issues could affect strategy formulation and execution. Such conversations necessarily take into account more overarching or neigh-boring concerns as well, “like the future of the EU, what’s going on with the refugee crisis in Greece, and so forth.”
“How to Be Successful in Business”
Finally, Dr. Klein wants the course to be directly applicable to the places and industries that students already work in, or will upon graduation. To that end, the subject matter rein-forces general business principles like “how firms achieve and sustain competitive advantage, or how firms create and capture value in the marketplace”—in other words, how to be successful in business.
“Ultimately,” Dr. Klein sums up, “a strategy course serves to integrate tools, insights, theories, and experiences from all the rest of their accounting, finance, marketing, economics, statistics, organizational behavior, and HR courses to pull all the disparate strands together. So that’s why it makes sense to put a course like this at the end of the program.”
Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the New Global Economy
But Global Business Strategy in particular and Baylor’s EMBA program in general aren’t just about tying a neat bow from a bunch of loose ends. They also exist to pre-pare students for what’s next—to teach them about where business has been, and also where it’s going, so they’re primed to play a part in shaping the “new” global economy. To do so, Dr. Klein also has to incorporate lessons on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“When I teach entrepreneurship and innovation to EMBA students or to executives,” Dr. Klein comments, “I’m not teaching them how to start a new company, or how to be creative.” Sure, he says, the class could talk brain-storming techniques or the mechanics of launching new ventures, “but they could get that from reading a book or watching a video.”
Instead, Dr. Klein hopes students walk away with a better understanding of the “importance” of innovation and entrepreneurship to the economy—how they “generate growth and improvements in human well-being”—and how both new and established companies can “design processes and systems that encourage employees to be more innovative and entrepreneurial.”
The Next Great Thing
Dr. Klein’s students talk about obstacles to creativity (bureaucracy, rules, policies, procedures). They consider the history of successful and unsuccessful forays into entrepreneurship. “What you can’t teach is how to come up with the next great thing,” Dr. Klein says. “Like in music, you can teach music theory, scales, notes. Music history and appreciation: why experts think Beethoven was a great composer. You can teach musical technique: violin or piano lessons. But none of those things makes the next Mozart.”
In the same way, Dr. Klein insists, “We don’t claim that by teaching entrepreneurship and innovation, we’re going to produce the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. I mean, we’re delighted if that happens,” he laughs, “but I look at the goal as setting up the conditions that make good entrepreneurship and innovation more likely.”
Having the Most Fun
Dr. Klein loves teaching Global Business Strategy, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, because, he claims, “It’s a lot of fun. I’d like to think there are other things I could do for a liv-ing if I wanted to, but [teaching] is the most fun thing to do.”
In business, “there’s always new stuff going on,” which keeps his work topical and lively. “Right now,” he shares, “I’ve got students doing projects on the sharing economy and artificial intelligence. Nobody was doing that stuff 10 years ago, because the phenomena were just not around. It’s exciting to be a part of it all.”
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